1950 Voisin Gnome et Rhône 125cc R4
Chassis no. 525061
Engine no. 525061
Cette moto Gnome et Rhône type R4 apparue en 1949 et totalement restaurée il y a quelques années est restée en très bon état et possède toujours son équipement dorigine.
One of the most famous aero engine manufacturers of WWI, Gnome et Rhône introduced its first motorcycle in 1919, building the Granville Bradshaw-designed ABC under licence. Previously rivals, the two firms had joined forces in 1914 and then in January 1915 Gnome took over Le Rhône, forming Société des Moteurs Gnome et Rhône. The diversification into motorcycle production had been prompted by the sudden decline in the demand for the companys aeronautical products after WWI. Proprietary engines were used at first and then in 1923 the firm introduced single-cylinder power units of its own manufacture, pioneering the use of unitary construction for engine/gearbox. In the 1930s a range of BMW-influenced transverse flat-twins with pressed-steel frames was produced. Like their German counterparts, the larger Gnome-Rhône twins found favour as military workhorses, many of the shaft-driven AX sidevalve models being adapted for sidecar use, in which role they featured shaft drive to the sidecar wheel and a four-speeds-and-reverse gearbox, as well as the usual complement of military equipment. There were singles too, of course, which featured pressed-steel frames like the larger twins.
In 1938, Gnome et Rhône took over the celebrated car-maker, Voisin. Gabriel Voisin was perhaps Frances greatest aviation pioneer. In 1907 he built the first practical aeroplane capable of leaving the ground under its own power, and his Aéroplanes-Voisin company was the first mass producer of aircraft in the world. But the end of WWI brought a halt to Voisins aviation ventures and after experimenting with motorised bicycles and a light two-seater economy car, he decided to produce an automobile that would be unrivalled for prestige, comfort and speed. The resulting Knight sleeve valve-engined 4.0-litre Voisin M1 appeared in 1919. It was one of the first truly modern cars to be delivered after the Armistice.
Voisin continued to build motor cars of distinction throughout the 1920s, including a number of record-breaking competition models, but the economic downturn of the early 1930s had a disastrous effect on sales. Gabriel Voisin eventually lost control to his financiers and his factory was sold to Gnome et Rhône. When the French Government nationalised the countrys aero-engine makers in 1945, forming Société Nationale dÉtude et de Construction de Moteurs dAviation (SNECMA), Gnome et Rhône and Avions-Voisin were absorbed into the new conglomerate. Following the reorganisation, Gnome et Rhône found itself a subsidiary of Société des Aéroplanes Voisin and both names would appear on the companys motorcycles after WW2.
Gnome et Rhônes post-war R-series was powered by a single-cylinder two-stroke engine built in unit with a three-speed gearbox, the first R and R1 models displacing 100cc. The 125cc R4s simple, piston-ported engine produced 6bhp, which was good enough for a top speed of 85km/h (53mph). Despite their relatively small size and modest specification, these little two-strokes demonstrated surprising durability and speed. Their heroic exploits reported in the French motorcycling press in 1949 included three students riding R3s from Paris to New Delhi (a distance of approximately 18,000 kilometres) and Gustave Bernards dash from Paris to Madrid in 23 hours 15 minutes on an R4. The following year the intrepid Bernard completed the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris round trip in 18 hours 4 minutes while carrying a passenger, his R4 on that occasion being badged as a Voisin Gnome & Rhone.
The machine offered here is an example of the R4, which was introduced in 1949. Its original accessories are still with this machine, which was totally reconditioned a few years ago and remains in very good condition.