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VéloSoleX 50th Anniversary

by Paul Hornby

Event at Cormeilles-en-Parisis

The September 1996 edition of the French moped customiser's magazine Mob Chop contains an illustrated article, by Didier Leclerq, on the 50th anniversary celebrations at Courbevoie - not a baguette, snail or sting of onions to be seen.  The same issue also carried a brief notice of another VSX exhibition to be held at Cormeilles-en-Parisis from 27th September to 6th October.

Cormeilles-en-Parisis, a picturesque town 15 minutes by train from Paris Gare St Lazare, is famous for being the birthplace, in 1789, of Louis Daguerre, the photography pioneer, and in August 1972, for being the location of the first 24 hour endurance trial for VéloSoleXes.  So it was fitting that Messieurs Claude Lagoutte and Cyril Retiere, in collaboration with l'Association 'Le Vieux Cormeilles', should hold an exhibition celebrating the VSX at the Cormielles Salle des Fêtes.  During the exhibition, several local shopkeepers and businesses, including M Froumy the optician, Garçon-Garçonne the hairdressers and M Bary the horse butcher, put VSX-related displays in their windows.

In the entrance hall there was a display of literature and photographs of the VéloSoleX and various 1950s cyclemotors such as the Diem, Hémy, etc.  A 1960 Côte d'Ivoire stamp showing a postman with a VSX was displayed, as was a newspaper cutting about Marie Emma Gabet of the Nord Département.  She had had her leg amputated in 1929; in 1946 she bought a VSX and continued to use it until 1986 when she was 75, her "fidèle compagnon".  In one corner was a display of the modern French 'Selectric' cyclemotor.

As at Courbevoie, the exhibition was divided into themed tableaux, 17 in all, such as the inside of a barn with two unrestored early VSXs among straw bales and horse collars, or a shop containing eight lovely early VSXs.  Of over 60 machines, the following were noteworthy: a Triporteur tradesman's trike built by Sociétés Sides et Crusson in 1976, a 3800 with a tradesman's sidecar - one to get David Stevenson salivating like Pavlov's autocyclist - but without any information as to who manufactured the sidecar, a VSX-engined Chinese autocycle with a metallic cherry red coloured open frame and lots of Chinese characters on the down tube - presumably either a Lan Ying or a Hong Du.  Among a display of current Hungarian VSXs was one finished in a startling and very 1950s acid green.  There was a racing VSX with a Mikuni carburettor and a large and disgustingly intestinal looking exhaust system, a Voiturette d'Handicapé with a VSX front end, two Surfracers and a VSX engined Véloto car.

On learning that I was British, the organisers greeted me warmly (in fact I think I was the only foreign visitor) and one of them mentioned that she had heard of a British copy of the VSX, following up with an expansive hand gesture, referring of course to our old friend the Cymota with his coat of many colours.  This is not the first time that French enthusiasts have mentioned Cymotas to me, so it seems that if any readers have a spare Cymota that they are willing to exile to France, they would undoubtedly have an obscure object of desire in the blue smoke filled Solexine dens of Paris.

This enthusiast-organised exhibition, with its painstakingly built tableaux, displays of VSX memorabilia such as key fobs, gramophone records, stickers and transfers and, of course, the machines themselves was far more comprehensive than that at Courbevoie and deserves to have been better known and publicised.

First published - February 1997

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