Invincible JAP

Invincible JAP tank badge

Invincible JAP advertisement

The Invincible JAP is one of the most recognisable Australian bikes of the 1920s. Unlike many other makes, they were all pretty-much the same! JAP engine (most often the 1000cc twin, sometimes the 770, rarely a single), Burman gearbox, Messenger No. 1 saddle, home-grown Excelsior/Henderson copy forks, Edwards Brothers saddle tanks all attached to a pretty conventional frame supported on 28 x 3 wheels.

Introduced by Turner Brothers in Melbourne in 1922, and sold for the next 5 or 6 years, the Invincible was clearly set up to face the Harley Davidson competition of the day. Advertising was patriotic, with the cap flipped towards the "mother country": "Australia's New Motor Cycle", "It's all British, built in Australia by Australians", "An All-British Achievement in Motorcycle Building", "An Alliance in Motorcycle Making" and so on. None of the at American junk for the Aussie motorcyclist of the 1920s...

I owned, restored and rode an Invincible for many years. A 1923 8hp, it was pretty typical of the breed. Two twistgrips (throttle on the right, ignition on the left), foot clutch, foot brake, hand change, Enots semi-automatic drip feed... plenty to fiddle with while riding but quite a viable machine to rally.

1923 Invincible JAP Leon's 1923 Invincible JAP, affectionately known as "the wheelbarrow". Shown here after restoration in the early 1980s, it would have looked more elegant on its original 28x3 beaded edge tyres... Otherwise it is pretty much "to catalogue".
c1925 Invincible JAP A late model Invincible, fitted with alloy chaincases (earlier ones were sheet steel). Only detail changes were made over the production life, for example to the tank fittings and oil pump. Remarkable how many Invincibles have survived in tidy original condition. This bike has a KT/A engine number signifying 8hp, 1925 for the JAP motor.
Sad Invincible... The beginnings of an Invincible. Parts are not exactly common, but are not terribly scarce either.

I was once accused of having a love-hate with my Invincible JAP. It was true then, and now that I no longer own it (gone to make way for my 1910 FN) I am not sure the relationship is completely over.

For the "love" part, I still recall certain rides on the Invincible - mostly those "Lawrence of Arabia-esque" ones with the winding road, the wind in the hair and the big twin between the knees. Nothing like a big V-twin in good form.

The "hate" part? Big and heavy really, and the "suicide" (spring-loaded like a car) foot clutch on the right, matched with the only brake under the left foot made stopping on an up-hill gradient a testing experience. Think about it.

Copyright Leon Mitchell 2001

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