French Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Paris Salon 1908

This article has a decidedly negative tone. By comparison, consider the following, written by Jim Boulton:

  • Louis Coatalen had now been appointed Chief Engineer, a 30 year old Frenchman and brilliant automobile engineer. He had worked for a number of French motor firms before deciding to come to the UK. The French industry had been going for a considerable time and therefore had a lot of very competent engineers. The British industry was still in its development stage and so would offer much better prospects. (



WHEN we visited the Paris Salon last week we found the Grand Palais, that beautiful building in the Champs Elysées, in which are exhibited the motor cars, motor cycles, pedal cycles, and accessories, shrouded in a dense fog, which, according to those who have spent a lifetime in Paris, was unprecedented.

As in previous years, the main floor of the building is devoted almost exclusively to motor cars, and the motor cycle stands, what there are, are to be found in the galleries, where are also nearly all the accessory exhibits.

The Grand Nef, or main hall of the building, has lost, in our opinion, none of its splendour, the interior lighting may be reduced in the number of actual lights, but the general effect remains just as artistic as ever. The exhibitors themselves also vie with each other in the decoration of their stands, and a contemplation of the main part of the show, ... from the balcony, at any time after the stands are illuminated, presents the same enchanting spectacle as in previous years. With regard to the motor cycles on exhibition, they are, speaking generally, very far behind the British motor cyclist's ideal.

Of course, there are the same firms exhibiting as have already shown at the Stanley, such as the Moto-Reve, F.N., Motosacoche, etc. We do not propose to deal with their exhibits in this article, and our remarks must be taken as alluding to the general run of French motor cycles which are seldom heard of or ridden in this country, and which were not exhibited last month at London.

With few exceptions, the French motor cycle maker is obviously looking to the lightweight motor bicycle to resuscitate a business which he has sadly neglected for some reason which is beyond our ken. That there is a big market to be developed in motor cycles in France we have not the slightest doubt, but at present the motor cycle business is in the hands of two or three firms at most, who do not appear to have made any great efforts to keep their products up to date.

For instance, it is an uncommon sight to find a machine fitted with a handle-bar controlled carburetter ; there are one or two exceptions to prove the rule, but the old style levers on the tank are universal. Such articles as stands and luggage carriers are practically unknown, and the saddles are, in the majority of cases, more suited to path racing requirements than those of the touring or road riding motor cyclist.

We searched in vain for footrests, and as for pedal applied belt rim brakes, admitted to be the best retarding device for a motor cycle, they were non-existent. Magneto ignition is fitted to several machines, but it is nothing like as universal as in England. Numerous machines are exhibited with battery ignition, and the enquirer is informed that magnetos can be fitted to order, but in many cases the engine has not been designed to take a magneto, and the attachment of the magneto machine would to all appearance be somewhat of a makeshift.

Passenger motor cycles are few and far between; one or two tricars are shown, such as the Austral and Quentin, but we failed to find any new makes, while those on view have undergone little or no alteration. The change-speed gear question does not appear to have ruffled the mind of French manufacturers, and where a variable gear is fitted, it is usually the Bozier, which, as our readers already know, is an epicyclic gear attached to the engine-shaft. One or two ingenious methods are employed for reducing the gear by means of a countershaft to enable engine pulleys of large diameter to be used.

If any of our readers should pay a visit to the Salon, and wish to first see the motor cycles, they should make for the balcony and tour the whole of the outer gallery ; then take the stands in order of lettering, A to X, not missing the Salon d'Honneur. Then they should descend to the Rez de Chaussée, and afterwards, if time permits, to the main floor.


The Société Industrielle d' Albert exhibit a Rochet-Bruneau lightweight. This is chain driven through a reducing gear id countershaft, the whole transmission being enclosed in metal case. The magneto is fitted behind the engine, and was driven. This machine was exhibited last year, and mains unaltered.

The Alcyon lightweight is a new model. The F.N. type cradle has been discarded in favour of an ordinary diamond frame, presumably to allow space for the magneto, which is gear driven. The belt transmission on this machine is of the direct type without reducing gear. The engine is of ()h.p., with mechanically-operated inlet valve (see p. 972).

The Griffon exhibit is a representative one from the French point of view, but the alterations in design and equipment are so trivial that it is unnecessary to go into the details of instruction of these machines, which in their 1907 form are already well known to our readers. The bevel gear driven magneto is still retained, the magneto machine being enclosed in a compartment of the tank.

Although Humber, Ltd., show a full line of pedal bicycles through their French agent, they do not include a motor cycle, which is to be regretted, as we think that there would be a demand for good British machines, now that they are much in advance of those made in France.

The Lurquin-Coudert show two models... and a 2 h.p. Both are lightweights with magneto ignition, and are so much alike that we only find it necessary to illustrate the 2 h.p. They both have magneto ignition, the magneto being fitted in front of the crank case, and chain driven, automatic inlet valves being retained.

