Vintage Greeves Motorcycles

1967 Greeves 250cc ChallengerGreeves Motorcycles Ltd. produced various types of motorcycles from the early 1950s through the 1970s. The company was started by the same man behind Invacar Ltd., Bert Greeves. Invacar was a manufacturer of gas-powered, three-wheeled cars for those that were disabled. Being a motorcycle fan and trials rider, Mr. Greeves wanted to try his hand in the motorcycle market. Thinking he could reduce the weight of a bike while keeping its quality, he designed two dirt bikes that were released in 1954. One bike was for trials riding, and the other for motocross. They both used 200cc Villiers two-stroke engines, and were easily identifiable thanks to the cast aluminum down beam and leading link front fork.

Greeves partnered up and sponsored motocross racer Brian Stonebridge, gaining the exposure needed to effectively market the company. Sales started to rise, and Greeves stepped up the efforts even more. Dave Bickers gained their sponsorship, and in 1960 and 1961, he won the European championship on Greeves’ new 246cc bike. Around this same time, the Greeves Hawkstone motocrosser began changing the reputation of lightweight bikes. The Hawkstone became the first lightweight bike to be fully relied on not only to finish a race, but to place really well, too.

With all of the changes that had been happening to the Villiers motors, Greeves realized that a new engine was needed in order to stay competitive. This was implemented and released in the 1964 Challenger. This 250cc motor had the Greeves head and barrel, an Albion gearbox, and an Alpha Company lower end. A 360cc was released by 1967, and both bikes were very popular with desert and motocross racers alike.

By 1969, the Challenger was replaced with the 250cc and 380cc Griffon. The leading link fork had been replaced by telescopic forks for more travel. The cast aluminum down beam had also been changed to a Reynolds 531 chrome moly with a conventional down tube. Not long after the Griffon was released, Greeves began working with Dr. Gordon Blair of Queen’s University in Belfast. This collaboration was done in order to increase the number of horsepower that the Griffon 380 produced. Dr. Blair was able to increase the horsepower by an amazing sixteen percent by re-engineering the ports and exhaust system.

The newly designed Griffon was called the QUB, and production began in 1971. The second of the QUBs, the MKII, was released in 1976. Japanese bike companies had began to steal away customers, so smaller companies were starting to suffer. A factory fire brought Greeves to an end in 1977.

To read even more history and facts on Greeves motorcycles, visit Frank Conley’s Greeves history page.

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3 Comments

  • Jim Arnold says:

    Your history seems a bit off by my recollection. I owned and raced southern California desert district 37. After a couple lessor bikes (spell that jap bikes) I moved to a 1969 Greeves 380 griffon with (and because) the leading link suspension. Absolutely the best desert suspension of that day. I can see motocross going with Cerani forks. In 1973 made a deal with Nick Nicolson for a partial sponsorship on 1973 380 QUB. Didn’t last long because he wanted the new bike to expand more desert racers. First problem we had was the QUB came with straight forks that Nic felt was crucial to draw new riders to the brand. He was probaby right but I refused to give my leading link with 5 in Curnutt shocks. Next problem was his first trip to the desert with 2 QUBs my finish was 17 overall (about 700 bikes) Larry Roseler (sp) bested me by 100 feet on a 100 cc factory Harley baja. I think that was more than Nic could handle. Haha.

    1974 I switched to a WR 400 Husqvarna that wasn’t near the power of the Greeves but it never had a single problem. All this chatter to say that many Griffons that I saw all had leading link till I first saw the change in 1973.

    • Profile photo of Admin Admin says:

      Hi Jim! Thanks for your comments! However, we’re sure our information is accurate. A quick google search of images of Greeves Challengers and the succeeding Griffons will prove our point. Thanks! I recommend this great read on Greeves history.

  • Bruce Bain says:

    I have a 63 Greeves Silverstone. I’ve had the bike for about 6 years, paid 1000 pounds for it. It came in 5 boxes. I rebuilt it from scratch, raced it in Scotland then brought it out to Dubai. I use it at all the track days and it’s never missed a beat in 3 years. Fantastic little bike!

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