Thursday, March 13, 2008


The French 'Majestic' is familiar to American motorcyclists who were lucky to catch the Guggenheim 'Art of the Motorcycle' show; otherwise its appearance is a mystery. I've poked around two of them - at the Guggenheim itself (which is a post waiting to happen), and the Coupes Moto Legende / Montlhery in 2000. Every Majestic seems to employ a different engine configuration, but the general layout of frame and bodywork is the same.

The concept was to create a two-wheeled conveyance which more resembled a car (think Art Deco Honda Pacific Coast), with full enclosure over all mechanicals (for cleanliness and styling), and hub-center steering via links and rods. The machine pictured (at Montlhery) uses a 350cc Chaise engine with vertical overhead valves, and the gearbox in unit. Note the cranked induction pipe and very high exhaust. Other engines were used by Majestic included JAP (350/500cc ohv and sv singles), Train (4-cyl 500cc ohv), Chaise (unit construction 350/500cc ohv), and the 4-cylinder 1000cc sv Cleveland engine pictured in the magazine scans from 'Motor Cycling' on July 10, 1929.

I have to say, this scan is a bit of a scoop over both 'The Art of the Motorcycle' and Tragatsch's 'Illustrated Encyclopedia of Motorcycles', as neither one mentions the use of the Cleveland engine (and I suspect the 'AotM' article was written using 'IEoM' as a reference!). Tragatsch gets his details a bit wrong by suggesting the bikes had rear suspension; the chassis ends in a pressed-steel rigid mounting for the rear hub. He also called it "another assembled machine [from France]", which gives short shrift to the brilliance and originality of the concept- the entire machine, barring the engine, was unique and manufactured for this purpose - only ancillaries like lights, seats, etc, were bought-in; even the hubs were custom-made, as there wasn't another hub-center steered machine of its scale. The nearest rival in specification is the Ner-A-Car, which was never as grand, and used lightweight engines - the Majestic aspired to be a motorcycling Grand Routier; a large, comfortable, and stylish tourer.

Georges Roy began motorcycle production with an unorthodox 'New Motorcycle' with a pressed steel chassis, then moved further from the mainstream, beginning production of the hub-center steered Majestic in 1929.  The machine is a brilliant Art Deco sculpture, with a swooping unbroken line from the curved front wheel beak to the sporty abbreviated tail. The side panels are punctuated by louvers like a racing car (and the bike pictured is painted Bugatti / French racing blue). As the entire chassis is pressed thin-gauge steel, the overall weight is fairly low - I would estimate from hefting and pushing one around that it weighs 350lb. The chassis is constructed using two mirror-image side pressings, rivetted together by firewalls at the front and back of the engine, with further strengthening panels beneath the engine, plus the two large, fixed top panels. The whole structure, much like a monocoque car (or a late Cosworth /Norton racer), is extremely rigid. The central engine cover is removable for access (as shown in the engine pic), and as mentioned the side members are totally louvered to keep the engine cool. There's plenty of room in the engine bay for a large motor, or even a radiator for a water-cooled machine. The petrol tank sits under the front bulkhead.

Detail shots show the arrangement of the steering and front suspension; vertical rods allow sprung movement (probably undamped), and the steering rod can be seen connected to the central hub by a 'c' shaped lever. The inside of the hub is pretty complicated, as it must incorporate very large bearings, the swiveling steering mechanism, and the front brake.
The machine pictured has a shaft drive, and the oil reservoir for the final drive can be seen in pic 5.
I had a long conversation in broken French and English about this machine, which led to all sorts of interesting diversions. Apparently some of the Majestics were hand-finished in a faux 'crackle glaze' paint job, in a kind of greenish khaki (see an example here), and some were painted normally. The metal bodywork tends to get very hot over the engine, and the steering is similar to other hub-center models (like the Ner-A-Car and OEC Duplex), in that it prefers a straight line over robust cornering.
Georges Roy claimed his designs were 'the New Motorcycle', and far-seeing enthusiasts knew enclosed motorcycles were the future...and how right they were, although a few decades ahead of time. Ascot-Pullin, Velocette (LE), Vincent (Black Prince), among many others, had similar ideas. Nowadays it's easy to buy an enclosed motorcycle, but Yamaha and Bimota are the only recent builders to address hub-center steering (many writers still consider it the future of moto-development).

