VéloSolex moped

Solex 2

Increasingly dependent on getting from A to B as quickly as possible I have noticed a rise in commuters using electrically operated bicycles and small motorized scooters. They seem to offer limited comfort and even less protection for the rider who, for an inexplicable reason, think they have the power of a large Harley, BMW or Honda at their fingertips and get themselves into precarious positions on the road causing much frustration to others.

In a far gentler era the predecessor of these street demons was VéloSoleX or more frequently referred to as a Solex which was moped – or motorised bicycle – originally produced by Solex who were based in Paris (France) and founded by engineering friends, Maurice Goudard and Marcel Mennesson.

Designed by Mennesson during World War II, the Solex was produced between 1946 and 1988 in a variety of versions largely utilising the same technology of a motor with roller resting on and driving the front wheel of the bicycle.

E06D578D-1062-4B0D-8D07-751FBDFA00BB

Being very competitively priced and hugely economical to run, the Soles was a massive success. In total it sold in excess of 7m units. In 1947 even BP created “Solexine”, a pre-mixed  oil and petrol mix for the Solex’s two stroke engine and sold in a 2L can. By the late 1940’s Solex was selling 100 units a day rising to 1500 a day by the mid-1960’s – when it was blessed with a new maximum – though limited – speed of 30 km.

The company now makes a range of electrically powered bicycles. An early version, designed by Pininfarina, was launched in 2005 as the E-Solex.

esolex

By 2014 the Solexity Infinity was launched, again from the pen of Pininfarina – with capacity to travel up to 80 km on one charge – at the costs of around €2,000 – keeping the brand alive!

C1284655-28E4-404D-A3D8-02BEDEEBDBBE

As French as the Beret, Brie and Baguette, the Solex, a classic French icon of the mid-20th century, has a very special place in my psyche as I explored the opportunity in the 1980’s of importing them into the UK. It was perhaps my first brush with the ever increasing dominance of the words “Health & Safety” in our national idiom.

I was required to deliver details to the Ministry of Transport who after some consideration and lots of teeth sucking, decided that the fuel tank, which was then made of a reasonable durable plastic was too feeble to withstand any front-end impact and the risks of fire were too great.

Solex also commissioned various evocative advertising posters, which in their own right are increasingly collectable.

Solex Poster a

For our French speaking friend’s – we know who you are – the equivalent of a an Owner’s Manual for a Vélosolex is a must – Le Guide du Vélosolex click the Amazon link below the image to get yours!

FB70B6AA-CB8A-40A6-BEC7-25E8461C0FCB

Le guide du Vélosolex

Why not pick up a classic French VeloSolex enamel sign that will look at home in your Gite in La Gironde, on the wall of your Flat in Fulham or your Man-cave in Manchester! Click the AMAZON link below the image

DD0571CD-9AD8-418A-9773-6F17AADB6D25.jpeg

FRENCH VINTAGE METAL SIGN 40x30cm RETRO AD VELOSOLEX LE VRAI BICYCLESD2C56E9B-03F2-4C9E-AF3A-13C55668EEA2

D2C56E9B-03F2-4C9E-AF3A-13C55668EEA2

FRENCH VINTAGE METAL SIGN 40x30cm RETRO AD VELOSOLEX REFERENDUM 2

I love VeloSolex – and all this little motor cycle represents – you can too with this iconic T Shirt! Please click the Amazon link below the image 

076AF92E-C8EC-49B7-8DAC-28C4BA191716

Velosolex Moped T-Shirt. Gents Ladies Kids Sizes. Bike Cycling France Motorcycle:X Large – 48″

If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks

Photo Credits – with grateful thanks – Solex SA

Advertisements

Citroen DS

citroen-ds-3

In the mid-1970’s South West France was my family’s holiday destination of choice. My Father believed that an ability to speak foreign languages broke down barriers and what better place to explore our newly acquired school French.

Myth and legend has it that my Father’s family, apparently Huguenot and named De Winton, hailed from La Rochelle and left during an early era of persecution to settle in the South West UK. So returning to our ancestral roots felt very natural to our DNA.

My sister had the bright idea to contact certain Cognac makers asking if we could visit their production facilities. She received several embossed replies, and we visited several but the most engaging and somewhat surreal visit was to the House of Hine. We were flattered to be greeted by Jacques Hine at his empire’s front door; forty years ago it was unusual for a factory to receive non-trade visitors.

M. Hine made us very welcome and showed us around the wonderfully archaic catacombs of his business explaining in poetic detail the process of making their fine Cognac – which to this day holds the Queen’s Royal Warrant.

You can enjoy a bottle of Hine’s fine VSOP Cognac by clicking the link under the following image 

F7C1D9D0-B291-4819-9177-36824834AC99

Hine Rare Vsop, 70 cl

M. Hine apologised but explained that he has to attend a funeral but had asked his works Director, Gilles, to continue our tour to the company’s new facility outside town. He insisted that we should use his car. The image of this charming, and I suspect wealthy French distiller, in his black suit disappearing into Jarnac on his aged Solex scooter – see our post here – Solex moped – was comical.

