Motosacoche Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Motosacoche Ltd (GB)

Motosacoche 1912 V-Twin Poster

This machine is almost identical to the Royal Enfield - same engine, frame, forks, mudguards, tank...

Motosacoche was founded in 1899 by Henri and Armand Dufaux, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Motosacoche was once the largest Swiss motorcycle manufacturer, known also for its MAG (Motosacoche Acacias Geneve) engines which were used by many British and European motorcycle manufacturers. At the height of their powers they had factories in Switzerland, France and Italy, as well as substantial representation in the British Isles.

From 1900 the company produced a bicycle auxiliary engine which was supplied with a sub-frame that could be installed into a conventional bicycle. This looked like an engine in a bag, hence the Motosacoche name which translates as meaning "engine in a satchel".

The Dufaux brothers set up a subsidiary firm to market their machines in the UK, and this led to collaboration with Royal Enfield, who supplied most of the components to build a complete machine using a Motosacoche 344 cc 2.75 hp V-twin engine. Royal Enfield, in 1910, released effectively the same machine, and the two marques built all but identical V-twins for several years until Motosacoche left the motorcycle market to concentrate on their MAG (Motosacoche Acacias Geneve) engines, which by this time were doing exceptionally well. These were supplied first through H. and A. Dufaux and then, by 1912, Motosacoche Ltd (GB), with Osborne Louis de Lissa of Australia at the helm.


Stand No. 67.

The Motosacoche was one of the first light-weight machines to be introduced in this country. The chief alteration in the 1909 model is a loop frame which brings the engine 2in. lower than formerly. The frame is also strengthened by a diagonal stay close up against the steering pillar. Most models are now fitted with the lightweight Bosch magneto, which is driven in a particularly neat and efficient manner by means of a worm, the worm wheel being formed on one of the flywheels. In models two valve pumps provided, one the injection of oil into the crank chamber and the other for sending a dose of paraffin into the cylinder so as to make the starting easy. The... model seen on this stand is the Motosacoche lady's machine in which the engine is carried vertically on the frame. This engine is fitted with mechanically-operated inlet valves and magneto ignition. The dimensions of the single-cylinder engine are 52 by 72, and those of the twin are 62 by 70 mm.

H. and A. Dufaux (England), Ltd.

65 Holborn Viaduct, E.G. Stand No. 67.

This exhibit consists entirely of the "Motosacoche" machine. These are shown in two models, one with the engine carried in the usual place, high up in the frame, and one (the ladies') with the engine placed much lower. There are several complete machines of the former pattern and various components. The engine and so forth are shown separate. The standard machine with magneto ignition retails at £33 or £30 with accumulator, and the ladies' model at £42. There is a new model two-cylinder 21/4 H.P. at. £46.

Stanley Show 1908


MOTOSACOCHE, Ltd., 65, Holborn Viaduct, E.G.

No. 102, Main Hall.

The stand of Motosacoche, Ltd., will present an interesting exhibit to the Stanley Show visitor. The Motosacoche may be referred to as the pioneer of lightweight motor bicycles, as it was the first of its kind ever to compete in open competition on equal terms with more powerful machines. Next year the standard single-cylinder will have a bore and stroke of 62 x 75 mm., the stroke being 5 mm. longer than last year. There is no separate combustion chamber, as the cylinder is cast in one piece, and there is much more clearance for the belt. The total weight of the machine with stand and fully equipped toolbag is 82 lbs.

Another interesting point regarding the new model is that it may be fitted with either the round or V belt transmission, and a rider may employ whichever method he prefers merely by changing the pulleys. With the round belt drive a free engine device may be fitted for a very small extra sum; and another extra which is not an extravagant one is the new adjustable pulley. The fastener on the round belt has been greatly improved, and comprises three hooks instead of the original one. The magneto in the 1910 model will be driven by a train of gear wheels instead of the previous method. Both diamond and low frame machines will be shown.

