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A circular type centrifugal radiator for motor cars was designed and manufactured in France in the early years of this century by Marcel Mennenson, an inventor extraordinaire. As well as being fitted to some types of Delauney-Belleville cars, it was also to be found on Marlborough cars. It was manufactured by the firm started by Mennesson and his partner, Maurice Goudard, the name of the company being Solex. The specific derivation of this name is not known, although the word for sun in French is soleil and the radiator was of circular shape. This radiator was little used after World War I, partly due to the advent of new manufacturing processes and developments such as the now traditional honeycomb radiator, and partly due to the call up for military service of the two partners. The firm did, however, keep running during the period of the hostilities, under the direction of Madame Jehanno. This was made largely possible by the introduction of the Solex radiator on omnibuses of the Paris General Omnibus Company in 1912.
It was because an evident limit on the life of the centrifugal radiator that Mennenson and Goudard took over the carburettor patents from Messrs Jouffret and Renée (old school friends) and launched the Solex carburettor company.
Marcel Mennenson had three sons, the eldest of which became technical director of Solex Ltd and who also invented the first practical system of high-precision dimensional guaging by compressed air. Marcel's second son most ably continued to develop this invention which, although not so much in the public eye, revolutionised the checking and manufacture of many types of precision components in a multiplicity of industries.
As a means of doing something from 1940 to 1945 which would not assist the occupying forces, Marcel also produced the first commercially viable power assisted bicycle, which was christened the VéloSoleX. His third son took charge of this venture which expanded to the tune of producing some 8 million of these popular cyclomoteurs in many different countries until production finally ceased in France in November 1988.
Truly Marcel Mennenson was one of the engineering genii of recent times.
Acknowledgements are made for much of the above detail to a letter from Douglas Richards, Solex Ltd, London NW1 which appeared in Old Motor and Vintage Commercial dated June 1964, prompted by the fact that Marcel Mennenson celebrated his 80th birthday on 30th April of that year.
First published - February 1991
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