PAGE 59. My Beautiful Scooterette: 1955 Monet Goyon Starlett

What is a Scooterette?

As you will observe in this page, the ‘scooterette’ was a successful design concept that, in the end, led to the demise of the European motorcycle market.

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1951 saw the first big influx of cycle-attachments. Suddenly they were all the rage, and young boys were urging their dads to buy one. After all, everyone had a bicycle. Nearly all new vehicles were being exported, so a bicycle was the only transport available for most folks in those difficult years of post-war austerity and rationing.

The ‘mo-ped’ invasion of 1955 displaced the cycle-attachments and seemingly overnight everyone was motorized again.

The 98cc pre-war style pedal autocycle was also phased out by the mo-ped invasion; to be replaced by either a moped or – if you wanted something more upmarket – a lightweight motorcycle. Most British lightweight motorcycles were powered, as were their ancestors (autocycles), by 98cc Villiers 2-stroke engines; the difference was that they were kick-start rather than pedal; essentially they were scaled-down versions of big 4-stroke motorcycles.

But, for those who could afford them, scooters were the trendy new mode of 2-wheeled transport.

All the manufacturers were watching the scooter phenomenon closely. There were hundreds of different models now available throughout Europe and anyone not yet selling a scooter fancied a bite of the pie.

As with the mopeds, German manufacturers were a few years ahead of us. So many of the British motorcycle and bicycle companies re-badged well-made scooters from Germany. Others re-badged chic French models.

But quite a few manufacturers here and in Europe decided on a clever strategy. Instead of designing a completely new scooter (a costly exercise that could bankrupted you if you got it wrong), or re-badging another company’s model (less profits) they dressed up their existing moped or autocycle with extra bodywork and maybe even a more stylized front mudguard to make their bog-standard cheap moped into a ‘de-luxe’ 50cc mini-scooter.

Some went as far as calling this new model a ‘scooterette.’ By 1958 it had become a new trend.

…Mopeds, lightweight motorcycles and scooters now met at the scooterette.

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1955 Monet Goyon Starlett Type K ‘Model S2S Standard’ Scooterette 98cc

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The poster says: “In the film of your life, it’s more than a motorcycle and better than a scooter.”

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In my opinion, nothing epitomizes the merging of the 3 genres better than the French Starlett.

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Not only was there a full body enclosure to hide the oily bits that might offend potential female purchasers, and leg-shields that flowed into running boards, but the engine fires up by pulling an unusual ‘gear-stick’ handle, reminiscent of the early British Velocette LE models.

This was designed to give it the appearance of a car. The petrol and choke taps are also very car-like, as you can see below, and some of the Starlett advertising of the day pointed out how it was so much cheaper to insure than a car.

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The Starlett was fitted with a 98cc Villiers engine. Its sturdy telescopic front suspension was designed by Gregoire.

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It might look like a scooter but, with its 2-speed gearbox and large wheels, when you ride the Starlett you feel more like you’re on a motorcycle.

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Background to the Starlett

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During the First World War, Adrien Goyon financed engineer Joseph Monet to manufacture disability vehicles for war veterans. Their company Monet & Goyon was formed in 1917.

Their first engine, in 1919, was a 117cc autowheel, which they also used in their Automouche and Vélauto three-wheeled scooters up to 1925 (above). This was sometimes proclaimed as the World’s first scooter (1919), though it wasn’t: the American 1916 Autoped was actually the first. Nevertheless, the fact they’d made France’s first scooter in 1919 must have had some influence 30 years later on the Starlett’s creation.

Monet & Goyon had had a licensing agreement with Villiers since 1922; so no doubt they’d also observed the fully-enclosed styling of the post-war British-built and Villiers-powered Bond Minibyke (I owned the Bond 98cc shown below in the 1980s; photo courtesy Scootering magazine). 1930s autocycles also had engine covers and legshields to make them look less like motorcycles.

Monet Goyon’s competitors were beavering away in their design studios, and various small scooters were starting to appear at the Paris Salon (eg Bernardet Cabri) from 1953 onwards. The difference is that the Starlett was a hybrid rather than a scooter.

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My observation is that the metal body is strong and it seems well-designed and well-built. The metal body must be removed to work on it. But otherwise, I find this a functional machine that’s very attractive and has many appealing styling touches. Obviously a 53-year-old obscure French vehicle that happens to have a British engine with easy parts availability is also a plus point, and I’m looking forward to getting it on the road and using it this summer.

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Whether you consider this model an enclosed lightweight motorcycle, small scooter, or an over-powered moped, the Starlett has considerable significance within the market of the 1950s. Monet Goyon both anticipated market trends and created them – because the Starlett was launched as early as 1953.

In 1919 they’d made one of the world’s first scooters; 34 years on, the Starlett seems to have been the world’s first scooterette.

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Monet & Goyon’s Cyclemotor Credentials

Monet Goyon manufactured various motorcycles up to the 2nd World War including, from 1931 onwards, a series of 98cc Villiers-powered BMA’s (‘Bicyclette Moteur Auxiliaire’ – the equivalent of our pedal-assisted autocycles). They had always been interested in the ‘lower end’ of the market, ie making cheap machines to get poorer folks on the road.

