Motosacoche Motorcycles

In 1899 the brothers Henry and Armand Dufaux from Geneva, Switzerland, designed a little four-stroke engine. This compact unit could be bolted into the frame of any ordinary pushbike: The "Motosacoche" -which approximately means "engine-bag"- was born! Very soon the quality and practical utility of the invention became known even far beyond the swiss territory.

Motosacoche A1, 1908, 214cc, a.i.o.e.

In 1905 the firm was given the legal structure of a "Societe Anonyme" based at Rue Acacias, Geneve. The Dufaux brothers soon left the company and concentrated on building airplanes. Gradually the engines became bigger and more powerful, twin cylinders were produced and the initial idea of a motorized pedal-bike was given up. The factory built complete motorbikes under the "Motosacoche" label, but kept on selling M.A.G. (Motosacoche/ Acacias/ Geneve)-engines to many well known manufacturers in France, England, Germany, Austria and Italy. In France and Italy there were even factories producing Motosacoche motorcycles under licence.

Motosacoche 2C7, 1914, 496cc, s.v.

Success in numberless racing events helped to create a solid reputation on the tracks. M.A.G. engines played an important part in Europe's motorcycling-scene, often compared with big names as J.A.P.! In 1913/14 the Matchless ohv-works-racers (more successful at Brooklands than at the T.T.) were equipped with M.A.G. engines, as well as the French G.P. winning Clement-Gladiator and Motosacoche. In the 1928 European championship the Marchant-designed o.h.c. works-racers were ridden to victory by Walter Handley in the 350 AND the 500 cc events!

Motosacoche A50 (works racer), 1928, o.h.c.

But most of Motosacoche's excellent reputation was based on motorcycles for everyday-use. From the twenties until WW2 many 250, 350 and 500 singles (mostly of i.o.e. and o.h.v. layout) and V-twins from 500 to 1000 cc (most of them with i.o.e., the 850 had s.v.) provided long and loyal service to their proud owners.

Motosacoche 304 Tourisme, 1927, 346cc, i.o.e.

Decline came in the thirties: Because of the general economic crisis the "Jubilee"-models (planned for 1930, the silver jubilee of the company) appeared about one year too late on a lethargic market. On the racing tracks the superiority of the Nortons made it more and more difficult for M.A.G. to win any important events. The enthusiasm had gone: From 1932 until the war, there was no real evolution in the Motosacoche range, besides a rather modest update of the once brilliant o.h.c. works-racers and a rather heavy rear suspension on some tourist models.

Motosacoche Jubilée Sport, 1931, 498cc, o.h.v.

During WW2 many M.A.G.-engined motorcycles and side-cars (usually with Motosacoche and Condor labels) helped the swiss army to protect the small country from the menacing conflict.

After the war there was a first attempt to come back into business with a motorbike, equipped with a 200 cc side-valve engine. This somewhat unusual vehicle was designed by Dougal Marchant (again!) and presented at the 1947 Geneva motor-show. It remained a prototype and never got produced.

Motosacoche (prototype), 1947, 200cc, s.v.

In 1953 Motosacoche gave it a last try. They bought some german U.T. motorcycles (featuring a 250 o.h.c. twin, designed by the excentric german engeneer Richard Küchen), sprayed them in their familiar khaki colour and found out they had come too late anyway. Europe was hungry for microcars, scooters and most of all CARS! By 1956 the last Motosacoche must have been sold, and the firm kept on producing engines for farm-vehicles and stationary use.

Motosacoche 212 twin, 1954, 247cc, o.h.c.

Engine identification:
Most of the 1920-40 M.A.G-engines can easily be identified by the codes on the left side of the engine.

1C means one cylinder and 2C logically two cylinders. The number-codes are usually: 10 = 250cc, 12 = 300cc, 14 = 350cc, = 500cc per cylinder. Thus a 2C12 engine must have the capacity of twice 300cc, it actually turns out to be a 600cc V-twin.

After this number you will find a letter-code as C, CN, E or K for an i.o.e. layout, or a F, G or H for an o.h.v. layout, to mention only the most important ones. There might be a number after this letter, giving the state of evolution.

The Jubilée-range shows 1C9L for 500 s.v., 1C9M for 500 o.h.v. and 85L for the 850 s.v. twin.

Works-racers and production-racers have specific codes.

MAG 1C9H Sport, 1928-39, 498 cc, o.h.v.,20 hp

Damaged blocks:
As the 500 o.h.v. M.A.G engines are quite tall, many 1C9H crankcases are badly damaged at the bottom, due to rude contact with uneven road surfaces. Try to find a 1C9K-block which is of the same casting!

After a period of hand-oilpumps the M.A.G engines became more sophistically fed with oildrops being sucked in by the vacuum below the up-going piston. In the twenties mechanically-operated simple and later double oilpumps by Best&Lloyd and Pilgrim were used. Only the Jubilée-models had closed oil-circuits, as well as most of the racers. That means, most of the surviving M.A.G-engines are greased with the rather doubtful "constant-loss" system.

Motosacoche 8HP Autosacoche, 1924, 996 cc, i.o.e.

Motosacoche design followed the leading british manufacturers in general appearance as well as in many details.

In the twenties and thirties the firm was proud to mention Terry saddles, Dunlop tyres, Brampton forks (Webb's for works- and some production-racers), Timken bearings, AMAC and later AMAL carburettors and twistgrips, Best&Lloyd and Pilgrim oilpumps, Renold's chains and John Bull knee-grips. Early gear-boxes were of Enfield design, with two or three primary-chains. Later Sturmey-Archer and Burman boxes were used, Hurth on some models.

Made in Switzerland?! Well, at least the frames, tanks, mud- and chainguards were certainly swiss-made. Most of the wheel-hubs too, but the first drum-brakes were imported from Britain!

Only Bosch was good enough to provide the ignition-sparks, swiss Scintilla on some late-thirties models. Early electric lighting was swiss (Lucifer and others), from the mid-twenties Bosch and finally Scintilla dynamos, lights and horns became standard until WW2.

Motosacoche 439 Tourisme Luxe, 1939, 498 cc, s.v.

Where and what to buy?
Of course, most of the M.A.G-engined Motorcycles can still be found on the swiss market, mostly Motosacoches and Condors of around 1930, restored and unrestored.

As everybody seems to look for a bike with a 500 o.h.v. single, you will rarely find a restored machine for less than 15'000 Euro, a complete, good restauration-project will cost about 7'000-10'000 Euro. An i.o.e. single will be cheaper, i.o.e. twins are more difficult to find and have at least the same price as an o.h.v. single. Motosacoches from 1900-1920 are getting rare and it is not easy to give a value. The post-war 250cc twins (R. Küchen's o.h.c. design) are rare, but not really sought-after.

O.h.v. production-racers (C25, C35 and C50, D35 and D50) are on a higher price-level than o.h.c. Nortons. The o.h.c. works-racers litterally have no price, simply because they don't appear on the market!

The cheapest way to get a Motosacoche is certainly to buy a Lyon-built, licensed french version. A restorable saddle-tank i.o.e. single from Motosacoche/France can be yours for 4'000-5'000 Euro.

Be prepared for a quite expensive restoration, as there are nearly no specific replica-parts produced for any Motosacoche!

Motosacoche 720 Tourisme Grand Luxe, 1939, 846 cc, s.v.

Für diese Seite verantwortlich: Alex Meyer

Text und Bilder Alex Meyer, Albis Team