Wednesday, June 25, 2008


My pal Vincent from France recently visited the M2R museum in Andorra, and among his photos from the trip is this lovely 1930 Majestic, 'The New Motorcycle', with a 350cc Chaise ohv engine. I wrote about Majestic in an earlier post, mentioning the unusual and still rare hub-center steering system.
The Majestic could be ordered with an 'alligator' or 'crackle' finish, but this is the first time I've seen a photo - the fellow with the blue Majestic at the Coupe Moto Legende (back in 2001) mentioned that he knew of an original-condition 'alligator' machine, and I suppose this must have been the bike.
This special paint job piques my interest, as I've done faux-finish painting for the past 25 years, and I don't think there's another motorcycle company which has used such an artisanal and labor-intensive paint scheme - the process is inherently unstable, as the 'crackling' is created by using a top paint layer over an incompatible 'base' paint coat. The top layer can't spread out and create a 'film' over the base coat properly, so shrinks onto itself rather than over the base coat as paint normally does. As it all dries, the alligatored topcoat ends up sticking well enough to the lower layer that the whole job doesn't simply fall apart, but it's not a finish I would recommend for a vehicle! Still, since this particular paint has apparently lasted almost 80 years, I suppose it has proven the test of time, and the tremendous skill of the artisan!

Such a job is far beyond the skill of the factory 'coach painter' of the period, who is simply concerned with applying a smooth and dust-free coat of black enamel. The Majestic finisher (and I bet it was one fellow, as their total output was very low), was undoubtedly a member of the Guild of Decorative Painters in France, which traces its lineage several hundred years - they were the folks who decorated the ceiling beams etc on all those amazing 11th - 18th century cathedrals. The Guild retains many of the habits of yore, requiring members to pierce both ears, and wear their hair long. It so happened that during my peak decorative faux-painting years, I fit the bill, and curiously, when I hired French painters to help me, so did they... but membership and details are secret, and I might be endangering myself by revealing too much already!
Having said that, isn't it fascinating that this totally unique motorcycle has a connection to the grand and very old European tradition of Guilds and artisans. It would be as if the Masons built frames and engines once cathedral-building projects dried up... perhaps Dan Brown can figure a Majestic into the next Da Vinci Code adventure!

If you'd like to see more of Vincent's photo gallery, click here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The finish would not be smooth so will harbour dust and dirt. Not easily kept clean. Nevertheless, I would paint the right bike with this finish