The period magazine scans show a slightly different chassis layout for the Cleveland engine, using a frame much like a car - 'C' section steel channels running from the front to rear wheels, with the bodywork dropped on top. I don't know whether this was a one-off (not that many Majestic were made) for the Cleveland experiment, or perhaps this is the original frame design which evolved into the monocoque. My guess - the Cleveland was the prototype, as the magazine mentions the debut of the marque with this engine at the Paris Motor Show.


Anonymous said...

Bonjour, je suis Français et restaurateur de motos anciennes; je suis entrain de reconstruire une Majestic et j'ai plusieurs demandes pour des réplicas.
La Majestic qui est sur votre blog n'a pas le bon capot moteur ( voir photo)
A bientôt peut-être

Anonymous said...

Hello did anyone ever make the four cylinder that was talked about? I heard Bill Harrah knew where there was one in Europe i guess?

The Vintagent said...

Yes, the 4-cylinder, Cleveland-engined prototype exists! It will be featured in an upcoming Vintagent article...

F-M Dumas said...

Hi Paul, I had the chance in early seventies to interview Georges Roy, the maker of Majestic and New Motorcycle. After the New Motorcycles in 1938 & 29, G. Roy launch the first Majestic build with a car style chassis. One (and only one) special unit for himself was equipped with a 1000 Cleveland. It was then dismantled and raced without body work in Paris-Les-Pyrénées-Paris. Production Majestic were powered with single cylinder (Chaise) and 3 models for the 1930 Paris Show had a 1000 Jap V twin placed transversally with a Bridier Charron gearbox and shaft drive. Those were apparently never produced. One year after G. Roy present a simpler construction with no chassis and steel body used as a stressed member. Mainly equipped with french Chaise engine. Some replicas of both Majestic models (with and without chassis) were produced 2-3 years ago by Raymond Schneider who died since. One of this replica has been sold, without engine, to the States where it has been equipped with a Cleveland engine.

Didier MAHISTRE said...

Good-morning Paul,

Unlike our national FMD , I did not meet Georges Roy that does not stop me from doing research and having in my possession irrefutable documents and unknown to the public .
So in contrast to the intervention FMD I certfier here that Georges Roy has never built for himself , nor have Majestic Motor Cleveland. I can even write without risk that the journalist of the time have written nonsense because Georges Roy sold his concept and brand to Majestic Delachenal Etablissements newly installed in Joinville-le-Pont .
So although FMD has interwievé Georges Roy , he is mistaken in asserting that there was a Majestic- Cleveland and I Pex made ​​by the evidence.

Besides the article you posted does not speak of a Majestic but a New Motorcycle .

Want to know the history of this machine and the Cleveland Type K ?

cordially Didier Mahistre

The Vintagent said...

So, Didier, you claim the photographs from the July 1929 article in Motor Cycle magazine, reproduced here, are faked? Including photos with the bodywork removed, and photos from other magazines of Georges Roy riding this machine? Photoshop was not invented in 1928, nor are these paintings; they are photos of a real motorcycle. What would be the benefit of "journalists of the time writing nonsense?" Cui bono?

I'm sorry, but your claim makes no sense to me. A paper trail showing a transfer of ownership of the Majestic brand is one thing, but photographs and articles of the period are another.

Didier MAHISTRE said...

Désolé Paul,
Sorry Paul ,

Vous interprétez mal mes propos, cette moto n'a jamais été une Majestic, d'ailleurs l'article le confirme puisqu'il ne fait aucune mention de Majestic mais de la marque New Motorcycle.
You misinterpreting my words , this bike has never been a Majestic , moreover article confirms as it makes no mention of Majestic but Brand New Motorcycle .

