Sunday, January 17, 2010


At the 2009 Coupes Moto Legende in Dijon, I was very pleased to meet Jean Claude Barrois, although we had very little to say... a mutual language barrier made conversation impossible. I had seen Jean Claude's impressive Rudge special on the Southsiders M.C. blog, and was most please to discover the 1926-ish Terrot 'HSS', which his talented hands had also shaped, albeit hewing much closer to the catalog standard.

Let's call it an enthusiast's restoration, which captures the spirit of the Brooklands/Montlhéry Clubmen of the 1920s; racers who modified their own machines, perhaps hottted-up road models used for daily transport. The only commercial prospects available to the average racer of the day were bonuses from suppliers of ancillary parts - chains, spark plugs, oils, tires. For these companies, success on the track was cheap and effective advertising, for they realized claims on paper have been seen with a jaundiced eye since well before the dawn of the motorcycle, but components which stood up to a 'Hutchinson 100' or 'Six-Hour' race were surely up to snuff. A canny racer would contract with representatives of these companies (Dunlop, KLG, Lodge, Castrol, Lucas, BTH, etc) for reduced price parts or, if the rider was promising, free components for racing, and any success would be touted in the following week's Motor Cycle or Moto Revue.

Jean Claude's Terrot dates from the Golden Age of French motorcycle racing, when Terrot (of Dijon) was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in France, and produced a wide range of machines, using J.A.P. (as on the HSS) or engines of their own make. The 'dog ear' racing J.A.P. 350cc ohv engine as used in this machine was the gold standard for engines supplied to other manufacturers, although many other manufacturers vied for the top spot (Blackburne, Bradshaw, M.A.G., etc).

The HSS was Terrot's flagship model of the late Vintage period, produced from 1925-28; the 'H' designates 350cc with overhead valves, the 'SS' of course for Super Sports. While early models used the 'dog ear' racing J.A.P. engine, in 1928 Terrot used their own ohv 350cc motor in the model, which grew a saddle tank in 1929 and became something else concert with the rest of the motorcycle industry, the trend towards saddle-tanks and more durable components meant the Terrot and every other machine grew heavier and more reliable with time... but with little additional power, overall performance grew less charming.

The HSS could be supplied with full road equipment, as was the norm for hot sporting bikes of the day, although most catalog advertising shows the machine stripped down for the track. Described as suitable for 'grand tourisme' (in the European sense - ie, tearing up the roads!) or 'competitions sportives', the HSS would not have disappointed in either role. The layout of the machine is strictly of the English pattern, and a quick comparison with contemporary D.O.T., A.J.S., or Sunbeam would show immediate kinship, with Druid-pattern side-spring forks, a shapely flat tank nestled between the frame rails, narrow tires and mudguards, and a lightweight, open-diamond frame.

The all-up weight of the stripped-down model was 95kg, which compares well with its sports/racing rivals. Top speed of an unmolested machine would be on the order of 120km/h (72mph), although certainly with some competent attention 85mph was possible, and the hand of a truly gifted tuner plus alcohol fuel would bring the 'ton' within reach, which is of course what every prospective owner and daydreaming schoolboy would be thinking... like any object of fantasy (metal or flesh), we're most inspired by the best-case scenario!

Thanks to Vincent Prat of Southsiders M.C. for his beautiful photographs.


knossos said...

my, what a big wrench you have! ;) (photo #4) Great bike. Loved his Rudge too. I was just staring at photos of it last night.

YJH said...

M. Barrois is a true Gentleman Biker
He is all about the authentic spirit of Motorcycling
thank you for this outstanding post

Coyote Man said...

What a great moment last year, when Jean Claude presented this fabulous bike during the Coyote Days meeting.
I invited of course Jean-Claude and his wife to my meeting, because it was so exiting to organize the traveling shooting and also many thanks to Jean-Claude because he proposed me to make a track run with this Terrot and I never found the time to ride it....Thanks also to the Southsiders org and the team spirit.

Erasmus Thump said...

This article and accompanying photographs sent chills down my spine. Aside from being an unabashed advocator of my own machinery, I have always held a soft sport for French machines. As a result, I have come to own a 1929 Terrot/JAP test machine that uses a 1926 HSS JAP motor. I also have its sister machine, a much modified 1929 Magnat Debon. This machine was originally a 200cc lightweight before having a motor transplant from a 1937 BSSP.
The first machine has no verifiable heritage beyond that of the buyer who used to work at Terrot and bought it at auction when the company went bust. the second machine is a snapshot of a single man's quest for speed...with little wonga to support the habit. this second machine has many aftermarket bits including Arex foot shifter and Terrot racing cam. but the last modification is the engine from 1937.
I was, er, predisposed at that time so I know little of the machine's real history after 1929 to be honest...but what would the world be without a little mystery.

Anonymous said...

Hello all, great article and lovely machine. I have a question, I have bought a Terrot model L from a friend, it was his fathers and I cannot work out what all the levers are for, we believe the two on the right handside of the handle bars are throttle, top, and choke below this.....but the lever on the right ?? Plus a smaller separate one ?
Any ideas, when we finally get it kicked over it just runs too high then cuts off.