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Les Amis du VéloSoleX

by Bryan Hollinshead

February 2002

Chers Amis,

Tempus Fugit.  The start of another year.  Already it seems that Solexistes and presumably devotees of other marques have begun to awaken from their slumbers, as I have had requests for help and information from as far apart as Bermuda, Madrid and the USA.

Zach Sagurs, the member who lives in Bermuda, has what must be a fairly rare model: a 330 made in Italy.  Zach has sent me some photographs of his machine by e-mail, and although it is easily recognised as a SoleX there are a number of ways in which it differs from the French produced model.  This SoleX is painted grey, incorporates a hub brake in both front and rear wheels, has a full chain case and, according to Zach, is in an unrestored condition complete with the dealer's transfer.  It lacks a rear light and has a cracked headlamp glass but finding those two items should not prove too great a problem.  Zach has had help from the 330 Web site and I would strongly recommend its use for all owners of this model.  This site now has a facility where owners searching for spares or information may post a request.  If I were Zach I would be inclined to leave it in 'as found' condition as to replicate the very fine red and white lining of the early SoleX models would be difficult.

A recent visit to England brought me into contact with Gordon Huxtable, with whom I have corresponded on a number of occasions.  Gordon has kindly sent me a Sturmey Archer three-speed hub with the correct twenty-eight spoke holes.  As soon as I can find a rim in good condition I shall build a wheel and attach it to the 1700 as this was an after-market accessory for the 1700 and 2200 (see VSI 26).  Gordon has restored a 5000 in white and a very nice job he has made of it.  It briefly returned to France last summer on holiday with Gordon where it travelled the roads of Normandy.

I still receive requests for information regarding the availability of SoleX spares, particularly for the 45cc and the early deflector piston 50cc models, although these must be fairly thin on the ground in England.  Consumable items such as piston rings, gaskets and pump diaphragms for the dome topped piston models are readily available.  The gaskets and diaphragms will fit any of the 50cc models but similar items for the 45cc units, with the exception of the diaphragm, are, as far as I can ascertain, unavailable.  Also unavailable is the external transfer port gasket for the early models.  For my own 50cc deflector piston model I adapted some rings of unknown origin which have not proved entirely satisfactory, although they have allowed it be kept in running order.  Tyres for the 26" and 24" wheels are not available new, neither are those for the 5000 and Pli-SoleX as Michelin have declined to manufacture any more; not even a small batch of each size.  Possibly the moulds have long gone.  Also it is extremely difficult to find used ones.  A glance at the 'small ads' on the various SoleX web sites will confirm this.  New rims in 26" and 24" sizes are also unobtainable although it is sometimes possible to find used ones.  These are usually in poor condition due to the effects of rust on the chromium plating.  Possibly you will manage to find what you need at an autojumble or perhaps a dealer will have some old stock but there is no easy answer.  Tinware in the form of mudguards, carriers and toolboxes as well as metal tanks can generally be found at autojumbles, although they usually require much work to bring them up to a serviceable state.  Sorry to sound so negative but that is the situation.  Perhaps some time in the future an enterprising person will begin to manufacture unobtainable parts for the SoleX, although I doubt it.

As all good environmentalists should, I take our old newspapers, magazines and empty bottles to the council tip and whilst there examine the contents of the skips for anything which may be of use.  Not having had much luck recently, I was pleased to find on my last visit two driving mirrors in excellent condition attached to a pair of handlebars which had come from a moped of some sort.  Taken home and cleaned up they are ready to be fitted to one of my SoleXes.  In my opinion driving mirrors on long stalks do nothing for the appearance of a machine, but in modern traffic conditions they are essential.

The photograph of Tony Spillane's excellently restored Winged Wheel which appeared in October's Buzzing made me feel quite ashamed.  The reason is that I have such a model which has been sitting in my workshop for over two years awaiting the restoration that I keep promising to attend to.  I used it for several years mounted in an inappropriate frame whilst I searched for a more suitable one.  Then I became a devotee of the SoleX and the BSA has had to take second place.  Perhaps it is not a good thing to concentrate solely on one marque unless you are in a position to afford Vincents, Brough Superiors or other prestigious makes which will guarantee attention.  I must make the effort, search for a period frame and get on with it.

Apparently the 9th Transolexine held in the St Nazaire region last September was, as usual, successful as some 120 machines took part.  Although most of the participants were mounted on the later models, including the 3800 Luxe, 5000s and a Pli-SoleX, several col de cygne examples were present.  A rarity was a Micron which had covered only 77 kms from new!  A similar event is also planned this September.

A glance through the pages of Le Temps Des Mobs lists upwards of one hundred different manufacturers, some large and some small, of mopeds, cyclemotors, etc, and as some of the major manufacturers produced many thousands of examples over a period of years, the question arises "Where have they all gone?"  Probably most have ended up in the crusher or have been disposed of in some other way.  Certainly none are seen on the roads in this area other than the later model Peugeots and Vespas.  Even a SoleX is a rare sight.  Nor are these desirable machines hidden away in banns and outbuildings; at least I've never encountered any during my walks around the rural area in which I live, although I keep my eyes open.  Surely they can't all be gone.   When the current fashion for this generation of scooters has been replaced by something different, will these nippy little vehicles become sought after for preservation?

In my last Les Amis... I mentioned a SoleX Luxe nicely restored but having the incorrect shade of blue paintwork.  For those who are restoring a Luxe model, the nearest match for the blue colour is Citroën Bleu Pétrol ref AC643, and if your preference is for red then Renault Rouge ref 705 is the correct choice.

During my last visit to England I bought a copy of Roy Bacon's excellent book "The A-Z of British Motorcycles from the 30s, 40s and 50s".  Apart from providing very nostalgic bedtime reading it notes most if not all cyclemotors, autocycles and mopeds manufactured in England during the period, together with excellent black and white photographs which would be invalluable to restorers.  If you are able to find a copy, buy it as it wonld be a worthwhile addition to your library.

Following on from Derek Langdon's letter in the last Buzzing, I too had an unfortunate experience with Carole Nash Insurance several years ago, but that, as they say, is another story.  I learned from this occurance never to deal with brokers but only with a nationally known company who had an office near where I was living.  Then at least you can confront their representative face to face if you have a problem and not have to rely on letters which may or may not be answered.

A la prochaine

April 2002

Chers Amis,

Readers of the last Les Amis... will have noted my resolve to restore my Winged Wheel, which has been lying unused in the workshop for almost three years.  However, once again, this will have to be delayed for I have recently obtained, you've guessed it, yet another SoleX.

At a recent visit to the workshop of Jean-Pierre I discovered that he had no fewer than three SoleX on offer for restoration.  Two of these were 3800s in very poor state and in which I would not have been interested in any case, but the third was a 5000 complete with all the hard to find pieces such as lights and engine covers.  I admit to feeling uncomfortable when riding a 5000 on account of its low height which seems to me to be unsuitable for tall persons like myself.  However, it is nice to add yet another model to the collection.  Although in need of a considerable amount of TLC, which would involve a complete repaint, the asking price of 300 Francs or, if you prefer 45.73 Euros, proved irresistible and the said machine is now awaiting warmer weather to make spells in the workshop more agreeable.  However, on carrying out a preliminary examination I discovered that the chromium plating on the wheel rims, handlebars, etc, were more than acceptable; a strong spark was at the plug and the tyres should be good for a reasonable number of kilometres, so all promised well.  The whole engine gave the appearance of never having been taken apart as there was no evidence of damaged nuts, etc.  One or two minor items such as the air filter cover showed signs of a hard life but these can be easily replaced with better examples that I atready have.  I have already had some help as Frank Farrington has kindly sent a pair of pedals with the correct white rubbers in excellent condition to replace those that came with the bike and which were in a very poor state.  Surveying the SoleX on the bench prior to dismantling, I am left wondering about the feelings of the first owner, M Laurence le Quan, when he wheeled the pristine new machine out of the dealer's shop in Limoges.  A plaque bearing his name and address was fixed to the steering head.

Offered for sale in Classic Bike January 2002: "1960ish VéloSoleX, 95% complete, for restoration".  The asking price was £150!  This bike, which appears to be a 1400, was in a very poor state with a number of parts including the saddle top and toolbox missing and the wheel rims devoid of any signs of chrome.  You could almost certainly find a better bargain at a brocante for a fraction of the price.  Some sellers must be either very naïve or optimistic.

When I described the bike to Jean-Pierre and asked him what he would have asked for it, his reply was "not more than 250 Francs".