J. Duperrut shows a light motor bicycle called the "Burly," which emanates from that home of the lightweight, Geneva. The engine is inclined forward with horizontal radiating fins on the lines of the Motosacoche, the carburetter being between the engine and the gear-driven magneto. The method of inclining the engine and casting the support for the magneto on the top of the crank case makes a neat combination. The transmission is by V belt, and both valves are mechanically operated. The wheels are both 24in. diameter. The engine is devoid of a silencer, and the machine has only one brake (see p. 972). It is provided with handle-bar control for the carburetter, and is the only one in the show so provided, with the exception of the Moto-Reve, Terrot, Motosacoche, and Triumph, which latter is on exhibition in one of the rooms in the Gallery. It is quite refreshing to come across this solitary example of a British-made complete motor cycle, showing its French competitors such a very clean pair of heels.

The Quentin tricar, which is illustrated below, is one of the best examples of a water-cooled tricar in the show. It has a pressed steel frame, thermo-syphon water-cooled engine, with magneto ignition. The transmission is by chain from a Bozier gear box on the engine-shaft to a large chain sprocket on the rear wheel. The sprocket is equal in diameter to a driving belt rim, and is attached to the road wheel by means of steel brackets or plates... J.Quentin

Herdtle and Bruneau, the makers of the little water-cooled lightweight motor bicycle, have a good exhibit of all their models, which have been previously described in these pages.

Gallien-Sarda exhibit the Werner motor cycles. The light-weight and twin-cylinder models are exactly the same as last year and call for no special description.

In the Salon d'Honneur Les Fils de Peugeot Freres show all their models - the lightweight, 3 1/2 h.p. single, and the 5 h.p. twin, the two last named being provided with Truffault suspension spring forks. They are all the same as last year with the exception of the lightweight, which is now fitted with a magneto.

Magnat, Debon, and Moser show a machine very like the Burry described above. The engine is inclined forward, and the magneto is similarly situated and driven; but the engine is fitted lower in the frame, and the radiators are at right angles to the cylinder, and round instead of square. The engine appears well made.

Terrot and Co.'s motorette is a 2 h.p. lightweight with inclined engine, magneto at the rear of. the cylinder on top of the crankcase on the lines of the Magnat-Debon. The transmission is by round twisted belt, and there is a jockey pulley to maintain the tension. The throttle, which is contained in the inlet valve dome, is controlled from the handle-bar. The weight of this machine is 94 lbs.

The Moto-Rêve and Motosacoche machines on exhibition are exactly the same models as those we described in the report of the Stanley Show, as is also the F.N. The latter firm, however, show a forecarriage attached to one of the four-cylinder models, but with a two-speed gear.

H. J. Harding has an excellent display of J.A.P. engines and carburetters, Chater-Lea frames, Watawata belts, etc. He told us that the French reception of the J.A.P. engines was favourable, and he expected to do good business with them.

Rene Gillet and Co. have quite one of the best exhibits of motor cycles in the Salon. This firm is not very well known, but its machines are as well designed as any of the French models on view. With the addition of a V belt drive instead of a flat one, and magneto ignition, they would be quite passable. The design of the rear frame allows for a very low seat. The tricar is one of the twin-cylinder bicycle models, with a detachable forecarriage and sprung front axle. On this stand is also a twin-cylinder tandem motor bicycle, which we illustrate.

The G. and A. carburetters for motor cycles are now made with the petrol union on top of the float chamber instead of underneath, so, it is claimed, preventing flooding and waste The air control by means of metal balls of various weights is, of course, retained.

The Montbard-Aulnoye firm, who make a speciality of pressed-steel pistons, have some nice little pistons on exhibition suitable for motor cycle engines. They are beautifully made, very light, and exhibited machined ready for use.

An article which calls for mention is the Fixator, a device for locking nuts; it is also used for controlling the movement of levers, such as throttle and air levers on handle-bar. We expect to illustrate this in the next issue, as well as one or two other interesting accessory articles which space prevents us dealing with in this issue.

A. Sommnaire exhibits a 2 1/4 h.p. light-weight, a 6 h.p. single-cylinder, and a 5 h.p. twin-cylinder minus pedals. These machines have rigid forks, round petrol tanks, and battery ignition.

The Moto-Becane is a lightweight attachment for pedal bicycles, shown by Albert Brunet. The machine exhibited had a special motor cycle frame, and we doubt if the attachment would fit any pedal bicycle without a good deal of alteration, particularly to the back and chain stays.

The Mea magneto hails from Stuttgart, and appears to be a well-made small and light magneto machine very suitable for motor cycles.

The Nilmelior Co. (late Bassée and Michel) make another magneto machine with four magnets, and an entirely enclosed metal contact breaker.

Paul Lavigne makes a speciality of a small motor cycle engine 68 x 70 mm., with a.o.i.v., weighing about 30 lbs.

On the Buchet stand, the only pattern of motor cycle engine on view is the old single-cylinder with overhead valves and separate combustion head. There is not even any arrangement made for driving a magneto.

The arrangements in the galleries are far from satisfactory. First, they are extremely cold, draughty, and badly heated with a few gas stoves. The motor cycle stands are difficult to find, and instead of all the motor cycle exhibits being classified and placed in one section of the Gallery, or Rez de Chaussee, they are dotted here, there, and everywhere in these two portions of the building. The catalogue contains a host of useless information, and three or four plans, which might be made quite serviceable if the names of exhibitors and numbers of stands had been printed in a type that was legible without the aid of a magnifying glass.

The Motor Cycle, December 9th 1908, pp974-975

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