Page 5. 1951 Narcisse Tandem


This wild machine is a 1951 Narcisse Tandem, powered by a 98cc Sachs engine.

The Narcisse company manufactured tandems with Sachs and Aubier engines in 1951. Solo machines with the same engine set-up were made between 1951 and 1954, and during the same period they also made a 48cc cyclemotor with an SER engine.

They were based at 24 rue Alphonse Helbronner, St Ouen, Paris.


I hope to take the Narcisse to a few shows this summer. We’re expecting a baby in August, and we’re already arguing over how old a youngster needs to be before she can be strapped into a pre-war child’s sidecar to be pedalled on the tandem along Brighton seafront between the piers?



UPDATE 10th JUNE 2007:
After an enjoyable drive through northern France during the week, I’ve now picked up the Narcisse from Picardie and it’s off to the workshop tomorrow to evaluate what needs to be done

It has lots of linteresting design features, but my favourite is probably the petrol tank, which is an integral part of the machine


16th JUNE 2007:
New tyres, and three days of dedicated TLC, including a damn good clean and polish have made the world of difference to the Narcisse.


It has a C15 front pipe in place at the moment until I locate a proper exhaust.






Today I heard the Narcisse running for the first time!


I found a clean 98cc Sachs engine of the right vintage on German ebay a few months ago, complete with exhaust, although it was not a tandem exhaust (which is unique). After fitting a new rear chain, adapting the exhaust, and making one good engine out of the two, and numerous other jobs, the Narcisse finally fired at last.

It’s a wonderful moment, a magical moment, after all those months of hunting for parts, spannering, adapting, scratching your head, cursing, hunting for more parts, refitting …and then suddenly the bike speaks to you for the first time.


This particular restoration hasn’t been as hard as some, but it certainly wasn’t easy. The engine is a common one so that helped a lot. However, the best way to describe this machine is ‘over-engineered.’ It is no wonder that motorized tandems became extinct so soon after they were introduced; they are definitely a challenge to work on. It’s actually quite similar to working on the earliest pioneer motorcycles insmuch as these tandems never developed beyond the initial design attempts, which were quite flawed.

The trickiest aspect is definitely the rear chain: the clearance between the pedals, the stand, the exhaust and the chain is just a matter of millimeters.
I don’t know the technical term for it, but the gear lever on the engine is on a fork, and lifting the clutch to engage the gears can be tricky when you are in motion as it can rattle the chain; with the clearance issue this can easily cause problems. So we’ve adapted the gear selector from 1st and 2nd to 1st gear and neutral only. I know that’s probably not the ‘thing to do’ but it seems a practical solution for the time being.


The other seemingly insurmountable problem is the machine’s best feature – the petrol tank. Despite standing the bike upright and flushing it through with paraffin, it has not been possible to clean it properly. The usual solution is to change the in-line petrol filter with monotonous regularity until at last you get the gunge out of the tank. However, with this enormously long tank – easily the longest petrol tank of any motorcycle I’ve ever seen – it seems unlikely that you’d ever reach that stage. So in the meantime we’ve disconnected the tank and are using a small clip-on tank instead.


Usually with vintage motorcycles we innovate to improve their performance beyond the manufacturers’ original designs. With this one, we’ve left its design flaws in place as they definitely seem to be the essence of its character.

Published on May 19, 2007 at 10:26 am  Leave a Comment  

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