On the same subject, I recently received an e-mail from a member who had been offered, by an antique dealer, a 1950 SoleX, one of a number of British manufactured 45cc models.  The asking price was £400.  Apparently it has all the relevant documents including the original registration number.  His question: "Was it worth the price?"  I had to point out the problem of availability of spares for the early models, particularly in England, and suggested that he haggle over the asking price.  After all anything is only worth what a potential buyer is prepared to pay for it.  Although I have never actually seen an English version of the SoleX, photographs seem to indicate that the differences were limited to a leather saddle, a larger headlight and the control mounted on the left hand side of the handlebar.

The web site devoted to the 330 model seems to be going from strength to strength, having recorded more than 3000 visitors during its first year.  As I've mentioned previously there are a number of excellent sites devoted to the SoleX dealing with all models and new ones continue to appear.  There is now no excuse for pleading lack of information.  Of particular interest on the 330 site are photographs and a description of the unusual 330 owned by Jean-Christophe Guyet, which can be broken down into two parts presumably for ease of transport like the Pli-SoleX.  The device by which the two halves are held together seems to be a one off and is probably a home made affair.  As I've already mentioned in a previous Les Amis... Jean-Christophe has kindly furnished me with excellent dimensioned sketches of all parts and I only wish that I now had the necessary workshop facilities available so that I could produce a replica for myself.

Also from Jean-Christophe, a New Year card reminding me that Team SoleX 85 are holding their 4th Rando SoleX on the 1st May.  This has appered in the list of events in the previous Buzzing and, although the Vendée is a considerable distance from the Channel Ports, a visit might prove an attractive alternative to the planned celebrations marking the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

Writing Les Amis... has brought me into contact by correspondence with a number of lovers of the SoleX here in France.  As well as Jean-Christophe there are Marc Famery of Les Mordus du Galet, Michel Martinez of the 330 web site and, of course, Franck and Sylvie Meneret.  Now that there is less work on the house and garden to occupy my time I must make an effort this coming summer to make visual contact with the aforementioned.

Reading a back number of The Classic Motor Cycle, I came across a report of a Dutch cyclemotor rally which attracted a large entry.  Nothing unusual about that, as the flat terrain of Holland should make ideal cyclemotor country, except that one of the photographs showed a cycle with no less than three motors, an JLO driving the front wheel, a Mosquito mounted under the bottom bracket and a Berini over the rear wheel.  All three were in running order.  A 150cc cyclemotor?  Of course one could never get such a machine registered in the UK but maybe the Dutch regulations are more flexible.

I mentioned the availability of spares for the SoleX in the last Les Amis... including the lack of tyres for the 24" wheels.  The latest VSI mentions that a feasibility study is being carried out with a view to finding a possible manufacturer for these tyres.  Of course it will depend on the number of those who express an interest and the number of firm orders placed but we must hope.

Recently I saw another Poirier invalid tricycle, this time actually on the road.  It appeared in a much better condition than the one which I saw previously.  Traffic conditions did not allow me to gauge its speed using the speedometer in the car but it seemed to compare favourably with that of a SoleX in a similar condition.  Because of the increasing cost of insurance I have decided to limit the number of my SoleX which I keep on the road to three examples: the reliable 2200 which has always earned its keep, the 3800 Luxe which has had not been used since its restoration and the 330 with which I hope to attend one or two rallies this summer.  By next year the 5000 should be up and running so that one should have some outings.

Lighter evenings, better weather we hope.  Yes, it has been just the same in Brittany with gale force winds and heavy rain during the past few months.  Not ideal weather for being out on two wheels.  However, it will have given you time to service your bikes, SoleX or otherwise, to ensure that you are not left stranded by the roadside wondering what to try next!

Bonne Chance!

A la prochaine

June 2002

Chers Amis,

One of the topics which appear frequently in magazines specialising in classic motor cycles and classic cars is the doubtful quality of some pattern components which are offered for sale.  Gears made from unsuitable grades of steel or incorrectly heat treated, various items which do not fit, poor finish on other components, to name just a few.  In the past I too have suffered on several occasions, on one occasion with a rear number plate which almost required major surgery before it could be used, and also with a pattern silencer which failed within a year of purchase.  For a more recent example, whilst on holiday last year I bought three condensers for the Solex.  These did not carry the SEV Marchal trademark nor any maker's mark so there was no indication as to the manufacturer.  Carrying out an overhaul on the 1950 Solex, which has had little attention during the past four years, I fitted one of these as a precaution in the interests of reliability.  The result was only a very weak spark whereas previously there had been a strong one.  Refitting the old condenser restored the spark to normal.  Tested on another engine the other two condensers performed no better.  Genuine branded components not being always available, we must often be obliged to use whatever is to hand, but be warned.

The restoration of the 5000 has been completed without any real problems.  New rings, gaskets and pump diaphragm were fitted as a matter of course and the colour chosen was the optional yellow rather than the original white.  One problem which came to light was fuel starvation which occurred after about a kilometre.  This was traced to the fuel pump which seemed to be partially blocked as fuel flow through the overflow tube between the carburettor and the tank almost ceased, even though both filters were clean.  Immersing the pump in petrol for several hours and agitating it frequently displaced a considerable amount of a fine black powder.  After refitting the pump, no further trouble was experienced.  This would seem to be a worthwhile operation to be carried out when rebuilding an engine.

A tip which I picked up from the Internet concerns the plastic plate which is fitted between the pump diaphragm and the crankcase.  After a considerable time this can become distorted and the rear surface become slightly concave.  This could be a possible cause of leakage of air and a loss of efficiency of the pump.  If a new back plate is unavailable it is worthwhile to use the plate glass and wet and dry paper method to restore the true flat surface before assembly.

Another piece of information which may be of use.  If you have one of the very early models with the pressed aluminium cover to the flywheel missing or damaged beyond repair, finding a replacement may be difficult.  The problem can be solved by obtaining a cover front one of the later models from the 1700 onwards which are more readily available.  This is the same diameter as the early cover.  Scribe a line around the circumference so that the distance from the outer end is the same as the depth of the aluminium cover.  Saw off carefully, I used a tenon saw, and tidy up the cut surface by rubbing on a sheet of glass paper.  Carefully cut off the anchorages for the rubber cover clips and fix in the correct positions with super glue.  Of course the air intake will have to be blanked off with suitable material to avoid the ingress of water to the ignition and lighting components which were unshielded on the early models.

A road run organised by the AVMA for Solex or other roller driven machines takes place on the 28th July starting at 9am from St Ouen des Toits near Laval which is approximately midway between Rennes and Le Mans.  If you would like to take part contact Cédric Dauphin on for further information.  Judging from the photograph shown on the 330 web site, last year's event was very successful with examples of various models on display and the standards of restoration and presentation did their owners credit.

Full marks to Geoff Hudspith for his ingenious steam powered Solex.  It is to be hoped that he will continue to develop this interesting machine.  By sheer coincidence I was searching through my back numbers of VSI for some information when I came across a photograph of a similar sort of machine which exists in Chicago.  Unfortunately the photograph is not very clear but depicts an open framed bicycle with a vertical boiler mounted over the front wheel together with its fuel tank.  The drive appears to be by roller.  At least one steam powered motor cycle, the Haleson, exists in England and attends rallies in the Bristol area.  For those who are unfamiliar with the story, Mr Haleson used to wait with steam up at the bottom of a steep hill near Bristol and would wait until a tester from the nearby Douglas factory would come past whilst giving a pre-delivery test on one of their bikes.  The torque from the steam engine enabled him to leave a rather embarrassed tester well behind on the climb.

Congratulations also to Gladys Detournay who made the journey from Bruxelles to Marseilles by Solex.  This marathon journey of 1086km was completed in eight days, a daily average of 135km.  Her SoleX was well prepared beforehand, and, as a precaution, numerous spares were carried but the machine behaved faultlessly, not even a puncture to delay her progress.  According to her description she thoroughly enjoyed the experience but omits to say how she made the return journey.

Long distance journeys seem to be the current thing with Solexistes.  The latest one is Paris to Baghdad, which is to be undertaken by three students as a protest against the continuing economic sanctions against Iraq.  The journey, which is a little over 7000kms, leaves the Eiffel Tower at 9:30 am on the 1st June, crosses ten countries, and is expected to take about three months.  Should it be of interest to you, progress can be followed on the web at

Should you be visiting Paris and need some spares for your Solex, pay a call to: MOTO-HALL, 78 Avenue des Ternes, PARIS 17.

As well as the Solex, they also claim to be agents for, amongst other marques, Velocette (strange as that company ceased production in 1971) and also to have spares for the KTT.  Would that I were fortunate enough to he the owner of one of these superb machines.

