Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vintage French Trikes

There's been a resurgent interest in 3 wheelers the last few years, much of it possibly building off the commercial success of products such as the Piaggio MP3 and a number of alternative design eco-friendly commuter vehicle projects.

Looking through the local for sale ads the other day, I happened upon an interesting range of vehicles from the p
ast that I'd never heard of before. In 1925, a company called Poirier specializing in the distribution of medical equipment, began producing trikes in 47 and 125cc variants utilizing Saxonette and Ydral engines. The hand operated three wheelers were primarily developed for persons with easily fatigued, paralyzed or amputated legs. It seems they continued production of these vehicles until the late 1950s. Based out of Fondettes in the department of Indre & Loire (37), the company is still in existence today but is now known as Invacare Poirier and focuses on a wide-range of equipment for handicapped individuals including a huge selection of wheelchairs. The taller single seating vehicle was a sort of motorized wheelchair. It was offered both as the M2 or M3 with hand crank operation in 1,2 or 3 speed and the steering wheel operated F3 and F4 with 2 speed and freewheeling capability. In both cases they featured 3 wheel suspension and a 47cc Saxonette motor for relief from cranking or pushing chores.

The most impressive of their designs was the MONOTO making use of the 125cc Ydral engine producing 5Cv at 4000rpm. Power was transfered to the wheels via "CARDAFLEX" shaft-drive through a 4 speed transmission with speed limited to 50 kph. Two hand operated levers next to the driver managed acceleration (right) and clutching/gear changes (left). The streamlined body was fabricated in sheet metal and made use of telescopic front forks in the front and leaf springs in the rear. Brake drums were featured on all 3 wheels and an alternator took care of ignition and lighting chores with electric start an option. Rider and passenger sat on sprung filled cushions in simulated leather and available colors for the body were beige or green. These days it seems the French are rediscovering and restoring these old trikes and scooting around on them for fun. But the drivers I saw seemed to be fully fit head-to-toe, enjoying a bit of France's little known motor-cycled history. To see a MONOTO in operation take a look at this XW5 on YouTube.