Saturday, January 23, 2010


Photos by Yves J. Hayat, info from Bernard Salvat:

While Retromobile is the largest vintage automobile show in France, they have provided increasingly high profile space to a vintage motorcycle display, curated by esteemed French motorcycle historian Bernard Salvat, author of 'Les Motos Français; Cent ans d'histoire' (1999, E/P/A), 'Motos Peugeot' (1998, EBS), 'Side-Cars; Cent ans d'histoire' (1996, E/P/A), etc. For 2010, Salvat has assembled a full barrage of Peugeot motorcycle history, from 1902 - 2010, 'Toutes les Motos Peugeot' from the earliest road and race machines of the 'Noughts, 'Teens and 'Twenties, to their postwar lightweight race and roadsters. Many unique and historic machines rubbed shoulders for the first time ever in one location - quite an historic achievement, and yes, I wish I was there!

One of the most remarkable machines on display is this replica of the Peugeot Double Overhead Camshaft 494cc parallel twin racer from 1921. A tantalizing photo of this machine sits nestled in The Best Book in the World, 'The Vintage Years at Brooklands' (Dr. Joe Bayley, Goose, '68). An astounding technical tour de force from an incredibly early date, when a machine like the Duzmo, with overhead valves and an oil pump, was Advanced! What must have the Brooklands clubmen have thought when presented with a machine fully fifteen years ahead of its time, like an echo of the future? More on this machine in a later post!

Earliest of the two-wheelers on display was this 1902 'Motobicyclette', introduced at the Salon de Paris in 1901. This was Peugeot's first powered bicycle, after building Tricars and Quadricycles (see the rear of this photo) since 1898. While this machine is a true 'motorcycle', Werner's trademark on the term, filed in April 1898, had been approved just two months prior to this machine's début. While Peugeot had built all the mechanicals of their previous multi-wheelers, for their first motorcycle they chose a Swiss 'ZL' motor, made by Zürcher and Lüthi in Neuchatel. The capacity was 198cc, and used an automatic inlet valve and 'wick' carburetor. The chassis layout with the engine low and central in the frame is per the Werner patent, although soon every motorcycle maker used this solution to 'where to put the engine'. Very few survive.

Another early machine, this time a Racer, and an extremely rare machine, raced for only one year before WW1 stopped everything for four years. This machine appears in the Peugeot catalog of 1915, distinguished by the oversize white lettering adorning the petrol tank, and has a unique configuration; 500cc sidevalve, with twin Claudel carburetors. This machine may have taken part in only one race, at the Circuit de l'Eure in May 1914. The model was quickly abandoned for racing, as the 'Eight Valve', Double-Overhead Camshaft machines took its place!

This 1914 'Paris-Nice' 350cc V-Twin was the backbone of Peugeot's road trial and production before WW1. The quality of engineering and construction is impeccable - and while this motorcycle looks restored, it is in fact in original condition! How do I know? I was offered this very machine 8 years ago... and turned it down! Do I regret it? No need to answer. Almost 5000 examples of the 'Paris-Nice' were sold. Some technical details; 45 degree v-twin, sidevalve, Bosch magneto, Claudel carb, belt drive with options of a clutch and 3-speed Armstrong epicyclic rear hub, weight 45kg, with a 65km/h top speed.

Skipping ahead in time, we find this 1934 'Model 515' racer, which has a remarkable history. On Friday October 5th, at 8:36am, four riders (Marcel and Robert Pahin, Camille Naarcy, Pedro Verchére) attacked the 500cc 24-Hour World Record, established the year prior by rival Jonghe on a 350cc machine. The machine is a stripped road bike, which had first and third gears removed, and stronger forks fitted to cope with the dreaded bumps of the concrete surface of the Montlhéry speed bowl. The large tank held almost 20 liters, but began to leak after 6 hours of pounding - it was replaced by the tank of Pedro Verchére's personal road bike, also a Model 515! Unfortunately, this meant twice as many fuel stops.

At night, the track was illuminated by hurricane lamps on the banking, and the temperature dropped to 7deg C, followed by a driving rain. The rear wheel had to be replaced after so many hours of hammering, but this was the only mechanical fault of the machine. The attempt went so well, that after establishing their 24-Hour Record at an average of 118.74 km/h (71.4mph), it was decided to carry on for the 3000km record as well! This was achieved at the same speed as the 24Hr record. To put this achievement in perspective, it is the same average speed as the Bol d'Or 24-Hr. race... on a Kawasaki in 1974!

Sharing the 515 engine used for the 24-Hour machine was this lovely 1935 Art Deco-inspired roadster, the flagship model of their line and widely used Clubman's competition machine. Road-racing, Enduros, Trials, were all meat and drink to this machine, the French Gold Star of its day. And oh so elegant; by the 1930s, French motorcycle designers had mastered fluid and graceful lines, and their best machines are simply stunning.

Next: More Racers!