Is the Solex becoming an endangered species?  Believe it or not the last ones that I saw actually in use apart from my own was during last summer when two were brought from England by Frank and Dorothy Farrington who were on holiday in this area.  Perhaps all those that remain should be subject to preservation orders.

Colin King's article in February's Buzzing was thought provoking and attempts to address a problem which other clubs, notably the VMCC, have had to contend with.  How should this question be addressed?  Should it be through a cut off age, a capacity lmit, a vehicle type or left open to any member to ride whatever they choose?  It should be remembered that there are probably some in the NACC who remember the days when there were still motor cycles being ridden with total loss lubrication and exposed valve gear, whilst there will be others whose introduction to motorcycling was by way of the FS1-E or SS50 and will wish to preserve and ride them.  Obviously to arrive for a club run with a Brough Superior SS100 or a Triumph Bonneville would be totally inappropriate but we should be able to make space for the odd BSA Bantam or Enfield Flying Flea.  Fortunately the Solex presents no problem.  Those made today are not so different from those of the 1940s.  It should be a fun thing anyway, so "Whatever you ride, have fun".

A la prochaine

August 2002

Chers Amis,

Readers of Les Amis will be familiar with my frequent references to Jean-Pierre.  I first came into contact with him when we started visiting this area some eight years ago.  He runs a nondescript workshop in a small seaside town about 8Kms from where we live and his business, which deals with mechanical garden implements as well as cycles, scooters and mopeds, is as far removed from your local 5-Star Honda dealer as is possible to imagine.  The floor, shelves and workbenches are stained with oil accumulated from many years work and the back of the shop is littered with various bits and pieces from lawn mowers, chain saws as well as bicycles and mopeds.  He also has a test bench for mopeds.  In short Jean-Pierre is an enthusiast of a type which is invaluable to people like myself.  Since my first it visit has become my habit to drop in regularly for a chat or to make use of his extensive knowledge, as well as keeping a lookout for any pieces which might be of use to me.  He tests my ignition coils, offers his considered opinion on the various ancient SoleX bits and won't accept any payment other than the occasional bottle of wine.

He has gasket sets, piston rings and condensers available off the shelf.  On my last visit he asked me if I would like to buy two "Jerry Baby" spare fuel bidons which were brand new.  He had come across them in the dark regions at the rear of his workshop when he was looking for something else.  I had been searching for one or more of these for ages.  Indeed they are frequently sought after by way of the SoleX web sites.  I bought them both for 80 Francs or 14 Euros.  Mechanics such as Jean-Pierre are becoming somewhat of a rare breed so if you are fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of one such as he make sure that you foster the friendship.

Summer evenings make for pleasant evening rides and scarcely a day passes without a ride on one or other of the available bikes.  Unfortunately these are limited to the 1700, 2200 and the 3800 Luxe.  The 330 is temporarily out of action due to a fault which has been traced to the ignition system.  The bike starts easily enough and will run satisfactorily for a few kilometres, after which it will commence to misfire and eventually stop altogether.  Substituting the condenser with one in known good condition and checking the points has not solved the problem.  That only leaves the ignition coil which, although declared satisfactory when tested on the rig, must be breaking down when hot, hardly surprising when it is almost fifty years old.  As I haven't a spare coil it means searching for a replacement from any available source.  It is a shame that the coils used on the models from the 1700 onward will not fit as I've a number of those.

As I have mentioned several times there is a mass of information concerning the SoleX on various web sites.  Whichever model you own there will almost certainly be something to be of interest to you.  Le site web du Solex offers a Guide de Réglage in the form of a flow chart to enable one to deal with all the faults which are liable to occur.  I say all faults but there is no substitute for practical experience as I've found out when dealing with some of the eccentricities of these little motors.  Of course, the text is in French, but this should not present too many difficulties with the aid of a good dictionary.  For those restorers who crave originality the site to visit is the VSX 330 one, which contains excellent photographs, many in colour, of most SoleX models.

Do you want to extract more power from your SoleX?  Yes, it can be done but it requires not only some major surgery but also engineering skills, which may be beyond the reach of the average enthusiast, to attain the output of the racing SoleX, the motor of which is described on the internet.  A new balanced crankshaft manufactured in chrome molybdenum steel (a dimensioned drawing is included), needs to be made, a water cooled head and barrel with six inlet and three exhaust ports, a special piston and ignition system are also necessary as is, of course, an expansion chamber for the exhaust.  The result an output of 10.7bhp at 13,800rpm which amounts to a specific output of some 200bhp/litre!  If that amazes you remember that not too long ago this was the yardstick for Formula 1 cars.

I have received an e-mail and several photographs from Peter Vennix, who is the originator of a very interesting web site which includes the description of the racing motor mentioned above.  Peter lives in Holland and is a regular visitor to the NACC web site.  He has a fully restored 1949 Dutch built Solex, as well as a number of other machines.  His main reason for writing was to ask if any NACC member has any information on the WSK motor which is similar in design to the 45cc SoleX and was manufactured in Poland during the 1950s.  Apparently this engine can be mounted on any normal bicycle rather than one which has been specially designed for it.  Peter knows of six examples which exist in Holland although there may be more elsewhere.  The factory, which also made motor cycles, still exists as part of the Polish aerospace industry and, although Peter has contacted them several times, they have declined to reply to his e-mails.  It is a new one on me but perhaps someone has the information required.

Another rare SoleX has appeared, this time in the form of a Pli-SoleX obtained and restored by Frank Farrington.  Although I have not yet had the opportunity of seeing the completed restoration, there is little doubt that a first class job will have been done as is the case with all of Frank's projects.

Can I mention the spares position again?  Occasionally I receive requests for information as to where SoleX spares can be obtained.  If you visit France on holiday it is simply a matter of asking at any motor cycle dealers in the hope that you will strike lucky.  It has to be borne in mind, however, that there are relatively few dealers who hold stocks of spares even for the later models of the marque.  I do know of several who say that they are willing to supply spares to addresses outside of France and I have mentioned these in past Les Amis. If anyone has tried these dealers and has been disappointed I regret it very much but I can only pass on such information which I have gathered from various sources.  It is now well into the riding season and hopefully all your bikes will have had the bugs weeded out.  Probably you will have proudly wheeled out your latest acquisition or restoration for its first sortie.  Good luck and happy riding!

A la prochaine

October 2002

Chers Amis,

Yet another riding season draws to a close and it is time to reflect on the performance of the various restorations both old and new.  Andrew Pattle's remark, as quoted in the account of the Coast to Coast ride, where he states that it is a good thing to have numerous machines so that you will always have at least one in working order is particularly relevant.  Over the past two years or so rarely a day has passed without the 1700 being hauled out to perform some task or other and so it has clocked up a considerable mileage.  Recently power had fallen off, particularly with regard to climbing the local hills, and there was an ominous rumbling which suggested that a main bearing was on the way out.  In order to keep the bike on the road whilst more important things around the house and garden were attended to, an engine was put together using whatever parts were to hand.  These comprised a bottom end from a 2200, and head, cylinder, piston, carburettor and pump from a 3800.  Although new rings, gaskets and pump diaphragm were fitted as a matter of course, no special care was taken in assembling the engine.  I was very surprised to find that this engine performs extremely well bearing in mind the doubtful condition of the component parts.  In fact, it appears to be better than those in the 2200, 3800 Luxe and 5000.  It seems that you can get away with a great deal if luck is on your side.

Several new Solex have come to my notice.  One club member is in the process of restoring a 5000 and Frank Farrington has bought and restored a Pli-SoleX which has already visited its country of origin, albeit only for a holiday.  I wasn't able to meet Frank and Dorothy this year and so have not seen the finished product but knowing Frank's ability the restoration will be to his usual very high standard.

A recent edition of a newssheet from the Club de Solex de Belgique carried a description of the two-stroke principal using a deflector piston.  I'm conscious that I am preaching to the converted but it is worthwhile to reflect on the advances made in two-stroke design since the introduction of the Schnurle loop scavenging system embodying a convex piston and multiple transfer ports.  These, coupled with the resonant exhaust, have transformed the two stroke from being a simple, if inefficient, device into an engine that four-strokes of similar capacity cannot match in terms of power output.  If you happen to possess a cylinder from a Solex 330 or earlier and one from a 3800 take a look inside and notice the differences.

Andrew recently sent me a facsimile of an article written by 'Nitor' (hands up those who remember him) which appeared in The Motor Cycle for the 5th of July 1951.  It concerned a Dutch organised rally for the VéloSoleX in which there were 3,000, yes 3,000, entries and a further 600 entries had to be refused.  Participants started from various major towns in Holland and the photograph shows rows upon rows of the Solex lined up on the tarmac at Schipol airport where the rally ended.  The report concludes by saying that every starter finished the rally!

