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Putting a VéloSoleX back on the road

by Bob Sier

In 1959 my mother purchased a second-hand VéloSoleX.  This 45cc machine was first registered in November 1951 by Hallens Motor Engineers of Chesterton, Cambridge, who sold it to a lady from Chippenhan, near Ely.  In 1958 it was sold to another lady rider in Weybridge, Surrey, who in turn sold it to my mother the following year.  Clearly a machine popular with lady riders.  I used to occasionally ride the machine to work but being younger and fitter in those days could actually get to work quicker on my lightweight bicycle.  My mother stopped riding the Solex after an accident.  The bike was last taxed in 1961 but little used after I became the proud owner of a 10 year old Morris series Z van.

For reasons, that are now obscure, I kept the Solex and fortunately had the foresight to obtain a V5.  For the next thirty plus years the Solex resided at the back of a series of garages until a chance conversation, in 1998, at the Harrogate Model Engineering exhibition resulted in a membership application form for NACC being delivered by the postman.  The arrival of  Buzzing fired my enthusiasm and the Solex was dragged from its resting place at the back of the garden shed.  A cheque to the club librarian produced a wealth of drawings and other information on the VéloSoleX.

The tyres were found to be beyond use, however, a phone call to Tony Etheridge produced a pair of  suitable tyres.  Being of bolted construction the Solex was easily dismantled and found to be in surprisingly good condition once all the dirt and oil was removed.  I decided to just polish the paintwork and not attempt to repaint or reline it.  The chrome on the wheel rims  was pitted with rust so the wheels were wire brushed and painted with black Hammerite, the rust on the spokes was fortuitously only superficial.    The engine was stripped down, new gaskets made and fitted.  The pump diaphragm looked serviceable but since it was the original a new one was obtained from Hamlet Motors.

Rotating the flywheel failed to produce any spark and a closer examination showed the HT side of the coil to be open circuit.  This was the first of several faults produced no doubt by all those years of inactivity.  On removing the coil and carefully unwinding the varnished tape covering, the problem was traced to corrosion of the winding at the point where it is soldered onto a brass strip.  The corrosion seemed to be due to the flux used to solder the fine copper wire to the strip.  Only two turns had to be removed and the coil was soon wrapped up again in plastic tape.  A reasonable spark was obtained once the points were correctly set.  To do this a cigarette paper was put between the contacts, the flywheel set to the correct position and the gap adjusted until the paper could just be pulled from between the points.

A couple of smoky circuits of the garden renewed enthusiasm and warranted investing in a classic motor cycle insurance policy.  Full of optimism I set off to cover the two miles to the nearest motor cycle test centre.  Although I was greeted with the comment "it's a few years since I have had to test one of these" a test certificate was soon issued.  Apart from general condition, brakes and lights there didn't seem much that could be tested.  The four miles round trip after all those years of idleness proved to be too much, as a grinding noise became audible from somewhere in the engine.  Within sight of my driveway, there was a sudden loss of drive when the drive roller disintegrated into three pieces.  On dismantling the drive, the roller appeared to be gripped between two aluminium discs, an examination of the drawings indicated that there should have been, possibly rubber, rings between the roller and aluminium discs, these having disintegrated through age allowed the roller retaining nut to work loose.  A temporary roller was machined up from a piece of Tuffnol bar and the Solex was soon back on the road.  This drive proved adequate in dry weather but of no use at all in the wet. 

After a some successful runs along local country lanes the carburettor started flooding and the engine eventually refused to run.  On stripping down the carb a small steel disc, which turned out to be a blanking disc, was found.  Once this was put back in place with a drop of Araldite the engine again ran smoothly.  Since it has proved impossible to find a suitable replacement for the drive roller the original was carefully put back together.  An aluminium core was machined up and the three broken pieces assembled around it using a mixture of Araldite and carborundum, cured on a hot radiator.  This repair has proved successful although I subsequently found it necessary to put a drop of Loctite on the aluminium nut that holds the drive roller in place.

Although now in its fiftieth year the Solex happily makes the twenty mile round trip from Chelmsford to the Leather Bottle at Pleshy (real ale) but is just as slow and the brakes just as inadequate as I remember them to be forty years ago.

First published - August 2000

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