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The Dominic family's visits to France invariably involve a visit to some Moto shop or other to pick up some spare or other for the VéloSoleX; and Solex spotting, though on a short trip they tend to be conspicuous by their absence. This autumn's visit to Paris was rather longer, so a few 3800s were spotted in use. A blue one was spotted one evening passing the Galeries Lafayette not far from our hotel and a similar machine trundled along the edge of the high-speed traffic past the Eiffel Tower another evening. A small-wheeled 5000 was seen, and a young lady was seen taking her life in her hands to cut across three lanes of traffic on the Boulevard St Michel. A nocturnal jaunt to find a restaurant, which was in the end closed, revealed one of the earlier tubular-framed models, less engine, chained to a lamp post - a common fate for earlier Solexes.
Our travels led us to Motos St Michel, a shop easily spotted by the gaggle of more-or-less intact Solexes outside. Some appeared to be customers' machines but others were definitely either awaiting buyers, or dead 'uns waiting for a transplant. The required running spares (bulbs and a new front lamp unit) were obtained over the counter though, as always, a photocopy of the appropriate page of the parts manual to show exactly what is needed is a great help.
I was also looking for a porte-bidon (the carrying frame for the spare can of Solexine 2-stroke mixture on the front left-hand fork) and my search for this led me to Mosquito (outside Métro André Dumas) which is DEFINITELY worth a visit. It is more a collector's paradise than a normal shop and, apart from such rarities as a Vélovap and a Kid, had on display a Solex Micron scooter, a liquid-cooled Solex racer (claimed to be capable of 100 kph) and the Chinese-built Hongdu moped. As readers may be aware, VéloSoleX production ended on November 7th 1988, and the final machine was auctioned for charity. The production equipment was crated up and sent to Le Havre, pending shipment to China. The massacre at Teinanmen Square in Beijing delayed things somewhat (!) but the equipment was eventually shipped and the Nanking-built product is now trickling back into France. The Chinese have basically only reproduced the engine and have mated this to a modern heavyweight-bike/light-moped type frame fitted with a carrier and totally-enclosed chain.
The engine unit is basically Solex but the headlight has been replaced by a plastic infill containing "Hongdu" in Mandarin and English and a logo, which also adorns the centre of the fuel tank and flywheel guard. The headlamp and light switch have been removed to the handlebars together with an electric horn ("Oh look, the lights go out when he presses it!") and the associated wiring is sort of left to hang about where it will. The French plastic fuel tank has been replaced with a somewhat crude (but very substantial) steel tank. The pressing on the cylinder with "Start/Départ" on has been modified and now, in the same place, carries two Mandarin Characters (presumably "Start/Départ"), together with an engine serial number/rating plate on the front. The combined throttle/front brake control is retained, though now operated by a conventional lever instead of the French inverted one. The existing design of silencer and the springing arrangement to keep the engine pressed down on the front wheel are pure Solex, as is the 'hook' to hold it up. Unfortunately, at Ffr5000, I would imagine that it is likely to remain little more than an expensive curiosity, though I very much hope to be proved wrong.
First published - December 1991
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