For the advertised price, Motosacoche motor cycles will be sold complete with Druid spring forks, special improved stand, toolbag, tools, and pump. The lady's Motosacoche, fitted with magneto ignition and spring forks, will be the same as the 1909 model. We understand that it has proved most satisfactory, and on account of its light weight it is highly suitable for use by the gentler sex.

Stanley Show 1909
The Motor Cycle November 8th 1909, page 862


1910 Cycle and Motorcycle Exhibition
Motosacoche, Ltd.
Holborn Viaduct, London, E.C. Stand No. 36.
Very little alteration has been made in the Motosacoche for next season, for the very simple reason that the machine as a whole has proved so satisfactory and popular that it is difficult to see where improvement is possible. Catering entirely for the believers in handy lightweight motor-bicycles, the "Motosacoche" has come to be regarded as the machine of its class. For 1911 the actual bicycle has been very slightly modified in order to give a better clearance and more perfect alignment for the belt, whilst in addition to this a. belt rim brake. is added. For those who desire a somewhat faster type the company are bringing out a 2.5 H.P. model in which particular attention has been given to the balancing of the engine, with the result that it is, claimed that vibration is completely overcome. This new type is capable of high speeds, and yet, on account of the flexibility of the motor, it will run quite as slowly as the smaller pattern and will start equally easily. Mechanically operated inlet valves are fitted to this type. The ladies "Motosacoche" has been improved, and is designed for moderate speeds, being geared sufficiently low to enable the motor to take the rider up practically any hill on a main road without pedalling. In spite of this there is not the least tendency to overheat.

Olympia Show 1910


Engine - 2½ h.p. M.A.G. four-stroke.
Iqnition - Bosch magneto, gear-driven.
Carburetter - Motosacoche.
Change Speed - Infinitely variable; between 5 and 9 to 1.
Transmission - Belt.
Dimensions - Height of saddle from ground, 30in. Ground clearance, 8in. Wheelbase, 50in.
Lubrication - Splash.
Other Features - Druid forks. Fixed gear and free engine, 30 guineas. Change-speed gear and free engine, 34 guineas.

Motosacoche Ltd., Dumont Works, Willesden Junction, N.W.

British Lightweights, 1914

When the Bol d'Or 24-hour event was first held on the outskirts of Paris in 1922, the winning rider covered more than 750 miles on a 500cc Motosacoche.

There is a detailed history of Motosacoche in the UK written by Osborne Louis de Lissa. De Lissa was managing director of Motosacoche UK for 20 years, and died in Australia in 1961.

The article is quite entertaining:

  • Holroyd, Le Vack and I entered a race at Brooklands. To our astonishment we were on the mark with Stanley on Singer, Pullin on Rudge, Horsman on Triumph and some others. I tackled Ebby on the matter before the word "Go" and he replied "Well you are In the trade, and you ought to have something good and fast". We did - we only saw our competitors at the start and when we came in they were having tea.

O. L. de Lissa article.

Change of Fortune.


Mr. Osborne L. de Lissa, who after an absence of 35 years, arrived in Sydney last week as a representative of a big engineering firm in Birmingham, and who had experience during the war as adviser on automobile engines to the British Air Ministry, left Sydney on the Orient liner Ormtiz in 1906 (?) as a trimmer, with pay of l/- a month, later being promoted to the position of greaser.

His change of fortune (says the 'Herald') is due to an old phonograph which he made in his workshop in Sydney. He used to entertain officers on board with music by the old-fashioned instrument, which was driven by an electric motor.


Mr. de Lissa has brought back large numbers of silver trophies which he won for motor-cycling in England, records of five years as a mining engineer on the Gold Coast, and of employment in British motor factories. He was the pioneer of placing on the market in England of a lightweight motor-cycle, which he sold at the rate of 900 a year. He has decided to settle in Australia and keep his phonograph.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 May 1935. Trove NLA

Sources: , National Library Australia, Moped Archive, The Motor Cycle, SMH, et al.

If you have a query about this page, or have some information to add, please contact us