Mike Daly sent me a copy of Solex, a quarterly news letter published by VeloCruz, an American organisation which promotes sales of the Solex and various accessories, including one called a child trailer which is like a mini-rickshaw to be towed behind a Solex.  As the specification includes space for storing napkins, bottles, etc, it would seem that even young babies can be carried.  Why anyone would risk injury or even the death of a child as a result of an accident caused by using one of these devices in today's traffic conditions is utterly beyond me.  Although it includes a roll cage, the trailer nevertheless seems, at a glance, to be of rather flimsy construction and lacks the overall protection which should be an integral part of every passenger carrying vehicle.  At a cost of 125 dollars I'm reminded of a remark which I once read in an American motorcycle magazine "If you have a 10 dollar head buy a 10 dollar helmet".  Substitute 125, child and trailer in the appropriate places and you will get my meaning.  These devices, although not specifically designed for carrying children, disappeared from the motorcycling world almost a century ago to be replaced by the safer and more practical sidecar.  Having said that the newsletter contains some interesting items and their web site is worth a visit.

None of my Solex is in an original condition mainly because I obtained them as non-runners and in a very dilapidated state.  Most have had various items that were in poor condition replaced by better ones as they became available.  Consequently, my machines must be classified as tidy rather than concours examples.  What point am I trying to make?  Well, in The Classic Motor Cycle, Oct/Nov 198', Rasselas (Yes, I still enjoy reading your contributions, Bob) makes a case for conserving rather than restoring old motor vehicles and this has provided me with food for thought.  I realise that I have probably destroyed some things of value in the quest for making a presentable bike and as a result have not a single example of the Solex as it left the factory.  Does it matter you may ask as there were millions made?  Perhaps it does, as there were similar numbers of Honda C50s produced and these are becoming less evident on our roads as time goes by.  Maybe in years to come one will experience some difficulty in finding an un-restored Solex in near original state.  I am now trying to locate an early example preferably dans son jus as the French say, and if I do so, it will stay that way.

I recently received an enquiry from an Ami asking for advice on how to dismantle the Solex engine.  Carrying out a top end overhaul is simple, requiring nothing more than a few spanners and a screwdriver.  However, to carry out work on the bottom end which includes the clutch, roller and main bearings several special tools are needed.  The making of a puller to remove the flywheel is a simple matter, but to remove the stator a special extractor is required if possible damage is to be avoided.  This is not to imply that it cannot be removed without damage but beware as the stator is an alloy casting and fairly thin in places.  Similarly, a special extractor is required to remove the bearing from the crankshaft.  Both these tools are shown in the Guide de Reglage, which is obtainable from the Club's library but finding someone who has either tool is another matter.

No connection with the Solex or any other two wheeled vehicle but nevertheless, a sight well worth seeing: on a Sunday morning in August seven steam cars in convoy climbing the steep hill out of Lannion, and setting a very brisk pace in the process.  Apparently, a group from Devon had made the crossing to visit the Côtes du Nord.  Stout fellows one and all.

Whether it is a rebuild or the restoration of a new acquisition which will occupy your time during the winter months I wish you all the very best of luck.

A la prochaine

December 2002

Chers Amis,

Winter has returned yet again.  Those long warm summer days (How many were there last summer?) are just a memory.  The garage/workshop/shed is too cold to tempt one away from the centrally heated living room leaving the unfinished projects, those that you intend to start and maintenance of existing bikes, until the temperature rises.  My first SoleX, the 1950, 45cc model still languishes awaiting a long overdue rebuild together with a repaint.  The problem stems from being unable to find the new piston rings for which I have been searching for some time without success.

Periodically, I give each of my bikes a a short run to disperse condensation in the engines.  When it came to the turn of the 5000 it came to an embarrassing halt, fortunately not far from home.  A quick check revealed that no fuel was passing through the return pipe to the tank which suggested a defective pump.  Replacing the membrane did not effect a cure and so I removed the pump and placed it in a jar of petrol thinking that it may have been blocked by some impurities.  Bubbles were noticed around the periphery of the disc which covers the front of the pump suggesting that air was entering the inside of the pump thus stopping it from operating.  As I already have several spare pumps I replaced the defective one and have attempted to seal the leaking disc with Superglue.  This seems to have done the trick but I would hesitate to place too much reliance on it.  It would seem to be a good idea to check for this problem whilst carrying out an engine rebuild or if you are experiencing fuel feed problems.

In the previous Les Amis I mentioned the difficulties and pitfalls which may be encountered when dismantling a SoleX motor particularly with the removal of the stator.  Fortunately I have no problems on this score as I am able to borrow Jean-Pierre's tools.  However, I've been giving the matter some thought and am in the process of fabricating an extractor which could be produced fairly easily.  More on that one when it has been completed.

Following my usual practice of never passing a skip without looking inside I recently found a 3800 engine with a bent connecting rod.  The complete top half was missing but the piston showed no signs of a seizure.  Perhaps the unlucky owner, whilst carrying out some routine maintenance, dropped the whole bottom end on a concrete floor!  However, an examination showed that there is a good spark and the main bearings seem in a satisfactory condition.  Rebuilding this engine from the best rod, piston, barrel, head and carburettor from my collection of used spares, may or may not, result in a engine good enough to be of use in the future.

Frank and Heather Auton paid us a visit whilst holidaying in Brittany in August.  We spent a pleasant Sunday morning chatting and drinking wine before lunch, after which they left to continue their holiday.  I managed to help Frank with one or two bits that he needed to refurbish his 3800 which, I gather, was suffering the effects of his long Coast to Coast runs and also those problems brought about by a careless car driver.

Another 2200, in my opinion quite the nicest of the SoleX range, has been brought to England by Gordon Huxtable.  Apparently this one is almost complete and in good condition.  Gordon found this one in a brocante at Pont l'Evecque whilst on holiday and he plans to restore it.  Having seen his restoration of a 5000 I'm sure that it will be a credit to him.

An English Ami sent me an e-mail together with a photograph of a Dutch-built SoleX of the late fifties.  Apparently it had hardly been used since being imported into the UK some time during the eighties.  As far as I could judge from the photograph it was in superb condition lacking only one or two items.  Although I have only seen one other Dutch built model, and that was in a rather neglected state, it would seem that the totally enclosed chain, the coaster brake and the extra protection from mud and rain makes them somewhat superior to the French built examples.  The most important items which needed replacing on this bike were the whitewall tyres which are, of course, one of the most difficult things to find.

Passing through Paris recently on the way back from Rome I visited Klocycles, more in hope than in expectation of obtaining some piston rings to help rebuild a somewhat tired 330 motor.  When I mentioned 330 the storeman looked amazed and kept offering me rings from the later models.  Fortunately Le Patron heard our conversation and disappeared down into his cellar to return some five minutes or so later with the correct rings and also cylinder head gaskets for both the 45cc and 50cc models.  I was also given a strong reminder to take care to avoid breaking the rings as they were the last two that he had and that no more would be available.

Also, whilst in Paris I saw what could only be termed a SoleX which had been modified to meet particular conditions.  In this case it was basically a 2200 with a rear wheel from a later model incorporating a drum brake which I am convinced is always a good idea if you want to use your bike in heavy traffic.  To this wheel was fitted a three speed freewheel the change being carried out by a simple Huret derailleur mechanism from a bicycle.  A second lighting system was powered by a bicycle dynamo driven by the rear wheel.  An adjustable handlebar and an apron to protect the legs from the rain all added up to a well thought out machine.  Particular attention had been paid to the detail work which suggests that it had been carried out by the owner or another enthusiast.

By way of a contrast outside the MBK dealers on the Boulevard St. Michel there were fifteen or so various late models of the SoleX, nearly all of which were in a very poor state, incomplete and obviously to be sold with restoration in view.  I enquired if I could buy some useful bits but was met with a firm refusal from the proprietor.

I didn't see any of the Trottilex scooters on the streets of Paris this time.  Maybe it was just a passing phase.  There were one or two used examples in dealer's shops priced at about € 750.

Each time I enter my workshop I'm confronted with a Winged Wheel, complete except for an incorrect air filter, and I have feelings of guilt in that it has not been used for more than three years.  I'm coming round to the idea of replacing the rear wheel of the 1950 SoleX with this, in order to make a twin engined SoleX.  This would only mean making up a few cables etc.  and the SoleX could easily be returned to its original state.  Of course it would be impossible to get it accepted as either a BSA or a SoleX and so it could not be used on the roads but if the BSA logo was blanked off the complete machine might cause some flurries if exhibited at local shows after arriving on a trailer.

