Four cylinder FNs go racing

S.B. White's problems at the 1914 Senior T.T. Race began at the weigh-in.

One of two four-cylinder FNs entered for the race, White's machine was the heaviest machine in the race, listed in "The Motor Cycle" at 336 pounds. But that is not the full story, for an asterisk beside the 336 lb. weight led to the following footnote:

"The figure given is the limit the scales were capable of weighing, so that how much more the machine weighed it is impossible to say."

The size of this handicap becomes clear if we consider that winner Pullin's Rudge weighed in at 255 lb., and one of the Triumphs was lightest-in-race at 196 lb. So White and Rex Mundy, the other FN rider in the 1914 Senior T.T., were clearly going to have their hands full on these heavy, long-wheelbase machines.

But of course, the four-cylinder FN was never meant to be other than a smooth luxury tourer, as FN were happy to make clear in all their publications and advertising. So the advertisement taken out to celebrate the Mundy and White's finishes in 33rd and 36th place, respectively, from 103 starters was no surprise:

FN: The most reliable machines in the TT

I'm not sure if the "most reliable" claim would stand up to too much scrutiny: the three Sunbeams entered in the race finished 2nd, 11th and 13th to take the team prize, but perhaps their riders weren't "absolutely fresh" at the end of the 262 miles!

So how did White and Mundy perform throughout the 6-laps of racing on the famous mountain circuit?

Prior to the race, it was reported that the FNs "...of course attracted much attention..." and during the race the healthy exhaust note of the FNs - surely a stark contrast to the many single-cylinder machines in the race - and the regular running caused comment. At the Ramsey hairpin, the correspondent noted that the big machines "...cornered well, and it was surprising that the FN machines with their long wheelbase could be brought round the hairpin so beautifully". I, for one, would have loved to observe White rounding the corner "...with a slight skid, apparently intentional". Just look at that style as he rounds the Ramsey hairpin!

White rounds the Ramsay hairpin

Both White and Mundy had spills in the race; Mundy spread his machine and his tools across the road approaching Bray Hill corner on lap 5 , and White had trouble with a "...soft patch of ground into which many of the men rode" at Willaston corner, fell, and had trouble starting owing to a damaged exhaust lifter. Their race times of around 5 1/2 hours were one hour slower than the winner, but nearly an hour faster than the last-to-finish Abingdon.

It wasn't until 1931 that F.N. returned to the Island with a genuinely fast machine, but by then the days of the four-cylinder F.N. had long passed.

The 1914 TT FNs

By 1914, the Senior TT race was for single- and multi-cylinder machines displacing less than 500 cc. Here is the beginnings of a mystery. New for 1914 was the Type 700 FN, with mechanically-operated valves, and a 3-speed gearbox. This machine, referred to as the 7 h.p., was sold alongside the earlier atmospheric-inlet machine, the 5 h.p.

The race machines clearly resembled the Type 700, as can be seen in the above photo above, but with dimensions 50 mm x 63 mm they displaced  495 cc and were referred to as "3 1/2 h.p.", which we can take to be a euphemism for "500 cc". Note that both the bore and the stroke differed from that in the production 5 h.p. ( 52.5 mm x 57 mm, 496 cc) and 7 h.p. ( 52 mm x 88 mm, 748 cc), suggesting that the motors in the TT models were very special indeed, with custom cranks and cylinders.

Can anyone provide details of the TT machines? Do either of them survive?

7 hp FN at Brooklands, 1921

A 7 h.p. at speed at Brooklands, when it made fastest time of the day after five days on the road for the A.C.U. Six Day's Trial, 1921

Copyrightę Leon Mitchell 1998

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