French motorcycles on stamps
Probably it is not common knowledge amongst motorcycle fans, but France
has a rich history as motor producing country. In the first decades of the 20st century
there have been several hundreds (!) different manufacturers. There size was strongly
Some "manufacturers" were local smiths or bicycle repair men
that bought a ready to use engine, and mounted it on a bicycle for the local market. Most
of these brands have only lasted a few years.
Next to that there are a lot of brands that have produced large numbers
of motorcycles over longer periods. Brands like Peugeot, Motobécane, Monet Goyon and
Terrot are quite well known, but who knows names like Ultima-Lyon, MGC, Sans-Soupape or
A lot of French motorcycles distinguish by remarkable and progressive
technical solutions. What to think of a so called "monoblock" engine (engine
& transmission built together in 1 housing instead of loose) in 1930 (Motobécane), or
hub center steering around 1930 (Majestic)? And let's not forget the Millet of 1893, with
a 5-cilinder engine built inside the rear wheel.
This progressiveness is also proven by the first years of motorcycle
history, to which several French brands have contributed. Already in 1871 a few hundred
units were built of a 2 wheeled bike driven by a steam engine. This Michaux-Perreaux is
considered by some people to be the first commercially available motorcycle, 13 years
before the German Hildebrand & Wolfmüller. Also the De Dion-Bouton tricycle from 1890
has contributed to the development of the motorcycle. And by the way, the Daimler Einspur,
generally recognised as the first motorcycle, was driven by an engine of this French
All together reason enough to search what can be found of all these
brands on stamps. The result was a little disappointing. I did not find more than about 30
stamps (including mopeds), and on a few of them the same motorcycle was depicted. This may
not seem a little, but on the total number of motorcycle stamps it is not much. For
comparison: a quick search for Moto Guzzi's resulted in 12 stamps!
So, what did I find? Let's start with the light bikes.
I found the stamp of Madagascar from 1972, with an image of a postman with a Mobylette
moped. The same Mobylette is depicted on one of the stamps of Afghanistan from 1985.
On the stamp from the Ivory Coast, issued on the
occasion of the World Stamp Day 1961, a postman is again depicted, this time with a Solex.
Also Spain has recently put a Mobylette on
one of the ATM-stamps (see the new issues in Newsletter 67). This time a much older model,
and equipped with a side-car! Older ATM issues show a Motobécane B44 from 1930 (with a
monoblock engine) with side-car, and a Monet Goyon LB from 1932, also with side-car.
Also in the field of motorcycle sports some
French bikes can be found. For instance Niger has depicted a 125 cc Motobécane racer. The
same type of motorcycle is found on stamps from Gabon and Mali.
I personally like an issue of Senegal from 1999, a
sheet with images of various 2-wheeled sports. Amongst others it contains a 2½ hp Peugeot
with a picnic basket on the back (!) accompanied by the text "Paris-Nice".
A very nice example of French motorcycle engineering can also be found
in the category sports, in the lower right corner of a sheet from Rwanda (and recently
also a sheet from Congo). Here we see a Peugeot 2-cilinder racing motorcycle with 4 valves
per cilinder and 2 overhead camshafts. Already in 1913! In the upper right corner there is
a De Dion Bouton tricycle (here from 1897), and in the lower left a Motoconfort 100cc
2-stroke from 1924. On the other sheet of this issue there are also 3 French motorcycles
(Gnome & Rhone, Griffon en Millet).
The French share in the development of the motorcycle
can be seen in various issues on the occasion of the 100st anniversary of the motorcycle
in 1985. On the sheet of Sierra Leone for instance we see, next to the Daimler Einspur,
the Millet from 1893.
Laos has included a Gnome & Rhone from 1920 in its
An attentive reader may have remarked that until now I did not mention
a single issue from France itself. It may be strange, but until recently France issued a
few stamps with a motorcycle on it, but none of them was French! In 1925 a stamp booklet
has been issued with on the cover an advertisement for Monet Goyon motorcycles. As could
be expected it is provided with many words of praise, with as summit the sentence
underneath the motorcycle image: "The perfection of French production".
It was not before 2002 that France has administered justice to its own
motorcycle history. On a sheet in the series for promotion of youth philately 10
motorcycles were depicted, and 3 of them are French: a Terrot 500 RGST, a Majestic from
around 1930 (with hub center steering!) and France's present pride, the Voxan.
As said before a lot of French motorcycles are somewhat special. Just
for this reason the Durch owners of (older) French motorcycles have joined in the
"Club Franse Motoren", or short "CFM" (in English: "French
Motorcycle Club"). The main aim of this club is to spread the knowledge of French
motorcyles, and in this way contribute to the preservation of the French motorcycle
This sociable club has its own newsletter "Un Peu de Tout"
(French for "a little bit of everything") and organizes a few meetings each
year. One meeting is a technical day, to enhance the technical knowledge and skills of the
members. Another activity is the documentation centre, that stores various sorts of
information, like manuals, folders, photographs, test reports etcetera. For more
information please see the website (in Dutch): www.clubfransemotoren.nl
Top - Back to former page - Home