So for the third time after commencing writing Les Amis it only remains to pass on, to all cyclemotorists everywhere, the season's greetings and to send best wishes for a successful riding season in 2003.

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année,

A la prochaine...

February 2003

Chers Amis,

Some years ago, if my memory serves me correctly, Honda ran a series of adverts with the title "You meet the nicest people on a Honda".  If you substitute VéloSoleX or any other similar name, l am sure that you will find that the same applies.  It certainly has in my case as I have made the acquaintance of two owners of holiday homes situated a short distance from where we live.  Both of these are from the Paris area, both admit to being SoleX admirers and one has a 1700 in totally original state in his garage, which he was pleased to show me.  His knowledge of the marque is encyclopaedic and he has promised to bring me some interesting documentation which he has collected over the years for me to copy on his next visit at Easter.

After having seen the modified 2200 in Paris as mentioned in the previous Les Amis, I have fitted a three speed derailleur to my 2200 without any problems and it performs admirably.  As I live in a hilly area the lower ratios are particularly useful.  If you are contemplating this mod, remember that there is only sufficient clearance for a freewheel with three sprockets.

I would imagine that the majority of readers have experienced the annoyance and frustration of having carefully prepared and painted various parts of a restoration only to find on assembly that a spanner has slipped scoring the surface.  My solution has been to cut some washers with holes to suit various sizes of nuts and bolts from old inner tubes.  If the holes are cut slightly smaller than the diameters of the nuts and bolts they can be stretched to fit closely and will form a barrier between the painted surface and the spanner.

Every SoleX which has come into my possession has either lacked a mud flap altogether or has had one in a very poor state.  I believe that new ones are available if one is prepared to search for them but a much simpler solution is to obtain an offcut of Marley flooring and, using the old mud flap as a template, cut a new one from this material.  A coat of black paint completes the task and if the patterned side faces the mudguard the rough texture on the underside forms an attractive sight.  With a thickness of 2mm the finished article is much more robust than the original and should last for a long time.

They still turn up and sometimes at ridiculous prices.  Seen recently in a brocante: a 2200 which was incomplete, with a seized motor and a mass of rust for which a staggering €140 was being asked.  Only good for scrap!

I have recently been in correspondence by e-mail with an American Ami living in France who is the proud owner of a 1967 which he uses regularly.  Truly the love of the SoleX is international.  Some information which I received too late to include in the previous Les Amis concerns the Eurosolexine, billed as the largest gathering of Amis in Europe.  The dates are 19th and 20th April 2003 and the event will take place at Yzeure, which is near Moulins.  The event, which will be organised by Les Pétochons du Bourbonnais, will include an exhibition, a 50km road run and an evening's entertainment.  An entry form, which must be completed and returned by the 1st March 2003 may be obtained from 19 rue Rosa Bonheur, 03400 YZEURE.  Agreed, Moulins is some distance from the channel ports but if you are able to take a few days holiday at this time it would make a pleasant break.  If you are unable to make that date or do not wish for the long drive there are two events which involve much less travelling.  On the 8th June there is the Ronde d'endurance at Calais and on the 15th June there will be the Grand rassemblement de Solex Millennium at Beauvais.

David Cunier is hoping to finish compiling the register of Microns, Pli-Solex and Ténor S4's that he started several years ago.  If you have any of these models he would be pleased to hear from you.  I don't know of any Microns in the UK but there are several examples of the Pli-Solex and probably some Ténors.  The information which he requires is the model, motor number, the frame number (for Micron and certain Pli-Solex) also the colour and, if possible, the date of its first registration.  David's address is : 13 rue Philippe Thomas, 03000 MOULIN

The three SoleX together with their riders who left Paris on the 1st June en route for Baghdad arrived at the frontier of Iraq after a journey of some 5000 kms.  Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that a promise was given that they would be allowed to enter the country to proceed to the capital this was refused at the frontier.  This must have been most disappointing as the purpose of their journey was to draw attention to the damage done to the Iraqi economy by the continuation of sanctions and had no political aims.  The return journey was made in a faster and more comfortable manner by train.

Many, if not all, readers will be unaware that the last Mobylette by MBK left the factory on the 2nd December 2002.  For the record some thirty million of these excellent little machines were produced over a period of fifty-three years.  Its demise is principally due to the fact that its two-stroke engine is unable to meet the strict emission standards as set by the European Union.  The factory at Rouvroy, which is a subsidiary of the Japanese giant Yamaha, will produce instead a new scooter of 300cc which is more in tune with current market trends.

Two new books have recently been on sale in book shops.  The first is "Le Vélosolex de Mon Père" by Franck Meneret and Jean Goyard and relates the complete story of the marque.  This would seem to be essential reading both for restorers and riders.  The second is entitled "Cyclo-sport, les Marques, les Modéles et leur Histoire de A-Z" by Bernard Soler-Thèbes.  Both books are well produced and contain numerous illustrations both in colour and black and white.  Of course the text is in French but anyone who has studied French at school can make sense of it with the aid of a dictionary.

Those of you who have a 5000 or a Pli-Solex may well have been glad to hear that new white wall tyres for these two models were on offer at the 10th Transolexine at Saint-Nazaire.  Before you rush to piace an order note the asking price, €110 each!  No it was not a mistake.  My complete 5000 in running order with two reasonable tyres cost only €80.

A la prochaine...

April 2003

Chers Amis,

Before turning to the main purpose of this column I would like to make a few comments on Peter Chinnery's article on the use of mopeds in France.  I live in a large village, or if you prefer it, a small town of some thousand or so inhabitants.  Even in our nearby large town there are not many mopeds to be seen.  The only moped, a Peugeot, which I regularly see in our village is one owned by a middle aged lady who uses it for her shopping.  What you will see, particularly if you happen to be outside the local Lycée at the end of a session, are many 50cc scooters which are replacing the moped in France as in other countries.  These of course, may also be ridden by anyone over fourteen years of age without having to pass any form of test.

This creates certain problems.  Whereas it was not too difficult for a capable youngster to make the transition from a pedal cycle to, say, a VéloSoleX with a maximum speed of some 25kph it is far more difficult when the change has to be made to a scooter with a maximum speed of almost three times that.  This is shown to be so by the no means rare reports which appear in our local papers of youngsters being killed or badly injured whilst riding these vehicles.  I recall when writing in an early Les Amis that the road sense of many of the young riders leaves a great deal to be desired particularly when attempting overtaking manoeuvres in inappropriate situations.  So much so that two public spirited gentlemen who are in the motor cycle trade have started an Atelier Deux Roues in our village aimed specifically at the local would be Valentino Rossis to address these problems as well as giving advice on maintenance and repairs.  Yes, I seem to be treated with a reasonable degree of courtesy by car drivers who, I suspect, slow down more from curiosity than courtesy, but this is not always the case.

Having been given a copy of the recent book Le VéloSoleX de Mon Père as a Christmas present I am now able to appreciate it to a greater degree.  Whilst a number of photographs have already appeared in Jean Goyard's earlier book there are many new and interesting ones particularly those showing work in progress within the factory at Courbevoie.  There are also a number of photographs of the first SoleX models and a great deal of information which will be of use to SoleX owners and restorers, including a fiche d'identité for a number of models.  Those who are interested in other SoleX powered vehicles such as the Surf Racer, and the Triporteur are also catered for.  The book also contains a description together with a photograph of an interesting electronic ignition system fitted in 1975 to some 3800 models built by Motobécane.  Apparently not many were delivered with this system which, in the event of malfunction, had to be returned to the factory for repair.  Inevitably there are several errors which appear in the text and illustrations and a list of corrections has been published in le VéloSoleX Illustré no 62.

Equally interesting is another gift from a friend in Orleans.  An original 1906 Catalogue des Accessories et des Pièces détachées published by la Société Parisienne de Cycles et Automobiles.  Its pages are packed with items, some of which I have yet to decide upon their purpose, which illustrates how difficult it must have been to keep a vehicle of two, three or four wheels in a serviceable condition.  One item which held my attention was a device for starting a motor car by means of carbon dioxide.  A generator for the gas was fixed to the running board of the car, the gas being led to a piston driven rack that meshed with a pinion attached to the end of the crankshaft that normally carried the starting handle.  Turning a tap on the gas generator turned the shaft and, hopefully, the car would start before the supply of gas became exhausted.  Ninety pages of motoring history.

