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A week or so after moving to France, I received a telephone call from my friend Hervé the postman. "Do you want another Solex? I have found one for you without a motor. It won't cost you anything but if you don't want it, it will end up on the tip." I thought of the four Solexes and the Winged Wheel standing in my garage, which have not turned a wheel since coming to France, and looked at the multitude of boxes scattered around the house containing books, tools and household effects for which places still had to be found. Also, there were many tasks to be undertaken like installing light fittings and washing machines, not to mention decorating. I thought "Do I need or want another Solex?" Unfortunately, these temperamental and outdated machines have a strong attraction for me. Working on the assumption not to refuse anything that may prove useful, particularly if it is free, I decided to accept the offer.
The Solex, a 3800, seemed to be in very reasonable condition: not too much rust, and chrome that would benefit from an application of chrome cleaner. The tyres should serve for many kilometres before needing replacement. All that was needed was a motor and I was sure that I could build a suitable one from my stock of spares. Gratefully I took it home and left it in my workshop until I would have the time to give it my attention.
Some weeks later I had a little time to spare and so I dismantled the cycle parts and took them to a local agricultural engineer who also has sandblasting facilities. For a very modest sum, all the tin-ware was stripped of old paint and rust-proofed ready to receive a new finish. Three coats of primer and a similar number of coats of black enamel were applied from aerosols and the results were most acceptable. I use enamel paint rather than cellulose as, although enamel takes much longer to dry, I believe it gives a more durable finish.
Motor No 4365289 was recovered from under my bench and layers of accumulated mud and oil removed. As expected there was no spark, the fuel pump delivered no fuel to the carburettor and the compression was weak. However, the motor was not seized and the roller was not unduly worn. On removing the flywheel there was a certain amount of corrosion found on the stator, probably due to damp. The ignition and lighting coils were replaced with ones from my stock of spares that were known to be in good condition. The contact breaker points were also replaced.
The fuel pump was thoroughly cleaned and fitted with a new membrane; the piston was treated to a new set of rings and fresh filters were fitted to the fuel tank and carburettor. Before assembling the motor with new gaskets, all carbon was removed from the exhaust and cylinder head. Spinning the motor by hand resulted in a spark at the plug points and fuel spurting from the delivery side of the pump. Confidently I installed the motor in the frame.
Fuel in the tank a short push and the engine fired but would not continue to run. Timing was checked and a new sparking plug fitted enabling the motor to keep running but with scarcely enough power to propel the Solex forward on the flat. Carburettor was checked and found to be OK and so it must be ignition but that had also been checked. It had, with the exception of the condenser. One of unknown condition was found in the spares box and fitted. A few more paces and away the Solex went. Careful running in with a little extra oil in the fuel to aid the bedding down of the new rings and I have a machine which, as the French say, "Il marche bien".
What to do now? Motors 4572503 and 4619936 await attention and there is an adequate number of cycle parts available in the workshop. I feel the need for a change from Solexes but to what? My bedtime reading: 'Le temps des Mobs', contains illustrations of numerous machines which I would dearly love to own. A Derny 'Bordeaux-Paris' would head the list. Why can't I find one? I've searched long and hard. Meanwhile the Winged Wheel needs a long overdue rebuild. That will probably come next.
First published - June 1999
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