Culture – The first motorcycle was born in Paris! –

RETROMOBILE 2007

The first motorcycle was born in Paris !

Culture - The first motorcycle was born in Paris! -

Mechanical engineer based in Paris, Louis-Guillaume Perreaux invented in 1871 a high-speed steam velocipede, equipped with a boiler and a single cylinder with distribution by drawer and heated with alcohol … The first motorcycle was born !

The inventor of the first "motorcycle" in the world, it is Louis-Guillaume Perreaux: mechanical engineer installed rue Jean Bart, in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, he invented in 1871 a "Vélocipède à vapor à haut speed", equipped with ” a boiler and a single cylinder with distribution by drawer and heated with alcohol…

And the birth of this first "motorcycle", Bernard Salvat, president of the Motocyclettist Club, tells it like no one else:

"Imagine", says Bernard Salvat:"in 1870, the city of Paris was besieged by the Prussians. Gambetta flies to Tours in a balloon, the Parisians communicate by carrier pigeons and what is Louis-Guillaume Perreaux doing during this time? He worked on the project of an electric motorcycle three years before the invention of the first direct current electric motor"…

"In 1871, the Parisians tear each other apart and kill each other under the Commune and that Louis-Guillaume Perreaux does", continues Benard Salvat?"He files a patent for his high-speed steam velocipede. In the fall of 1871, the streets of the capital still resound with bloody battles and what is Louis-Guillaume Perreaux doing? He made the first tests of his Vélocipède à vapor on the Parisian cobblestones of Porte Maillot"…

Shortly after, this engineer published a catalog or was listed his Vélocipède à vapor at the price of 3000 gold francs. History does not say if his machine has found a taker…

Perreaux describes his invention as "the ordinary Velocipede, where the storage of living forces is so painful that it becomes a cause of rapid exhaustion, and where accidents sooner or later manifest themselves in weak organisms, further disturbing the health of the most robust and the strongest. .. It is therefore to remedy this drawback, and in the hope of making serious devices capable of competing with the equine species and any locomotor, that we have sought to apply steam to the two-wheeled Velocipede. .. The Velocipede with two wheels is intended for the great balancers wanting to cover fabulous distances in a relatively very short time."…

Gnome et Rhône 500 CV2 (1935)

Already very favorably known since 1923 for its beautiful (and expensive) 500 with tube frame, the Gnome et Rhône brand strikes a blow by presenting at the October 1931 Salon the 500 flat-twin side type V2 with stamped sheet metal frame and shaft transmission. The reception is mixed because the bike, certainly flawless, is inefficient … for a very elitist price. A year later, Gnome replied to its detractors by presenting the 500 CV2 tumbledown, exactly the same architecture but much faster: 125 km / h. Despite a still very high price, customer reception, whether on the road or downright sporty, is completely different and this beautiful motorcycle will remain referenced until 1939. Flat twin engine block, 70×62 mm, 477 cc, 3-speed gearbox by hand then 4-speed by hand or foot. A CV2 raised to 600 cc and driven by René Amort in 1934 set the world record for the hour in the sidecar category at 143.881 km / h. (Vehicle kindly lent by Jacques Lemonnier).

So here is what M. Perreaux was thinking while others waged war around him. His invention is today exhibited at the Salon Rétromobile on the stand of the Club du Motocyclettiste (stand I2), among 26 other motorcycles of different brands but all also built in the Seine department (which included, until 1964, Paris and the inner suburbs and was then made up of 76 municipalities and 22 arrondissements: Paris, Saint-Denis and Sceaux).

ABC 400 Type A (1922)

Like all companies that were heavily invested in military aviation during the First World War, Gnome et Rhône, a renowned engine manufacturer, had to diversify its activities at the end of the conflict. This is how the brand became interested (without a future) in the automobile, but also, and for a long time, in the motorcycle. The first motorcycle produced – the ABC – was licensed by another aircraft manufacturer, the English Sopwith. Technically far ahead of its time, the ABC offered both a four-speed tumbled flat-twin engine block and a full-suspension, double-cradle frame cycle part with two drum brakes. So many ultra modern characteristics which were still those of a BMW until the beginning of the 70s. Sophisticated and fast for its displacement (around 95 km / h in the production version), crowned with very convincing sporting results, the ABC was obviously expensive, which limited its circulation. (Vehicle kindly lent by François-Marie Dumas).

For more than 20 years, Bernard Salvat and the Club du Motocyclettiste team have identified no less than 447 motorcycle manufacturers installed in the Seine department..

CEMEC 750 C8 (1953)

Long escorted by Republican Guards on horseback, the Presidents of the French Republic could no longer be escorted as soon as the performance of the automobiles increased. In 1939, we therefore switched to motorcycles with the 750 Gnome and Rhône X40, which reached 140 km / h. But when the elections were prepared which would bring René Coty back to the presidency, the officials of CRS n ° 1 who provided the presidential escort argued that their X40s were very old … CEMEC, official supplier of this unit, charged then the engineer Jacques Dormoy to study a brand new overturned 750: it was the C8, produced in 19 copies and capable of reaching 160 km / h. For the record, when General de Gaulle came to power, we had just given a replacement, the Ratier C6S, to President Coty’s C8s. Charles de Gaulle then gave all the C8s to African heads of state. All, except this one which bears the serial number 01 … (Vehicle kindly lent by Arnaud and Michel de Thomasson).

Bernard Salvat announces that research in this area is not finished and must "add soon to the list"other brands completely forgotten. He thus thinks of reaching the figure of 500 motorcycle manufacturers in the former department of the Seine !

Also exhibited at Rétromobile, the Gnome et Rhône 500 cm3 from 1935 with a stamped sheet frame built in 1935 in Paris, the Cemec 750 C8 of René Coty’s presidential escort assembled in the workshops of Montrouge in 1953, the 350 "Jonghi" of 1934 from the Choisy-le-Roi factory, the Dollar (French brand, as its name does not indicate), the Mazoyer de Paris, the De Dion Bouton de Puteaux, the Blériot from the Suresnes factories, the Motobécane de Pantin et les Bernardets, a brand renowned for its Ydral motor scooters and sidecars assembled in Châtillon but which are now a thing of the past.

Dollar 750 V4 (1933)

When the engine manufacturer Chaise & Cie launched its promising 250, 350 and 500 cc engine blocks at the end of 1928, Etablissements Dollar, already customers of Chaise, were convinced of their potential success. They believe in it so much that they run into heavy debt to build a superb factory in Joinville-le-Pont. But the global economic crisis following the Wall Street crash of 1929 will condemn this still young brand which in April 1931 came under the control of … its engine manufacturer, who became O.M.I. Or O.M.I. also produced aircraft engines and was studying, precisely at this time, a 100 horsepower V4 engine for tourist aviation. We do not hesitate to interpolate the 500 and 750 cc versions intended for motorcycles: they will equip a 500 Majestic, which remains unique, and some 750 dollars including the model presented, which is the same one that Dollar exhibited on its stand. at the October 1932 Salon: serial number 2001, series 1. (Vehicle kindly lent by Gérard Gruschwitz).

The French motorcycle industry, once particularly flourishing, unfortunately has little to do with today…

Retromobile Show: until February 25, 2007 at Paris Expo, Hall 7/3, Porte de Versailles, 75015 Paris

  • Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Monday, Wednesday and Thursday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday 20 and Friday 23: from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Full price: 12 euros
  • From 6 to 12 years old: 7 euros
  • Free for children 6 and under

Jean-Marc NAVARRO – Photos J.-M. N.

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