1906 Fontaine 3hp
Registration no. BS 8469
Frame no. 13.10.06
Engine no. 13.10.06
The early pioneering days of the European motorcycle industry saw a number of inventors, engineers and cycle shop owners produce their own motorcycles, many of which never got beyond the solitary prototype stage. This is almost certainly the case with the believed unique motorcycle offered here, which was constructed by one Emile Fontaine, who is described in the 1903 Havre (Le Havre) commercial directory as an engineer engaged in the manufacture and repair of bicycles, automobiles and child's cars. Founded in 1892, Fontaine's company had offices at 23 rue du Rocher and a workshop at 3 rue Lesueur in Havre (see correspondence on file). The words 'E Fontaine Havre' are cast into the timing-side crankcase, suggesting that the engine was intended for series production, probably for supply to other manufacturers as a proprietary unit. This motorcycle may well have been constructed as a 'one off' to showcase the Fontaine engine, which is a sidevalve unit of 401cc, rated at 3hp.
The Fontaine motorcycle does not appear in the standard reference works and is an 'NIT' ('Not In Tragatsch'). The machine offered here has been dated as of 1904 manufacture by the Sunbeam MCC (see Pioneer Certificate on file). However, looking at the engine one can clearly see that its number is rendered as '13.10.06', which almost certainly is the date it was built: 13th October 1906, an observation also made by a previous owner, Kees Koster, in an email to Bonhams' consultant Mike Worthington-Williams (printout on file). It is most unlikely to be a series-production number; Norton, for example, had only just got past 90,000 by the start of WW2! In any case, the Fontaine is still eligible for the Pioneer Run for motorcycles built prior to 1915.
Mr Koster states that he discovered the Fontaine in the Burgundy region of France, not far from Beaune, around 1995. No other history is known prior to its purchase by the current owner from well-known Netherlands motorcycle dealers Yesterdays in 2004. A full restoration was carried out between 2005 and 2007, since when the Fontaine has completed both the London-Brighton Pioneer Run and the VMCC's Banbury Run. Said to be easy to ride, the machine is presented in generally excellent condition and offered with the aforementioned correspondence and V5C registration document. Unique motorcycles are exceptionally rare and this beautiful French example from the Veteran period would be a credit to any important museum or prestigious private collection. It is expected that the Sunbeam MCC will reconsider the dating of this machine at their next dating meeting and a Pioneer Certificate indicating 1906 manufacture will no doubt be issued in the near future.
- Please see the following link for a video of the machine starting/running: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF-HVc4DvyI.