A while ago Frank Farrington sent me photographs of his recently restored Pli-Solex.  Immaculate paint work, shining chrome and careful attention to detail characterises all of Frank's work.  For anyone attempting the restoration of a similar model a better example as a reference would be difficult to find.  This bike will not be just for show and I can assure you that it will be used frequently as are all Frank's machines.  It will probably pay a visit to its country of origin in the near future when it will be ridden by Dorothy.  Frank also gave me the address of the supplier of the transfers for his Solex and who, presumably,will be able to supply transfers for other marques:

Pelders Transfers
Burg v d Heydenstraat 73
5151 HI  Drunen
The Netherlands

Transfers which appear on the engine covers on the 5000 and the Motobécane 3800 seem to be unobtainable.  If anyone knows of a source of supply please let me know so that I may pass it on.  Gordon Huxtable tells me that he has completed the restoration of the 2200 which he obtained whilst on holiday in France last summer and is very pleased with the result.  The 2200 will make a fitting companion for his 5000.

I recently discovered what may, with a stretch of imagination, be described as a tool kit.  It came from a 3800 and comprised three spanners stamped out from 3mm mild steel and probably almost completely useless after some usage, a tyre lever and, the one item which could come in handy, namely a brass adaptor which, when connected to a tyre pump, can be used used to clear a blocked jet.  The little tool for spark plug adjustment was missing.  Fine if you want to complete all details of your SoleX but not to be relied upon particularly if your journey takes you more than a short distance from home.  It would be interesting to know what others take with them regarding tools and spares.

A report on the 10th Transolexine appeared in the December issue of La Vie de la Moto.  Apparently, the event was marred by poor weather conditions with much rain.  In spite of this the number of entries included two Microns as well as well as the more familiar models.  The oldest machine taking part was a 330 from 1955 propelled by a later engine probably from a 1010.  No matter, as many casual onlookers would not have noticed the difference and it is always a treat to see one of the earlier models on display.  The wicker basket mounted on the carrier was a nice feature as it added a period flavour to the bike.

The Tour de Bretagne will take place in the Brest/Quimper region from the 6th-9th June ending at the ferry port of Roscoff.  A weekend booking with Brittany Ferries would make a welcome break and a chance to view approximately 500 vehicles of various types and ages including some from the UK.  If you are unable to make that date how about the Rassemblament de VéloSoleX which takes place the following weekend at Folleville in the Normandy area?  For details contact:

Jean-Claude Toudy
51 rue Saint-Jean
60350 Vieux Moulin

My old Corker helmet which has served me well over a number of years has finally come to the end of its useful life.  The problem is what to replace it with.  An up to the minute full face helmet would look terribly out of place on a cyclemotor and as I have nothing which resembles the Corker, I must look for something else.  I do have a period '60s helmet of the open face type made of glass fibre which is in good condition and will have to serve until something more suitable turns up.  Although using the Corker would probably not comply with European Union regulations I have never been stopped either in the UK or here in France whilst wearing it.

Now that the summer evenings are here it is time for riding and enjoying the fruits of the winter hours spent in the workshop.  Time to display your newest acquisition or your latest restoration.  Yes, there will be minor problems as there always are but they will soon be forgotten as the miles (or kilometres) pass beneath the wheels.

A la prochaine...

June 2003

Chers Amis,

Recently I received an e-mail from Gérard Taillefer, a Frenchman now living in Sweden, describing a touring holiday made in 1960.  Gérard has kindly given his permission, whilst retaining copyright, for it to be printed in Buzzing and it is of such interest that I've decided to print it exactly as written by Gérard.  So here it is!


"I was 20 and had just moved to the town of Rennes, Brittany, where I worked as a building surveyor.  I was on my own for the first time in my life.  In Rennes I had met a group of girls and boys, mostly factory workers and office employees.  We used to meet one evening a week at our own place for a chat and some folk dances from Brittany, and even from Scotland.  Folk music from Scotland sounded great in my ears."
"On Friday the 5th August 1960 the firm where I worked was to close for the annual holidays.  What should I do during these holidays?  I had nothing planned.  Three months before, I had bought a new Solex, a 1700.  It had an automatic clutch and was equipped with a Torpedo brake in the rear wheel (optional).  On Saturday the 6th I left by cyclemotor for the youth hostel of La Guimorais and Rothéneuf (Michelin map number 59).  I stayed there until Wednesday.  On that day I came back to Rennes.  The next day, having put a few clothes in my saddlebags, I took my passport and set off on the road to Saint Malo (80kms, ie: a four hour ride).  Unfortunately, it soon began to rain and I had to stop repeatedly and wait for the showers to end.  Eventually I arrived at the port where the Customs Officers were preparing to shut up shop and the boat to raise the anchor.  However, everyone got back to work and I was soon on my way to England."
"We reached Southampton early the next morning (Friday 12th).  After having number plates fixed (necessary in GB) in a motor cycle garage, I took the road to the north.  That day I rode until I reached the youth hostel at Broom hill (187kms).  On Saturday I was at the youth hostel at Barley (285kms).  On Sunday the 14th I passed through Manchester and Preston, towns all quiet according to custom on the Lord's Day; in fact I had some difficulty in finding a petrol station that would be open.  As for myself I could buy pints of milk from food slot machines on street corners."
"Then I reached for the Border (where, uneducated as I was I expected I would have to show my passport...).  I arrived at Dumfries at about 21:00 hours and, not daring to knock on an hotel door, I tried to sleep on the ground in a wood wearing all my clothes and my waterproof.  Towards midnight I woke up chilled to the bone.  There was nothing for it but to set out again in the night and look for the nearest youth hostel (Kendoon).  Lacking a detailed map, I rode in the area all night looking for Kendoon and its youth hostel.  However, riding alone in the early morning light was a pleasant experience. Suddenly, at 7 o'clock, I found myself stopping in front of the little hostel.  I had travelled, without a break, a distance of 383kms."
"Thanks to an understanding warden, I was able to sleep almost all day, in a dormitory in an annex of the youth hostel.  The next day, I made a trip to Carsphairn for provisions.  I left on Wednesday the 17th for Ardgartan (close to Loch Lomond, 168kms).  On Thursday the 18th I made Ardgartan-Loch Lochy (173kms).  On Friday the 19th I reached Strathpeffer (157kms) and on the 20th I arrived at Tongue in the extreme north of Scotland.  There I met some French girls who had been hitch hiking all the way.  It was Saturday and of course I longed for paying a visit to the local dance hall, which we actually did together, the French girls and I, me in shorts...  On Sunday the 21st I slept at Carbisdale Castle (234kms).  On Monday the 22nd I rode to Bonar Bridge (22Kms) and returned to Carbisdale Castle."
"Postcard from Scotland posted at Bonar Bridge (date illegible) addressed to my maternal grandparents, rue du Lac in St-Mandé (ie: Paris) but sent to Marseille where they were spending some time at their son's: 'Dear Grandad and Grandma, Scotland is a very fine country but a little too damp for my liking.  Unfortunately I must already think of returning.  I hope that you are in good health and the cousins as well.  Love and kisses, Gérard'."
"On Tuesday the 23rd I reached Kingussie (218kms), on the 24th Melrose (295kms) and on the 25th Dacre Banks (which I reached by hitch hiking after four spokes in my rear wheel had broken.  Still 220kms by cyclemotor).  On Friday I rode to York (50kms) from where I took the train to London.  After crossing the capital by Solex I caught the train-ferry (Newhaven-Dieppe) where I disembarked at one o'clock on Saturday morning.  The place was dismal and deserted.  I was practically the only person to get off there."
"I rode all night in the 'shadow' of the famous cliffs and in the morning mists.  Towards seven o'clock in the morning I crossed the bridge at Tancarvllle, which was almost new and completely deserted.  That morning a new spoke in my rear wheel broke but it kept me going.  Towards midday I stopped to eat at a restaurant.  I arrived that evening at about eight o'clock at the youth hostel of La Guimorais (actually an old semaphore), after having ridden 340kms in one go (17 hours on the road).  At the youth hostel there were many people and, in particular, some of my mates from Rennes.  I spent the night there and left the next day, Sunday 28th August for Rennes (86kms) to start work at Molard's, plumbers and roofers, on the 29th.  In my saddlebags I had one souvenir with me for my mates in Rennes who danced Scottish folk-dances: A record by Jimmy Shand and his Band.  The name?  'Over the Border'."
  © Gérard Taillefer 2003

Don't ever look for Gérard at Molard's, roofers and plumbers in Rennes.  In December 1962 Gérard moved to Sweden where he still lives as a teacher of Swedish to immigrants.  You'll find him at: .  Send him an e-mail.  I'm sure that he would like to hear from anyone who has enjoyed reading of his experiences.  It would be inappropriate to follow this excellent narrative with my usual snippets of information and so these will have to be held over until the next issue of Buzzing.

