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1921 Invicta
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Bill Twentyman bagged a bargain classic bike back in 1948, when he bought a JAP-engined Invicta. Bake slowly at Gas Mark 3, he reckons...

In 1948 I had just started serving my time with my father who owned the village garage and filling station. One night I overheard two lads talking about a stone barn at the rear of their home, in which, among other rubbish, was an old motorbike.

It was an opportunity not to be missed! I'd been involved in things mechanical from a very early age and thought this would be a good chance to upgrade from a pushbike. I arranged to meet one of the lads the next day…

On entering the barn, in the dim light, I saw the rear end of a motorcycle. It turned out to be a Raleigh 400, a chain drive model, complete and in good condition. Great!

Looking deeper into the heap I saw another bike, which turned out to be a 1921 belt drive Invicta. This was a 275 (or was it 293?) cc JAP-engined machine with a two-speed Sturmey-Archer gearbox. Again, it was complete, even down to its acetylene headlamp (which I still have!).

Nice tie. These things are important.
Random Fanny-B stuff on

---Information Interlude---

There have been several motorcycle manufacturers which traded under the Invicta name. The first built motorcycles from 1902 to 1906, but Bill's bike was made by the later concern which traded from 1913 to 1925.

You'll recognise the names behind the Invicta company - Arthur Barnett and Gordon Francis. Barnett built the Invicta machines before the Great War, then began production of Francis-Barnett machines in 1919. The first F-Bs were little more than Invicta models wearing a new tank transfer!

Invicta machines used various engines, some Villiers 2-strokes, some sidevalve JAP and Abingdon 4-strokes. They used Druid forks and either belt drive or a chain-and-belt arrangement. An Invicta even raced in the 1922 Lightweight TT - but it failed to finish.

The last Invicta motorcycles of this type were built in 1925, when F and B switched to concentrating on the Francis-Barnett marque. But the name was resurrected in the 1950s, by an Italian concern who built a range of tiddler 2-strokes, so you may see it around…

---Bill's Story Continues---

And shiny shoes too.
Random JAP stuff on

A deal was struck and both machines were mine -- £3 for the pair. I had already decided that the Invicta was the one for me and sold the Raleigh the next day for £3 - 10 - So I got my Invicta for nothing, plus 10 bob to go towards new tyres and tubes!

They were the only items missing; the seller even found a carb in a cupboard. It wasn't the original but it fit perfectly. I think it was a Brown and Barlow butterfly type - it worked fine when I got the bike running the next day. The other thing I needed to do was to remove the Lucas mag and place it in the oven, which was the recommended way to recover lost sparks at the time! You leave it in for the same length of time as it takes to cook a rice pudding…

With the mag re-fitted, the Invicta just needed petrol and oil. It took two or three kicks and away she went, for the first time in 20 years. (I found out how long the bike had been stored from the first and previous owner, who I later located). So next I gave the bike a complete strip down, fresh paint, new oil and grease, the new tyres and tubes - and away we went.

I was at first too young to try for a licence so rode on farm lanes, but as soon as I could I applied for my provisional licence and took my test. In fact, I took two tests on the Invicta and failed twice! The second time, the examiner told me that I would pass if I took the next test on a more modern bike, which I did. This was in the days when the tester would hide behind a Post Box or empty ash bin and leap out in front of you, waving, so you could do an emergency stop.

The Invicta wasn't so great for this, as it had a cycle-type rim brake on the front (which was useless), and a wooden wedge on the rear (which worked well when conditions were dry). If you stopped near the tester then it was good. If you passed him; not so good. And if you knocked him down it was a definite fail!

The Invicta was quite fast; I reckon it would do 60mph. It must certainly have been my best ever deal. In 1954, before going to do my National Service, I sold it for £10 - so making a profit of £10 - 10s!


More Francis Barnetts on


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