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Three Moped books from France

British publishers seem to have an aversion to mopeds.  On the rare occasions that any of these little machines are featured in any of the monthly motor cycle magazines, the whole thing is treated as a big joke.  If you're looking for a book about mopeds… well, you might find a couple if you search very hard.  The moped enthusiast, therefore has to turn towards the Continent to find good books on his favourite subject.  Here, then, are three books from France, all published during 2008.

The VéloSoleX book's front cover

Le petit monde du VéloSoleX

by Jean Goyard
ISBN 2-36124-021-9
144 pages, 9"×10½", fully illustrated in colour and B&W, hard covers, French language, Editions Drivers, 2008

Not only the most popular moped ever made, the VéloSoleX is also the most popular 2-stroke bike of any kind.  If we include all motor cycles of any description, the VéloSoleX comes in second - only the Honda Cub has sold more throughout the world.

Jean Goyard, renowned in France as an expert on 'utility' mopeds, relates the story of the VéloSoleX from its very beginnings right up to the e-Solex of 2007.  An initial chapter deals with he pre-history: Goudard & Menensson's founding of the Solex company to make radiators, then carburetters, along with early thoughts towards motorising bicycles.  Then comes the history of the 'first life' of the VéloSoleX itself, from its launch in 1946 to the end of production in 1987.  There are chapters devoted to after-market accessories, VéloSoleX advertising and various exploits VSX riders have undertaken.  Then M Goyard tells us about the VéloSoleX in countries outside France.  Great Britain only warrants a single paragraph - it never achieved popularity here mainly because Britain's legislation was stacked up against it.  The story of the VéloSoleX concludes with its renaissance during the 1980s with versions made in Hungary and China culminating with the current Black 'n' Roll and the electric e-Solex.  Finally, there are two chapters on other bicycle engines: roller drive and direct drive.  The book is copiously illustrated in full colour with period photographs and reproductions of VSX leaflets, advertisements and other documents.

The Mobylette book's front cover

Motobécane - La Mobylette universelle

by Patrick Barrabès
ISBN 978-2-7268-8804-9
240 pages, 10"×10", fully illustrated in colour and B&W, hard covers, French language, E-T-A-I, 2008

The Mobylette is the archetypal French moped - so much so that, in French, the word "Mobylette" has come to mean any moped in the same way as we use "Hoover" to refer to any vacuum-cleaner.  Apart from an initial chapter covering the history of Motobécane leading up to the launch of the Mobylette, the book is devoted entirely to the mopeds.  It doesn't deal with the motor cycles and scooters from the same manufacturer.  As you can imagine, with 240 pages devoted to the subject, this book is the definitive history of the Mobylette.  The various models are separated into different types, each with its own chapter, which details all the variation year by year.  The book is packed with illustrations, many previously unpublished and many from the collection of the late Eric Jaulmes - the designer of the Mobylette.  Perhaps the only disappointment in this book for the British reader is the coverage of the Raleigh mopeds.  The erroneous story that Phillips produced licensed copies of the Mobylette from 1959, later to be taken up by Raleigh after its merger with TI has appeared in a few French publications and is repeated here.  In fact, all the licensed versions - Phillips, Norman and Raleigh - were produced by Raleigh at Nottingham and none were produced until after the 1960 merger of TI and Raleigh.  Apart from that minor quibble, this is a splendid book and thoroughly recommended.

The Hazebrouck book's front cover

l'Industrie du cycle à Hazebrouck

by Jean-Pascal Vanhove
ISBN 978-2-9528949-1-3
124 pages, 8"×8", B&W illustrations throughout, soft covers, French language

Hazebrouck, in the Nord département of France was once one of the major centres of cycle production in France.  Cycle production, in this sense, includes mopeds as, in France, mopeds were classified along with pedal cycles, unlike the UK where they are regarded as small motor cycles.  The reason for the prominence of Hazebrouck in this industry is down to one manufacturer: Lucer.  It's natural, therefore, that two thirds of the book is devoted to Lucer and its successor company: VAP SA.  The history of the company is covered in full and is well illustrated in black & white.  It reveals that Lucer started its moped production through an act of industrial espionage when Roland Degroote and André Bécue went to work for Mercier so that they could learn the secrets of the business.  Later chapters deal with the smaller businesses in Hazebrouck.  One that will be of particular interest to British readers being the French arm of the well-known UK company H Miller. This book is well researched and is a local production: the author comes from nearby Bailleul and the book is printed in Hazebrouck itself.  It also gives one of the clearest descriptions I have seen of who did what and to whom in the various mergers that led to the ABG, Alcyon, Armor, La Française Diamant, Gentil, Labor, Lucer, Rhonson and Thomann marques all ending up as part of VAP.


These books are thoroughly recommended to anyone interested in moped and who can read - or is prepared to have a go at reading - French.  Just one fault, common to all three, and which appears to be a 'feature' of many books from France: none of them has an index.


January 2009

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