A la prochaine...

August 2003

Chers Amis,

It was Henry Ford who, when referring to the Model T in the early days of mass production,said "you can have any colour you like as long as it is black".  The same could be said of Messieurs Goudard and Mennesson when referring to the the VéloSoleX, at least until the advent of the 3800 Luxe and the 5000 for which a limited range of colours was offered.  I mention this because I have received a copy of the SoleX Newsletter published by the American company which carries a photograph and a description of two fully chromium plated 3800 models.  The photo carried the caption "it's chrome baby" and the frames were said to be "beautiful - rather gorgeous".  These two examples are now claimed to be "the most beautiful SoleX bikes in the world".  This seems to be rather an exaggeration so perhaps the least said on the subject the better.

What a difference an engine rebuild can make.  One such overhaul has transformed my somewhat tired 330 to one which really goes.  I do so enjoy riding this bike but, until I am able to discover another pair of tyres to have in reserve, I have had to limit my outings on it.

The cost of insurance rises each year and so I have decided to keep to my policy of insuring only four of my collection at a time.  Therefore, choices have to be made.  The 330 is a must, simply as I enjoy riding it so much.  Likewise the 2200 'hack' ,which is in use most days, is needed on account of its reliability.  This narrows the choice of the final two from five bikes in running order.  I dislike the 5000 as it reminds me of a BMX bike and I find it most uncomfortable for someone of my height.  The second 2200 which was given a major overhaul during the winter will probably take preference over the 1950 col de cygne model on account of the latter's need for new piston rings to overcome some sluggishness on the part of its engine.  Unfortunately I have been unable to source these rings but, as Mr Micawber said, "something will turn up".  So the choice rests between the 3800 Luxe and the Motobécane 3800.  The Luxe will probably win even though there is little to choose between the two.  Perhaps the red colour of the Luxe and its stainless steel mudguards will influence the final decision.

Regular readers of Les Amis will recall me mentioning Marcel Julliageut, the long standing agent for MBK at Millau in the Averyon, who is also an authority on matters relating to the VéloSoleX.  Marcel, who is over seventy years of age, retired some two or three years ago and closed the small workshop on the ground floor of the house in which he lives.  Recently, I was in Millau again and I was surprised to see the door open and the workshop unaltered.  Marcel remembered having helped me in the past and we spent a pleasant hour or so discussing his collection.  He has an example of every model produced in France with the exception of the Micron, which he does not consider to be a true SoleX.  Of particular interest to me was his set of special tools for the SoleX motor, particularly the one for extracting the ball bearing from the crankcase by heating the casting electrically.  How I would love one of these but the chance of finding one for sale must be almost nil.  The tool for removing the stator assembly from the crankcase would also be of considerable use by lessening the risk of a broken casting.

'Le Galet', a SoleX agent in Grenoble is able to supply certain accessories such as port-bidons and front and rear pare-chocs.  These are not cheap but buying from this source may save fruitless searches at autojumbles.  Virtually all new cycle and engine parts for the later models are available as well.  Details may be found on the web site For those wishing to carry out an engine overhaul Les Mordus du Galet offer gasket sets and piston rings at very reasonable prices.  For those wishing to purchase these items I can send a copy of the order form.

The SoleX models standing in front of the premises of the MBK agent on the Boulevard St Michel in Paris were fewer in number than on my previous visit.  Those on view were all well-used 3800 models, often lacking various parts and could only be classed as "for restoration".  The same could be said to apply to Gim's Motos in Toulouse where scooters have now taken the places once occupied by various SoleX models.  Perhaps the supply of machines is drying up and the next generation will have to look harder to find suitable examples for restoration.  I still keep my eyes open as I pass farmyards and barns in the hope of finding a Micron hidden away but my hopes are fading.

Recently I received an email from a person who was obviously not an NACC member.  He claimed that he had been informed by a contact on the internet that it was impossible to obtain an MOT certificate for a VéloSoleX and this had been confirmed by the DVLC at Swansea.  In spite of replying that this was absolute nonsense and that a number of NACC members owned one or more VéloSoleX and experienced no difficulty in obtaining a certificate providing that the bike satisfied the conditions of the test I'm not sure that he was convinced.

The Eurosolexine proved very successful with many riders and exhibitors taking part.  Although the target of 300 predicted participants was not reached the final figure of some 250 was most acceptable.  Present were riders from Holland, Belgium and Germany as well as those from the host country.  Examples of most SoleX models were on display including those 'cars' powered by a SoleX motor such as the Veloto and the Bellier.  Many fine photographs of the event are shown on the SoleX 330 web site and a visit to this site is a must for all lovers of the marque.  Unfortunately, there is always an occurrence to spoil the proceedings.  One exhibitor had his Pli-SoleX stolen.  What a shame that such a thing should happen at a gathering of enthusiasts.

I am always pleased to receive e-mails from Amis and, if I am at home, I try to reply the same day.  However, like all those who have an e-mail facility I am constantly bombarded with 'spam' usually from those offering to make me rich or from ladies who seem very keen to make my acquaintance.  To save me the problem of recognising genuine emails from the aforesaid spam I would be grateful if a suitable subject heading, eg: "SoleX" or "NACC" for example were used when contacting me.

It is now well into the riding season and to all of you I wish a pleasant summer on the roads whether it be on a VéloSoleX or the marque of your choice.

A la prochaine...

October 2003

Chers Amis,

Are the days of the two-stroke motor numbered?  It certainly seems that way.  This simple type of internal combustion engine which has been around since the early days of motoring and has given millions of people a cheap and reliable form of transport is to be outlawed on the grounds of pollution.  The ban will apply to all new models and MBK has already anticipated the ban by ending all its line of Mobylettes.  Those of you who are interested in the development of the two-stroke motorcycle may recall the incredibly thirsty and noisy DKWs of the 1930s, through the MZs of Walter Kaaden to the V4 Yamahas and square four Suzukis of the sixties and seventies.  Even mighty Honda with all its resources had to join the two-stroke brigade after its NR500 four-stroke proved uncompetitive in 500cc Grands Prix.  Now these races are filled with 1000cc four-strokes.

There seems to be no intention of banning existing two-strokes.  After all there are huge numbers used in garden tools such as strimmers and chain saws as well as the multitude of small two-strokes in use for other purposes.  What may well happen is that spare parts for existing models will stop being produced and supplies will eventually dry up.  So, hang on to all your odds and ends in whatever condition they are in.  You never know when you may need them.

Noises are once again being made in France concerning the compulsory registration of mopeds and scooters of 50cc or under.  This has been on the cards for sometime as a means of checking stolen vehicles and also to enable the authorities to apprehend those who fail to obey traffic regulations.  This rule, if it finally becomes law, will not apply to existing vehicles which will save collectors and restorers much trouble.

I'm always pleased to receive the copy of the VeloCruz newsletter, which Mike Daly sends me.  This usually contains items of interest and the experiences of operating a SoleX in the USA.  However one item contained in the current issue gives me cause for comment.  Readers will recall that I have mentioned several times the dangers of attempting to remove the stator without the correct special tool.  This is not to say that it cannot be done but merely to warn of the risk of a broken casting.  The writer of the article says that if the stator is stiff "very carefully prise it free with screwdrivers".  I don't know where he obtained his engineering training, if any, but I can remember my own some fifty or so years ago.  Then I spent some time during my apprenticeship with a toolroom fitter who informed me that if he ever found me using a screwdriver for anything other than tightening or loosening screws I would feel his 12" steel rule across my knuckles.  Making the special tool is within the capabilities of anyone with basic metalworking skills.  The time spent in doing this means that you will always be able to remove the stator without worry.

The newsletter also gives an idea of prices for SoleX spares in the United States.  For example: a new 3800 engine complete with tank, flywheel cover and headlight assembly costs $420, while a rebuilt one can be obtained for $310.  Front and rear pare-chocs are $25 the pair.  I have no idea how these prices compare with those asked for similar components in the UK even if they are available.

At the Eurosolexine there was a tandem composed of two 3800 models, a photo of which appeared in a recent issue of La Vie de la Moto.  I have seen a photo of a similar machine several years ago but on both these photographs the riders obscured vital details particularly the method of joining the front and rear 3800 frames.  If any ami has a photograph giving these details I would be most grateful to borrow a copy as I would dearly like to construct such a tandem having many of the components already in my possession.  I would imagine that much twirling of the riders' pedals would be necessary other than on the flat or the most gentle of slopes as two frames and riders would stretch the SoleX to the limit.