Majestic était une marque déposée et non un type de moto comme mon unique New Imperia à cadre en duralumin et alliage APM qui est une DS4 ou ma Pan Européan ST1100 qui n'est qu'un type de Honda...
Majestic was a trademark and not a type of motorcycle as my only New Imperia frame duralumin alloy and APM is a DS4 or my ST1100 Pan Européan which is only one type of Honda ...

Et neuf documents d'époque inconnu sauf de moi, à l'entête de la maison Georges Roy, datés des 5, 13 et 29 mars 1929, signés de la main même de Georges Roy, ont-ils moins de valeur que cet article de journal du 10 juillet 1929 ?
And nine unknown period documents except me, to the header of the house Georges Roy, dated of 5, 13 and 29 March 1929, signed by the hand of Georges Roy, they have less value than this article newspaper of 10 July 1929?

Vous devriez noter pourtant que j'ai précisé que le moteur Cleveland était un type K, voulez-vous son numéro, ses spécificités techniques, la marque du carburateur...
You should note however that I said that the Cleveland engine was a type K , do you want her number, its technical specifications, the brand carburetor ...

Donc baptiser un bitza moderne équipé d'un moteur Cleveland, de Majestic et l'affublée de décalcomanie Majestic est une grave erreur historique.
So baptize a modern Bitza Cleveland equipped with a motor, Majestic and decked decal Majestic is a serious historical mistake .


Didier MAHISTRE said...

J'ajoute encore un petit détail qui tue, la New Motocycle présentée dans cet article porte l'immatriculation 7900 RB6 qui n'est pas donc pas une immatriculation usine ou de garage en W.
I add a small detail that kills, the New Motorcycle presented in this article is the 7900 registration RB6 is not therefore a factory license or garage W.

Elle est donc passé "Aux Mines" et a été déclaré à la préfecture de la Seine avant le 1er avril 1929 qui a édité une carte grise à la marque... avec le type M 4.
It is past " Aux Mines " and was declared to the prefecture of the Seine before 1 April 1929 which published a gray card brand ... with Type M 4 .

C'est fou ce que l'on amuse ici !
It's crazy what is fun here!

Didier MAHISTRE said...

Bonjour Paul,
Hi Paul,

N'étant pas d'accord avec notre FMD national ici, voila que François-Marie Dumas vient de m'écrire en privé ce email que je vous retransmets :
Do not agree with our national FMD here, here, François-Marie Dumas has just written to me privately that I email broadcasts it you:

To fmd fmd @ motorcycle collection Sun, May 8, 2016 11:12

Gardes tes commentaires, tu es indésirable ici (et sur le blog de Paul d’Orléans idem).
Guard your comments, you are unwanted here (and on the blog of Paul Orleans idem).

L'âge, mon dieu l'âge cela ne nous l'arrangera pas ! Je lui pardonne :-)
Age, God age that we do not arrange! I forgive him :-)

C'est sans appel, le fait d'avoir rencontré il y a des lustres George, Georges ou F. Roy lui a tourné la tête.
This is final, having met George there are chandeliers, or George F. Roy turned his head.

Bref revenons à nos moutons, Georges, George ou F. Roy.
Anyway back on topic, George, George and Roy F.

Voici un courrier a entête daté on peut y lire George :
Here is a letter dated header one can read George :


Mais la signature est encore plus amusante :
But the signature is even more fun:

Alors que l'extrait de son acte de naissance nous donne :
While the extract of his birth gives us:


Son prénom usuel était donc Fernand, Georges pour l'état civil, mais avec New Motorcycle et Majestic... Georges s'était d'un commun aussi se baptisa-t-il George Roy, avec l'accent so british, ça cadrait mieux !

His first name was therefore Fernand Georges to civil status, but with New Motorcycle and Majestic ... Georges had mutually also baptized there George Roy, with the accent so British , it fit better!

Personnalité complexe que ce Ferdinand, Georges, George ROY !
complex personality that Ferdinand , George, George ROY !

Didier Mahistre

Didier MAHISTRE said...

Hi Paul,

Comment peut-on mettre sur votre site des documents iconographiques incontestable.
How can you put on your site indisputable iconographic documents.