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Barnett-Anzani Special
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Ken Philp explains how a classic bike he built back in 1973, from a British Anzani two-stroke engine and a Francis-Barnett frame, is still going strong...

Many moons ago, a friend of mine asked if I could help his son get a bike, and I agreed. That led to an unusual bike being built (although the son, Andrew, didn't end up with it!).

I knew that Gaggs of Nottingham had a brand new British Anzani 242cc two-stroke twin - the one with the rotary valve - in their cellar. It had come from the Raleigh works, who had got one with a view to building their own bike, but it came to nothing. I already had some experience with an engine like this, as I had converted a Cotton Cotanza (yes, that really WAS its model name!) road bike into a reasonable - and cheap - trials bike in the early 1960s. Cheap? Well, the complete and running bike cost me £12.

Note ACU approved wooly hat and stern expression... Ken's British Anzani engined Cotton trials bike in action on Bovington Heath, Dorset, 1963
Francis Barnett stuff on

Having paid Gaggs £7.50 for the engine, which still had corks in the plugholes, I looked around for a frame to put it in. E Kingston, another local bike dealer, had a Francis-Barnett Fulmar for sale, complete, but 'only for breaking' for £15 so I got that as well. I gave the AMC 150cc engine away - never did like those small AMC engines!

By then Andrew had sourced an Ambassador with a 2T Villiers in it, a complete, running bike, so we tidied that up for him, leaving me with the Anzani engine and Fulmar frame. In my spare time I married the two together, making some special engine mounts and an aluminium tank using pop rivets and then coating the inside with fibreglass resin. The seat was made from an old orange plastic bucket! The silencer was from a Bantam, the kickstart from a Villiers unit, and the gear lever from a Royal Enfield. Then, while I was fetching some new car disc pads on my Triumph TRW one day, I came across a rag-and-bone man with the old horse and cart. What should he have on it but a complete Avon dolphin fairing! That cost me a whole 2/6d, or half a crown, or in new money, 12.5p!

Life was still sepia in seventy three... The first creation of the Barnett-Anzani, 1973

So that was also fitted. I got a myriad of stick-on labels from all sorts of places, and then got it taxed. It had no lights at all. Oh and the ignition cover, which was missing, was made out of an old saucepan! On the day I got it MOT'd (at Bunneys a cycle shop next door to E Kingston), I went straight to the tax office, which was then just about 200 yards up the road. I got the tax disc, only to find that a Traffic Warden had put a ticket on it for not being taxed! I wrote to the appropriate office, with an explanation as to why I'd not taken it home, before taxing it, and had the ticket quashed. My excuse was that it was nearer to the tax office than taking it home - ie; I used the shortest possible route!

But it didn't end there. The bike was left in the garage for about eight years, going on an occasional ride out just for fun. On a good day it would reach about 65mph downhill, so it really wasn't very fast. When my older son got to the age of 17, he wanted something a bit quicker than his Garelli Tiger Cross which we had rebuilt for him. It was a superior Dutch market bike, with a much better duplex frame.

Oh, how I wanted one of these in 1976. RM The rebuilt Garelli Tiger Cross, 1979

He said he wanted to get some lights fitted to the Barnett-Anzani, so that he could use that! I was surprised, expecting him to want something more modern, but he has always liked the older bikes (although he has a lively Ducati Paso now as well as a Bimota DB4ie). He also has an Aermacchi 250 in pieces, which he bought partly because he wanted an Italian small bike and partly because the Aermacchi's registration number was only 19 different from the Barnett-Anzani! They were first sold new from Kings in Manchester on the same day…

Anyhow, this led to another rebuild. This time the Barnett-Anzani was fitted with a Kawasaki tank, Yamaha FS1E headlamp, Honda rear lamp, and modified Suzuki folding kickstart. All in all there were 10 different makes in the whole bike! It was also fitted with indicators.

And how did it go for him? Well, for three years he rode it most days from Nottingham to Loughborough University, and it never let him down once. It had little need for maintenance, and just kept going. A real introduction to the wonders of British classic bikes!

They don't make 'em like that anymore. But then they never did. The later 1980 rebuild, complete with lights and tidier seat.

And, even more amazingly, it's still in existence. I sold it to a guy in South Wales, and have met him a few times at autojumbles. The last time we spoke, he still had it and used it. Looking at the DVLA website I see that it's taxed until next February!


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