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FichtelSachs - Narcisse Tandem

1951 Narcisse Tandem, Type N10, powered by a 98cc Fichtel & Sachs engine. It's one of the most unusual postwar French cyclemotors.



[img]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 (both are shown to the left). During the same period Narcisse company also made a 48cc cyclemotor with an SER engine. They were based at 24 rue Alphonse Helbronner, St Ouen, Paris.

ZF Sachs AG (from

[img]On 1 August 1895, the Schweinfurter Präzisions-Kugellagerwerke Fichtel & Sachs (oHG) was founded in Schweinfurt by inventors Ernst Sachs (1867-1932) and Karl Fichtel, to produce ball bearings and bicycle hubs. In 1897, the company introduced its freewheel for bicycles, which became widely popular. By 1911, the year Fichtel died, the company had approximately 7,000 employees. In 1923, the oHG partnership was changed to a stock corporation, and the ball bearing division was sold to the SKF, a Swedish ball bearing corporation, with the condition that the production remain in Schweinfurt permanently. From 1929 to 1996, F&S also produced motors, first for bicycles, and later for motorbikes, two-stroke snowmobiles, and small cars.

Below: Fichtel & Sachs engine mounted in the bike frame.

[img]In 1929, F&S started production of automobile components, mainly clutches and shock absorbers. Ernst Sachs died in 1932, and, in 1936, his son Willy Sachs donated the Willy-Sachs-Stadion sporting arena to the city of Schweinfurt. In 1987, the German Mannesmann AG acquired the majority of F&S stock, and, in 1997, F&S was renamed to Mannesmann Sachs AG. In the early 1970s, Sachs produced the revolutionary Wankel rotary engine powered Hercules motorcycle (included in this collection).

Below: One of many vehicles driven by Fichtel & Sachs engine.

[img]In 2001, Sachs was sold to ZF Friedrichshafen AG, and renamed to ZF Sachs AG. The bicycle division was sold to a US-company, the Chicago-based SRAM corporation, leaving the Sachs division of ZF to focus on the production of automobile components for drivetrains and chassis. ZF Sachs AG is still a succesful company today.


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. I bought another one and we built a good one from the two.

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 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. That seems a practical solution for the time being.

The other seemingly insurmountable problem is the machine’s best-looking feature – the integral 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.