PAGE 33. French Cyclemotors: 1951 VAP4 Manufrance Hirondelle

Saint-Étienne

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Between the Loire and the Rhône, Saint-Étienne, until the second half of the 20th century, was one of France’s most important industrial centres.

[You could compare it with Britain’s Midlands industrial centre around Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton]

The Tour de France was established in 1903; significantly, it passed through St Etienne. It’s claims to fame include:

First French railroad (1827)

First sewing machine (1830)

First bicycle (1885)

Creation of the legendary ‘Manufacture des Armes et Cycles Manufrance’ (1885).

The advert below dates from 1910.

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Manufrance Hirondelle

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The Manufrance name means ‘Manufacture Francaise d’Armes et Cycles.’ The company was established to manufacture armaments as well as bicycles, which was quite common in the early days of cycling (for example, BSA means ‘Birmingham Small Arms’).

The Gauthier brothers started making Manufrance bicycles in 1885; this was France’s first modern bicycle, and Manufrance Hirondelle bicycles were used by the policemen of Paris.

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Manufrance sold a wide variety of goods through their famous catalogue. The 3 pictures here are from a 1910 edition.

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Their first motorcycle they advertised was in 1910 (below). Although they offered various models, they didn’t start full-scale production of powered 2-wheelers until after the war.

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Their 1948 catalogue advertised the VAP attachment on a Manufrance cycle. They also made cyclemotors and, later, mopeds, some of which are illustrated in the section at the bottom of this page.

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The VAP 4 Cycle-attachment engine

…WHY PEDAL?

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The VAP 4 was a more powerful engine than its predecessor, the VAP 3. Unlike many cycle-attachments, it will actually propel you uphill. Hence the ads proclaiming ‘Porquoi Pedaler’ (Why Pedal?), making fun of competitors, most of whose engines required pedal assistance on a gradient.

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In addition to being a more powerful engine than the VAP3, the VAP4 also had a clutch.

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After the Velosolex and Mosquito, the VAP4 was the most popular moteur auxiliaire in France.

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Every cyclemotor had advantages and disadvantages over the other models available. VAP4 was a well-built reliable engine; but the main issue regarding the VAP was the ned to remove the engine in the event of a puncture.

However, the Manufrance Hirondelle VAP had a special proposition (see the diagram below).

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1951 Manufrance VAP4

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Manufrance frames were the favoured bicycle for mounting VAP cycle-attachment engines.

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So my VAP4 on Manufrance frame is an authentic set-up.

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Of particular interest is Manufrance’s exclusive arrangement for removing the rear wheel.

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I’ll add more photos later this week…

UPDATE NEARLY 2 YEARS LATER:

Since creating the Cyclemaster Museum, I got so involved with my next project, the Online Bicycle Museum, that I completely forgot to add the extra photos promised above. In fact, the machine has gone through a few changes in the meantime. To see the VAP4 Manufrance, PLEASE CLICK HERE

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Manufrance Cycelmotors & Mopeds

In 1951 they marketed the Cyclobloc cyclemotor, with le Poulain engine.

In 1955, the Cyclobloc had a forward-mounted tank and telescopic forks, and another model was produced alongside called the Velorobot, with automatic clutch.

In 1958 there were Velorobot models.

1961 models switched to Lavalette engines.

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