Gordon Huxtable has sent me some photographs of his recently completed 2200 and very nice it looks complete with its BP Zoom bidon and porte-bidonPorte-bidons are quite easily made from 30nn×3mm aluminium strip, obtainable from various suppliers quite cheaply.  This material is easily worked with the minimum of tools and skill and a one metre length is more than sufficient to make a porte-bidon.  The later Solexine bidons are fairly easily obtainable at autojumbles unlike examples of the earlier type which are very difficult to track down.  However, it must be kept in mind that these bidons may be in excess of twenty-five years old and the interiors, like my two, will probably contain a coating of rust which might result in blocked jets and fuel pumps.  If one is required for other than cosmetic purposes a better approach would be to obtain a bidon of Castrol TS two-stroke oil, use the oil and use the empty bidon to carry your reserve supply of fuel.  The bidon is of the same dimensions as the Solexine bidon, which it can easily replace.  Of course, if you are fortunate enough to find a Jerry Baby bidon your troubles are almost over.  These excellent plastic bidons hold 2.5 litres of fuel, are leak free and are virtually indestructible.  There are, however, two models varying in length, the longer of the two is suitable for all models from 660 to 2200 whilst the shorter one is designed for the 3300 and 3800 models.  Neither will fit the 5000 and Pli-SoleX.  For the very early models, ie: those with a carrier of welded wire, a triangular bidon was produced from sheet steel for fixing in the Vee formed by the supports of the carrier.  Don't be too sure of finding one though.

I have also received an e-mail from René Saner who is looking into the possibility of having new 24" rims made for the early models.  If this project comes to fruition the cost is likely to be in the order of €25 per rim.  A minimum of 1,000 have to be ordered to make manufacture viable so if you have a model with rusty 24" wheels you may consider it worthwhile giving it a face lift.  The acid test will be, of course, if suitable tyres are made available

And still they turn up!  I've had e-mails from several Amis in the UK telling me about their latest projects.  It appears that there two 5000s and a 3800 under restoration, which should add to the number to be seen on the roads in England, if not this year certainly next.

How nice it was to open my August issue of La Vie de La Moto and see the photographs of our Past President, Andrew, and another NACC stalwart, Philippa, both of whom were pictured at Montlhéry with their machines.  Andrew's bike is a new one on me but being a Honda it is sure to be novel to some degree.  I've heard it said that the Firefly is not spoken of in the Vincent Owner's Club but, nevertheless, it is nice to see one.  Philippa's Lohmann seems to go on and on which is must be true in no small measure to her mechanical skills.

The season for riding is drawing to a close but at least the weather has been kind to us during the summer months.  Congratulations to all of you who have enjoyed a season free from mechanical problems and, to those who have not been so fortunate, one's sympathies are extended.

A la prochaine...

December 2003

Chers Amis,

If your next entry into France is via the ferry terminal at St Malo or the airport at Dinard make a short detour to Trévlin which is very close to the town of Dinan.  There at La Barrière you will find the premises of Cycl'occasion which, as its name suggests, is a breaker's yard where you will find all sorts of used parts for two wheeled vehicles.  I found the owner very approachable and came away with several hard to find pieces for various SoleX models, all at very reasonable prices.  Give him a visit, he may be able to help you find that elusive part to complete your restoration.  There was a 1010 on the premises which was completely original and which had obviously been very well cared for throughout its life judging by its patina.  Unfortunately it had been promised to another customer otherwise I would have been tempted.

One of the problems which often seem to arise when restoring old vehicles is the availability of suitable tyres.  Tyres for the early models of the SoleX are no exception and it appears that the 650×50 tyres were fitted as original equipment to models of other marques as well.  A paragraph in a recent edition of La Vie de la Moto highlighted this problem and it seems that a study is being made into the possibility of having a batch produced.  Of course the original Michelin moulds have long since been destroyed and new ones will have to be manufactured and to be commercially viable at least 2,000 tyres must be sold.  No tentative price has been mentioned and they will probably not be cheap but if it is the only solution the price will have to be paid.  I have no spare tyres for either of my early models and so I look forward to a successful outcome to this survey.

This leads me, once again, to dwell on the question of finding parts to complete a restoration or to keep an existing bike in running order.  Occasionally I receive e-mails from distant parts such as the United States or New Zealand asking if I can suggest a suitable source of spares.  Unfortunately I can't and it is not surprising as most former SoleX agents have long since disposed of their stock to replace them with items for the range of popular scooters.  France is a large country when compared with the UK and even though complete machines together with some spare parts are to be found in the small ads in the specialist press, the need to travel considerable distances only to be disappointed with the outcome can be frustrating in the extreme.  I have mentioned in the past that common items such as piston rings gaskets and other small items can be bought but most other items must be searched for and are sometimes to be found in the most unlikely places.  For example I found a tank for a 2200 amongst a pile of crockery at a boot sale.  Cost one Euro!  It seems to me that autojumbles and rallies are not as common in France as in the UK which limits a popular source of parts.

Some time ago I mentioned the electronic ignition system that was fitted to 3800 models by Motobécane.  Working on the CDI principle it was claimed to be superior to the normal SoleX system offering, amongst other things, easier starting and being less susceptible to adverse weather conditions.  The snag was that the unit had to be returned to the factory in the event of a fault occurring.  I have only seen one SoleX equipped with this system and that was on display in the workshop of Marcel Julliaguet and so I have no idea as to how the unit performs in practice.  In the current issue of L' Auxiliaire it is said that a kit may well be made available for fitting this type of ignition to 3800 models at a cost of around €50.  Fitting the unit is quite simple, involves no alteration to the stator and the normal system may be replaced very easily.  The supplier of this system is: Ets Wodociag, 95 bd Macdonald, 75019 PARIS; Tel: 01 43 88 56 33.  They may also be able to help with other SoleX spares.

Also featured was a report on the Rock'N'Solex which, as the the name suggests, was a combination of a gathering of Solexistes coupled with several rock groups thrown in for good measure.  The names of the groups meant nothing to me as my taste in jazz-related music reached its zenith with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie back in the 1950s, but many of the entrants of the course d'endurance showed some remarkable examples of the special builder's art particularly those entered in the prototype category.  Engines featuring crankcase induction by reed valves, high compression cylinder heads, Dell'Orto carburettors and tuned exhaust systems.  Chopped chassis with ace bars and plastic wheels were also in evidence.  The angle of lean together with the modern knee out style of cornering achieved by some of the riders must have been fun to watch.  Not only a male preserve either as several ladies' teams competed.

Colin King's amusing article on the subject of exhaust pipes interested me as only a few days before reading it in Buzzing I came across a photograph in one of my books of Joe Craig sitting at his desk gazing at an exhaust megaphone from a Manx (what else?) as though it was a priceless piece of sculpture.  Probably the largest of all was the huge megaphone featured on the first examples of the 7R AJS.  Cynics said that it could swallow a London bus.  As to the porting or drilling holes in the bases of the cylinders this was also a feature of the early rotary aero engines of WW1.  Lubricated by castor oil the excesses of which were blown back by the air stream into the face of the pilot with, it was said, predictable results.

Yet another new book on the subject of cyclemotors has appeared.  This one entitled Motobécane MBK.  With one hundred and seventy six pages and three hundred photographs it features all models from the Mobylette to the Booster scooter.  Although I have not had the opportunity to examine a copy of this book in my local book shop, I'm confident that it will be a must for all lovers of the marque.  Priced at €36.60 it would seem good value for the money.

Still they turn up!  Derek Baker has bought a model 330 and Rollo Tomkins has acquired a 1010 and a 2200 with two dismantled engines.  All three are lacking some pieces but are to be restored.  It is pleasing to see some of the earlier examples coming to light.  The 1010 is a particularly rare bird as it was only in production for just over a year before being replaced by the 1400 with 19" wheels.  It will be nice to see them out on the roads soon.

Reading an article on the fabrication of glass fibre tanks and fairings in an old motor cycle magazine I came across the following statement.  "All motor cycles built for use in the UK after February 1972 must be fitted with a metal fuel tank".  Does that mean that some SoleX riders are actually riding an illegal machine?

For the first time in several I am left without a project to follow during the winter months.  I know that there is a 1400 for sale but it is in a very poor state and the asking price is on the high side.  Perhaps if I bide my time the owner will be prepared to accept a more reasonable price.

And so, for the fifth consecutive Christmas it only remains to wish you all...

...Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année.

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