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Encyclopedia > FN (motorcycle)

FN (Fabrique Nationale de Herstal) was a Belgian company established in 1899 to make arms and ammunition, and was from 1901 to 1967, also a motorcycle manufacturer, the world's first to manufacture a four cylinder motorcycle[1], famous for the use of shaft drive in all models from 1903 to 1923, successful in sprint and long distance motorcycle racing, and, after 1945, motocross. [2] Fabrique Nationale de Herstal, more often known as Fabrique Nationale and abbreviated simply as FN or FN Herstal originated in the Belgian city of Herstal, near Liège. ...


Early FN motorcycle history

In 1899 FN made shaft and chain driven bicycles, and in 1900 a clip-on engine was experimented with. In December, 1901 the first 133 cc single cylinder motorcycle was built, followed in 1903 by a shaft driven 188 cc single cylinder motorcycle. In 1904 a 300 cc single cylinder motorcycle was produced. In 1909 the two speed singles had camshafts to open the inlets, instead of the earlier “automatic” valves. Starting from 1912 the Singles had a hand lever clutch and foot pedal rear brake. [3]

The FN Four

In 1905 the first 362 cc shaft drive in-line FN inlet-over-exhaust four cylinder motorcycle appeared, designed by Paul Kellercom. This was the world's first manufactured four cylinder motorcycle.[1] By 1907 the Four engine had grown to 412 cc, and that year's single cylinder 244 cc FN motorcycle was the first bike with a multiple ratio belt drive system, using a patented variable size engine pulley. For 1908, the US Export model began manufacture. The Four had a 493 cc engine, and in 1910 that became 498 cc.[3] This bike weighed 75kg (165 lb) dry, and could do 40mph (64kph). [1]The 1913 Fours had a two speed gearbox and clutch, at the rear of the shaft drive, and bicycle pedals were permanently replaced with footrests from then on. For 1914 the FN “Type 700” 748 cc Four was released, with the gearbox at the rear of the engine.[3] The IOE (intake over exhaust) engine, also known as F-head and pocket valve, is a 4-stroke internal combustion type of primitive design. ...

After WWI

By the end of World War I, after having to manufacture motorcycles for their occupiers[1], FN had few parts left, and some suppliers had gone. From 1921 the letter "T" was added to model names. The Type 700T Four had a three speed gearbox. In 1922 the Type 285TT single had an improved cylinder head . Also the first racer, the Type VII was built. [3] Combatants Allied Powers: British Empire France Italy Russia United States Central Powers: Austria-Hungary Bulgaria Germany Ottoman Empire Commanders Ferdinand Foch Georges Clemenceau Joseph Joffre Victor Emmanuel III Luigi Cadorna Armando Diaz Nicholas II Aleksei Brusilov Herbert Henry Asquith Douglas Haig John Jellicoe Woodrow Wilson John Pershing Wilhelm II Paul...

From 1924 all models had the less expensive chain drive. Most of these were sv and ohv 348 cc and 498 cc singles. There were also 596 cc ohv machines. From 1924 FN single cylinder engines changed from semi unit construction (as seen in the last semi-unit single, the 1922 FN 285TT, in its last year of sale in 1924,) to unit construction engines (as seen in the new-for-1924 M.60). A new chain driven M.50 Four was released with a new Amac carburettor and front brakes.[4] In 1931 a Villiers 198 cc two-stroke FN model appeared. Dougal Marchant joined the FN firm in 1930, and he created some very rapid 348 cc and 498 cc ohc racing singles. Van Hout developed these in the following years, and in 1937 designed a supercharged 498 cc vertical twin ohc racer, ridden in 1938 by Ginger Wood. [2] In 1938 the M.12 992 cc air-cooled sv flat twin was built for military use, and the all alloy M.11 was released in 350 cc ohv, 500 cc sv and 600 cc sv models. Then World War II intervened. An M.12 Tri-car was developed and produced for military use.[4] Triumph Bonneville T120 engine Unit construction is a term used to describe motorcycle or motor car engine design where both the engine and gearbox are an integrated unit within the same casing. ...

After WWII

After the War FN built unit construction sv and ohv 249 cc, 344 cc, 444 cc, and 498 cc models, and two-stroke models from 49 cc singles, to 248 cc twins. The two-stroke models used German JLO engines. The semi-unit engined Tri-car was released for civilian commercial use as the Tri-car T-8, with a five speed gearbox. In 1947 the M.XIII was available in 250 cc ohv, 350 cc ohv, 350 cc sv, 450 cc ohv, and 450 cc sv configurations. The first model used an unusual patented Swiss coil sprung girder front fork and a new rubber rear suspension. In 1948 the Swiss forks were replaced with an adaptation of the rubber rear suspension, which was itself replaced with an improved version. In 1951 the option of telescopic forks was introduced. In 1954 a swing arm frame was introduced. By 1958 the M.XIII toolbox was part of the fuel tank.[5]

There was some success in motocross, with riders like Mingels, Leloup, and R Beaten, but FN withdrew from competition in the 1950s.[2]

Famous designers who have worked for FN include Paul Kelecom, Van Hout, Dougal Marchant, and George-William Pratchett.[2]

Famous pre-war racers associated with FN include Kicken, Flintermann, Lovinfosse, Lempereur, Sbaiz, De Grady, Milhoux, Charlier, Demuiter, Noir, Van Gent, Renier, S “Ginger” Wood, Walter Handley, Edward Mellors, and Abarth.[2]


In 1955 FN introduced a line of outsourced mopeds, built by Royal Nord. For the Type-S, 100 cc and 200 cc two-stroke engines were sourced from Sarolea. In 1959 in-house FN mopeds appeared, the Utilitaire, Luxe, Fabrina, Princess, and a sport model, the "Rocket".[5]

End of FN motorcycle production

Sometime between 1962 and 1966 the M.XIII ceased production. FN last exhibited at a motorcycle show in 1965. Production ceased in 1966. In May 1967 the last FN moped left the factory .[5]


  1. ^ a b c d [1]Is-it-a-lemon.com FN Four (Retrieved December 14 2006)
  2. ^ a b c d e Title: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Motorcycles, Editor: Erwin Tragatsch, Publisher: New Burlington Books, Copyright: 1979 Quarto Publishing, Edition: 1988 Revised, Pages: 136 to 137, ISBN 0-90628-607-7
  3. ^ a b c d [2] FN History 1902 – 1924 (Retrieved 13 December 2006)
  4. ^ a b [3] FN History 1924 - 1945 (Retrieved 13 December 2006)
  5. ^ a b c [4] FN History 1945 - 1965 (Retrieved 13 December 2006)



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