CAMmag logo

My experiences with Autocycles

by Corran Vincent (Rangiora, New Zealand)

My experiences with autocycles and mopeds goes back some 56 years ago when, at the tender age of 14, I spent the Christmas holidays period hand planting cabbages with a local farmer.  With this hard earned money I placed an advert in the Star-Sun daily newspaper looking for a power motor for my bike.  I got one reply offering a Mini-Motor, which was purchased and duly installed post haste on my bike and I was away every day 'motoring' to the High School some 5 miles away.  No registration, no licence as I wasn't 15 yet, how ever it was cheap to run; I could 'fill' her up for a shilling from a petrol station down Papanui Road where they had mixed a 44 gallon drum of petroil by rolling it round the forecourt.  In my various haunts round Christchurch after school I found a 1948/9 Francis-Barnett Autocycle with the Villiers 98cc horizontal motor in dismantled condition at Butlers in Colombo Street and was offered it for 5 pounds.  Unfortunately, on getting it home we found the cylinder head was missing.  On going back to them they looked for it but couldn't find it.  It was tough luck as it was sold to me "as is".

Shortly after this I had turned 15 and a couple of months later we moved down south from Christchurch.  So I ended up selling my Mini-Motor complete with the bike but kept the Francis-Barnett.

After a few months around the Chaslands area at a sawmill we moved on the Conical Hills sawmill near Tapanui where eventually my brother, who was good at using a lathe, turned up a cylinder head for the Francis Barnet from a block of aluminium and I was able to get it going again.

After two years at Conical Hills, we moved again, this time down to Bluff and, as we lived up the hill in Bluff, I decided to register the Francis Barnet as a power cycle as I now had my driver's licence.  A fortnight later I got a letter from the Post Master to say it had to be registered as Motorbike as it was 98cc ... and I would also need a motor bike licence.

I sort of lost interest in it after that and bought my first car.  The bike was abandoned and lay under my brother's house until it was sold some 12 years later and the bike was cleared out and dumped at the local tip.  Before this I had moved to Hamilton after getting married.

Forward many years later after Helen and Michael had put me on their payroll saw us moving down from Auckland back to the Canterbury area and getting settled in Rangiora.  The thought that it would be great to once again get into a power cycle gripped me, so it was late in 2010 that I purchased a 1958 Victoria 'Vicky' 49cc moped which I later found out from Old-timer; in Germany to be a 'Victoria Luxus'.  I had thought, on purchase, that it was a complete bike but then found it requiring repairs and needed lots of parts.  However by this time, I up a one way street.

In an endeavour to get the parts I needed, I ended up buying a couple of Superluxus from Invercargill: one with quite good body conditions, the other a real basket case.  However, this came with a couple of boxes of more needed parts - before this I only had one magneto, no pistons and needed some other various other bits and pieces as well.

A while later I found another Superluxus complete with a spare frame on good old TradeMe and, although their condition was not all that great, they did come with some more needed motor parts.  Then, at the local Canterbury vintage car club swap meet I found a box of Victoria parts which, again, had more welcome parts.

The basket case frame together with the other frames and sundry parts from TradeMe were sent off to be sandblasted and now await final painting.  Along the way I also obtained three earlier M50 motors.  These were the earlier motors without the pedals but the cylinder, pistons, magnetos and a few other parts are interchangeable.  One was so completely seized that it needed the hydraulic press at the local garage to remove the piston from the cylinder.

I now have a host of motor parts, hopefully to make enough motors to suit all the four frames I have.  Some are three-speeds while some are two-speeds.

I'm still working on getting my good one mobile and then, hopefully, to move on to the next one.

Oh well, I guess in between my part time trade work this will keep me busy in my spare time (What's that?) for quite a long time yet.

This article appeared in the October 2012 Iceni CAM Magazine.
[Text and photos © 2012 C Vincent.]

| CAMmag Home Page | List of articles |