Meanwhile Gilles beckoned us to the courtyard where M. Hines’ gleaming black Citroën DS sat waiting to for us. The clunk of the heavy doors, the smell of the black leather and the oh so Bentley-comfortable gliding ride was truly magical. The Citroën DS had always been my Father’s favourite car. This was truely a French icon of progress and technology and always ahead of its time.

citroen-ds-4

The Citroën DS – if pronounced carefully sounds like the French word for “Goddess”-  was manufactured by Citroën from 1955 to 1975 – selling over 1.4m cars and was a true symbol of French ingenuity. The classic French icon was designed by the genius, Flaminio Bertoni, engineered by André Lefèbvre and the ingenious pneumatic self-levelling suspension was developed by Paul Magès. It was the first production car to have front disc brakes, it also had power steering, semi-automatic transmission and directional head lights.

Our featured image shows the DS Pallas 23 from the mid-1970’s.

Our visit to the then new facility was fascinating and upon our return to the main office we were ushered into the Hine tasting room. M Hine, having returned from the funeral, proceeded to present us some souvenirs of our visit including a silk scarf for my Mother and a bottle of Hine’s finest, for my Father. He then explained that we all needed refreshment and produced a ice-chilled bottle of champagne which he served into the finest Baccarat crystal glasses Baccarat Chrystal Paperweight

Dreaming of beautiful and fine Baccarat Champagne Flutes? You can order them individually by clicking the link below the image

56725260-10EE-44A6-98A3-3324C5294B7C

Baccarat Mille Nuits Champagner Flute

If like me you love the car why not get the T shirt – in appropriate Burgundy – by clicking the link below the image

97DAE98C-1F80-4081-9FD3-04574B6D057D

Men’s Citroen DS T-Shirt Burgundy, XL

If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks

Images courtesy of Citroen, Hine and Baccarat Christal with grateful thanks

 

 

 

 

Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits

32D1AE9A-46CE-4757-B977-C9374FBA7B12

It’s 1979 and I’m on the Night Ferry, an overnight sleeper-train running between London’s Victoria Station to Paris’ Gare du Nord. Cue the accordion soundtrack, the slight hint of Channel No 5 and certainly the distinctive aroma of a Disque Blue. Where else could we possibly be? Ah…Paris!

 

The Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (literally “Sleeping Cars”) maintained twelve carriages that were custom designed to fit the smaller gauge of the British railway network. The service departed daily from Victoria – from platform 2 to Gare du Nord, starting on 5th October 1936 and discontinued in 1980 – using the same rolling stock throughout.

 

Prior to Eurostar it was the only non-stop way to get from London to Paris by boat train. The carriages were loaded onto “train-ferries” for the cross channel section of the journey and at Dunkerque the carriages were off-loaded for the onward journey to Paris.

 

DBF62474-3DA6-48E0-AFE6-F6E2D64526C3

The luxurious Wagons-Lits was founded in 1872 by Belgian, Georges Nagelmackers, who had seen the Pullman night carriages operating whilst on a trip to the United States in the late 1860’s. He imported the idea into Europe. Wagon-Lits quickly established itself as the premier provider and operator of European railway sleepers and dining cars. They only provided the carriages and relied upon the domestic or state-wide operators for the locomotives that pulled them.

The journey that I would have loved to taken would have been on The Côte d’Azur Pullman Express which ran from December 1929 until May 1939. The service was operated by Wagons-Lits and the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée (known as the PLM). The train was scheduled to leave Paris at 08:50,  stopping  at Dijon, Lyon and Marseilles and making further stops at the resort towns along the French Riviera including, Juan-les-Pins, Antibes, Nice and Menton  reaching its final destination, Ventimiglia (Italy). The entire journey took 15 hours and 10 minutes.

2DC1F2F7-3D26-4F20-94FD-F74EAD8DB52E

Accompanying the promotion for this new service many iconic travel posters were commissioned including in 1929, the Pierre Fix-Masseau piece – shown as our featured image.

Pierre’s father, Pierre Félix Masseau, was, until 1935, the director of the École Nationale d’Art Décoratif  (“Art Deco”) in Limoges. The inevitable result was that, Pierre’s poster work – and that of his many poster-art contemporaries, Roger Broders, Cassandre and Paul Colin – was heavily influenced by Art Deco, a successor to and reaction against Art Nouveau.

Art Deco was above all associated with both luxury and modernity; it combined very expensive materials and exquisite craftsmanship realised in modernistic forms – hence its use in these seductive travel posters.

112E26A8-C0EF-4462-A6EE-C5802F3E9DEB

These wonderful posters were designed to lure inquisitive travellers into sampling the delights of the then modern European and luxurious railway system, to holiday in alluring destinations of snow and beach but, above all, they are the most remarkable examples of stylised commercial art. Our continued fascination with these fine works has resulted in their comparative scarcity and justifiable value.

If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks

Image Credits – With thanks to SNCF, Wagon-Lits and the estate of Pierre Fix-Masseau