You could consider Velosolex as the two-wheeled equivalent to a Citroen 2CV – it’s quintessentially French and quickly recognizable.
But it’s more than that – it’s one of the very earliest examples of a moped – even preceding the term itself by almost 6 years.
In this blog post, we’ll examine the following:
- The company’s background story
- 4 common models (2 of which became movie stars)
The Beginning of VéloSolex
Interestingly, the very first prototype was built as early as 1944 – right in the middle of the German occupation.
While few examples of the prototype remain today, in 1946, the first Velosolex motorized bicycle was officially introduced,
Marketed as “la bicyclette qui route toute seule” (the bicycle that rides itself), it had a 45cc engine and, interestingly, no clutch.
In other words, if you had to come to a stop, you had to restart the engine. It wasn’t a big deal, though, because its top speed was only 25 km/h (15 mph).
Despite its Spartan design, this little bike would be made until 1988, with little bits and bobs added to it over the years.
In that time, over 7 million of these mopeds have been sold worldwide.
There’s even an entire museum dedicated to VeloSolex in Colijnsplaat, Netherlands.
4 Famous Models
Although this model was almost identical to the original 1946 one, there were a few changes. The most noteworthy one was that the engine size was increased to 49cc.
This particular model can also be seen in the 1958 movie “Mon Oncle,” ridden by the character Monsieur Hulot – who Rowan Atkinson cited as the inspiration for Mr. Bean.
Introduced in 1968, the 3800 is one of the most common models.
In addition to the standard model, a “Luxe” model was available – identifiable by its pitch-black engine case and large blackwall tires.
And it’s rather fitting that I mentioned Mr. Bean earlier because in the 2007 movie Mr. Bean’s Holiday, a model 3800 makes a short (but nevertheless funny) appearance:
Coincidence, or a deliberate reference to Monsieur Hulot? You decide.
In 1971, the Model 5000 was released, with an upgraded kickstand and a white-colored engine that replaced the black one of the 3800.
For some reason, the wheels were also much smaller.
If you’d like to see one of these in greater detail, check out this video from the Seaside Garage YouTube channel:
1974 Model 4600
While many Velosolex models were seen around France, the Model 4600 was not one of them.
Made between 1974 and 1978, this model was purely for export to other countries – one of them being the United States.
During the 1970s American moped craze, many 4600s, known as the “Solex 4600,” made it onto American soil.
In 1977, you could own one of these mopeds for just $300 (about $1,500 in 2023).
The New VeloSolex
The company is still in business in the 21st centry, except that they switched from internal combustion engines to electric.
The flagship model is the “E-Solex,’ an electric bicycle designed by the famous Italian automotive design firm Pininfarina.