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Cyclemotors, Cervelles, and Chiens in France

by Roger McGain

Any old excuse to go to France will do!  I had read about last year’s Bourse de l’Union, near Toulouse, in a back issue of Motos d’Hier, and I’d made a resolution to go to the one in March.  Living near the airport, I was on the plane by 9:40am, and was in time for Friday lunch in the centre of Toulouse.  Spiritedly, I ordered Cervelles d’Agneau, not knowing what they were, with a carafe of red wine, under a blazing hot sun and clear blue skies (it was early March, please note).  Those cervelles were most unusual.

Toulouse historically had been a Roman settlement strategically situated on a bend in the river Garonne; it had been the capital of the kingdom of the Visigoths, the capital of Aquitaine, possesses an old university dating from c1230, and is the birthplace of Concorde.  More importantly, it is where they hold a splendid autojumble... the Bourse de l’Union.

L’Union is in fact a place, some two miles north of Toulouse.  Simply Bourse = Autojumble, and l’Union = a suburb of Toulouse.  As the day wore on, I continued to puzzle as to exactly what were those cervelles that I’d had for lunch.

I found a cheap hotel, and next morning was up at the autojumble bright and early.  Another gloriously sunny day and my first purchase was some very strong coffee, served up in what looked like an egg-cup.  Then, my next purchase: a totally original and not-messed-about-with Peugeot BIMA from 1955.  I couldn’t resist it.  Five minutes later I discovered a lovely and original Velomosquito 511 with centrifugal clutch, which I simply had to buy.  Next, came an irresistible VAP4 engined La Française-Diamant, a beautiful moped (which despite popular belief, is not a contradiction in terms).  Three bikes so far, and hundreds to play for.  I bought a barrel, head and piston for an Itom Tourist clip-on, and then a fuel tank for a VAP2 to take back for Mike Crumpton.

I managed to come to an arrangement with Michel who had sold me the VAP.  He very generously offered to store my newly acquired bikes for me until May, when I could pick them after Montlhéry.  I am hoping to help on our first NACC club stand there at the big Coupes  Moto Légende event on 20th & 21st May.

The sun continued to shine all day onto the worryingly large balding patch on the top of my head, and right at the wrong moment I had a nose-bleed.  Some wag commented, “You can buy a chapeau from over there!”  Mad dogs and Englishmen...

Back at my hotel, I pondered on some of the smaller stuff I had seen: a roller drive Mobylette (very tempting), a Derny, a Le Poulain moped in bits, a Bianchi Aquilotto for restoration, an honest Excelsior Autobyk, with a JDL engine, not seized but a bit rattley, and begging to be bought.  Other small stuff included Cazenave, Alcyon, Mobylettes galore, a French Mosquito engine with the exposed flywheel, millions of Solexes... and dogs everywhere-I’ve never seen so many dogs at an autojumble. 

When I got back home to the UK, I phoned Thierry, a French friend of mine, to ask what cervelles were... sheep’s brains!

First published - June 2000

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