The Historical Vehicle Association’s Preservation Award was one of the top moments of the award presentation for me, not because I’m particularly interested in ancient, exorbitantly-valued motorcycles, but because owner Bryan L. Bossier, Sr. of Loozee-anna was entertaining and genuine on the mic, a much-needed respite from the forced “humor” employed by the presenters throughout the ceremony. Bossier, who owns many of the Broughs on display, described the 680, a custom-ordered machine, as—I’m paraphrasing from memory—looking like “the north end of a southbound goat.” Or maybe it was a sheep, maybe even headed a different direction. You get it.
The first documented functional motorcycle – still extant at the Sceaux Musée in Paris – was a combination of a new pedal-driven ‘boneshaker’ (invented by Pierre Michaux in 1863), and a small, single-piston, alcohol-burning steam engine built by Louis-Guillame Perreaux. Perreaux’s ‘steam velocipede’ was patented in 1869, and was capable of 30km/h, as demonstrated frequently outside his Paris workshop on rue Jean-Bart. In 1874 Perraux headlined a paper discussing his inventions (also with three wheels) as ‘a likely replacement for the equine species‘ – how correct he proved to be.
As all machines at Pebble are expected to run (and ride onto the podium in case of a prize award), starting this Harley presented a challenge, solved via the largesse of Bryan Bossier, who allowed his ‘Big Tank’ Crocker to be used as a starting mule, the two machines backed into each other and making an unforgettable racket as the HD came to smoky life. It was quite a scene, worth the price of admission – definitely the most expensive set of starter rollers Ever.
The irrepressible Bryan Bossier with his Peugeot 515. Note the chrome tank emblem – a Deco version of the Peugeot ‘lion’ logo in profile
Magnat-Debon emerged with an ultra-light racer in 1906, on which their #1 racing rider, Jules Escoffier, had success at Mt Ventoux and other important events. In 1911, Escoffier insisted M-D needed a more powerful v-twin, which they refused, so he stole Joseph Magnat’s niece along the chassis design of the Magnat-Debon, creating the ‘Mandoline’ OHV V-twin; the new Koehler-Escoffier became a French racing legend. In 1927, Raymond Guiguet designed a completely new engine for KE, with a shaft-and-bevel OHC similar to the Velocette KSS of 1925. The ‘500 GP’ had a crankcase flat ready for drilling to create a new OHC V-twin; the resultant 1927 Koehler-Escoffier ‘Quatre Tubes’ (four exhausts) is surely one of the most charismatic motorcycles of all time, although little known outside Europe, one of very few overhead-camshaft V-Twins produced before 1930. Alas only 7 were built, and while all survive, their owners are understandably covetous, and they never come up for sale.