1942-1965 : Birth of a legend

Creation of a new company:

Maurice Goudard and Marcel Mennesson, both "Centraliens" (they graduated from the State School of Engineering) are the creators of the Solex company. This company was created around 1905 to produce first centrifugal heaters, then carburetors.

In 1916 Marcel Mennesson applies for a patent to produce an auxiliary engine located in the center of the rear wheel. He would have this patent on December 31, 1917. A second patent applied for on December 31, 1918 and given on May 26, 1919 is about a complete two-wheeler that includes: a single tubular frame which links the seat to the steering column and goes through the foot rest, and a front suspension by a pendular fork. Those patents would not be followed by starting production.

Birth of a Myth:

Only in 1940 would Marcel Mennesson have a prototype of a 38cm-engine built. Its characteristics are the ones of the actual Solex, including, among other things, a transmission with a running wheel, a cylinder out of the line of the wheel, and a gas pump that brings the gas back to the tank. By december 1940, this engine is installed on a men's bike - the "Alcyon" which is black with a gold trim, and which wheels are 700mm. This is indeed the first model of Velosolex.

premier prototype

First Solex prototype

On July 7, 1943 a new category of mopeds is made official: "The bicycles with emergency engines equal or below 50cm." This opens the door to mass production. The Solex model is finished in 1942 and almost 700 of them would be first produced and tried out by the personnel of the company in order to ameliorate it. The definitive version would appear in the Spring of 1946.

Second prototype

Second Solex prototype


The first Velosolex will be sold in april 1946. They are manufactured in Courbevoie at the speed of 15 bikes a day, and are sold 13,600 Francs each.

In 1947 the first modifications are started, and the oil company British Petroleum invents "Solexine," a pre-mixed dosage of gas and oil that reduces the forming of residue (also called "calamine"). That fuel is sold in Solex gas stations in 2-liter cans.

In 1948 25,000 bikes are manufactured and the price has risen up to 19,418 Francs. In 1949 36,000 are manufactured, and it was then estimated that more than 100 Solex were sold on any working day. The price of the 1951 model reaches 32,500 Francs.

At the Solex company, Gaston Chapelle is in charge of the aftersales division, and he managed in particular to install a network of almost 250 Solex gas stations in 1951, and 1,000 in 1962 all over France and in most of the countries belonging to the French union.

The last bicycle with an engine:

Dessin modele 53

Drawindgs of the 1952 model

In 1953 100,000 bikes are manufactured, and this model is the last of the "bicycles with emergency engines." Its success is phenomenal, Solex are sold to dealers 50 at a time and the dealers pay cash. All that was possible because orders were placed three months in advance. Furthermore, it is now said that at the time, bikes could be available sooner through black market. That year, demand is so high that production is divided up among three factories.

VeloSoleX Factory

One of the factories

In 1954, a new model is introduced. Its engine is modified. It costs 34,810 Francs and is labeled by the Solex company as "type 330." By 1954, 157,814 units will be sold, and 202,588 by the year 1955.


330 model

The 660 is introduced in October 1955 at the Paris Show: the bicycle is modified. 228,183 are sold in 1956, 261,021 in 1957, and 274,261 in 1958.

Changes in the Engine:

In 1957 appears the 1010, which major changes are in the engine.

The 1400 appears in 1958 with wheels of 550 and thicker tires. 288,309 will be sold for 32,800 Francs, and a one-year guarantee is offered.

In 1960 appears the 1700, which is an answer to the competition that offered Vélovap. This new model has an automatic compound clutch. 288,194 units will be sold at the same price as the 1400. The same year, 5 production factories are building Vélosolex.


1700 Model

The model S  2200 will come out in the summer of 1961, with some improvements regarding its looks and the engine power. In 1961, production reaches 300,070, and each bike is sold 348 Francs (new currency). 311,076 bikes are produced in 1963 and 380,000 in 1964. It is estimated that in 1964, 1,500 bikes are sold in a working day.

In order to improve productivity, the frame will be modified with a rectangular section made of steel. The S 3300, introduced in 1964, will be equipped with this new frame. Its price is 373 Francs.

end of the history

And a special thanks to Anne-Sophie who realy helped me translate this page (to mail her)

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