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When the Lohmann appeared on the market in 1949, Monet & Goyon imported the engines to fit to their own stengthened frames (above). It’s interesting how they also attached a name plate below the crossbar.

But the company had a lot of problems with their 34cc Motorox cycle-attachment (I owned the one pictured below last summer before selling it to Peter Smith). After the war, designer Marcel Morel had proposed a 49cc cyclemotor; the company refused his ideas and went with the Motorox instead.

Unfortunately, the Motorox, though an interesting design concept, was underpowered and fragile and, despite several companies making the engines, the Motorox nearly bankrupted the company.

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Meanwhile, Morel moved to Motobecane and his design promptly became one of the most successful cyclemotors of all time – the Mobylette!

So the design and functionality of the new Starlett was by now of critical importance: there was a lot riding on its success.

Engine performance and reliability were most acceptable, and it was a practical utility vehicle. But most of all, its appearance was very well-thought out. That’s not surprising, as the body was designed by the famous stylist Alexis Kow; its flowing curves were particularly appreciated by female riders. And its name was very innovative; it endowed it with a ‘film-star’ kind of quality.

It did not sell in vast quantities because, by the mid-fifties, the lightweight motorcycle/moped/scooter market was exceptionally competitive. Personally, I think the hammerite paint finish on many of the models totally ruined its aesthetics (mine sports one of the better colour options). But without a doubt, with the Starlett, Monet Goyon did succeed.

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Other Scooterettes: 1962 Puch Cheetah

Styling innovations are a good way to increase sales in a competitive market. As moped manufacturers started to copy scooter styling changes, they added engine covers, leg-shields and running boards, usually fitted a dual seat, perhaps put a bit of extra plastic around the headlight, and occasionally gave it smaller wheels and a new name.

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Compare the 1962 59cc Puch Cheetah ‘Scooterette’ (above), which sold for £99 17/- 6d, with its budget cousin the 50cc Puch MS 50 Nomad moped, below, with a £82 10/- price-tag.

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The Puch illustrated had its 49cc Nomad engine uprated to 59cc for the Scooterette, though some manufacturers used an ordinary moped engine for their pseudo-scooters.

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As you can see, not only can it be difficult to define the difference between a cyclemotor and a moped; but sometimes the line between a moped and a scooter is also a bit blurred.

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Other Scooterettes: 1958 NSU Model L (Luxus)

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NSU responded to the challenge of scooterettes in 1958 by adding extra bodywork to the Quickly and naming it the ‘Quickly L’ or ‘Luxus’ (above). This Quickly is almost identical to the Meister Super-Luxus Type M 45 SL of 1956 (below)

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Other Scooterettes: 1956 Mercury Hermes

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The Mercury Hermes (below) is a typical example of a British scooterette, appearing on the market in 1956. It was basically an imported Meister Solo Roller (seen in the poster above), but with an JLO engine and various parts of the original scooter re-manufactured by Mercury.

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[In due course I’ll add more pictures of my Mercury Hermes Scooterette to its article on Page 57 of the Cyclemaster Museum]

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Scooterettes

Whether or not the Starlett sold well, it was very well promoted and was a considerable influence on other manufacturers: they were not slow to re-style their own machines to create versions of this new beast, the ’scooterette.’

There was even a rather ugly British counterpart to the Starlett, the Excelsior Skutabyk, introduced in 1956; it was a 98cc Villiers-powered Excelsior Consort motorcycle with a totally disproportionate affair bolted on to each side, combining engine covers, running boards and leg-shields (below). Needless to say, it did not catch the public’s imagination.

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Cyclemaster, of course, also had a crack at the scooterette market, with their mini-scooter the Piatti (see page 58).

Belgium, in particular, provided a very good market for ‘scooterettes’ – mopeds with scooter bodies; they were very fashionable there in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

I’ll add more pictures to this section of interesting scooterettes as I come across them.

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1959 Monark Monarscoot with JLO G-50 engine

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1958 Maxwell Dubbelzit (HMW)

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The End

…And then came Japanese mopeds

Of course, Honda’s new mopeds of the early sixties incorporated all the best features of the European models and boasted reliable 4-stroke engines too. The Honda 50 took on all the European mopeds, scooters and lightweight motorcycles, and beat them hands-down.

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This is the ultimate significance of the ‘scooterette’ concept. Because the Honda 50 was the ultimate scooterette. The European moped, scooter and motorcycle market died almost overnight.

At the same time, all over Asia, Japanese 98cc mopeds did what the cycle-attachment had done in Europe after the War; they motorized each country’s working-class population. Like most of South-East Asia, Thailand’s traffic still comprises mostly 98cc mopeds and 3-wheeled utilities, such as the one in my photo below delivering durian fruit along Koa Sarn Rd in Bangkok, and collecting the durian remains.

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For more photos of obscure vehicles around Asia

check out http://pigs-on-mopeds.com

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