• Rare early four-cylinder motorcycle
• Present ownership since 1973
• An older restoration
Like BSA in Britain, La Fabrique Nationale d'Armes de Guerre ('FN', for short) began as a munitions manufacturer, turning to the production of motorcycles in 1900. Today the Belgian company is best remembered for its sensational four-cylinder models, the first of which appeared in 1904 and was first exhibited publicly at the 1905 Paris Cycle Show. Designed by Paul Kelecom, the FN was the world's first practical four-cylinder motorcycle, its smooth, almost vibration-free operation setting it apart from rival singles and v-twins. Advanced for its day, the 363cc air-cooled four featured 'atmospheric' inlet and mechanical (side) exhaust valves; a robust five-bearing crankshaft; individual crankcase oil wells ensuring adequate lubrication for the connecting rods; and reliable Bosch magneto ignition. Shaft final drive was another innovation. Supported on ball bearings, the drive shaft ran inside the right-hand frame member to a bevel gear on the rear axle. At first there was no clutch, the direct-drive machine being started by pedalling away until the engine fired. Two brakes (drum and rim-type) both operated on the rear wheel. The engine was enlarged (to 410cc) in 1906 and again in 1910, on this occasion to 498cc, and in 1911 the factory introduced its own two-speed transmission, similar to that already offered by Horstmann in Britain, which was contained within the drive-shaft housing.
This 1906 FN Four is one of a number of Veteran motorcycles purchased in November 1961 by Warren Hicks from Leadbetter's Garage, West Wyong, NSW, Australia; the FNs among them went to collector Laurie Wienert. The Wienert collection was sold circa 1970, and this FN Four was acquired from Doug Bennets by the current owner in 1973. It was then restored, a process the vendor describes as relatively straightforward given that it was mainly still assembled. The original engine though, was beyond repair; the current motor dates from 1907. In 1983 the restored FN was ridden back to the Bennets' residence that it had left ten years before.
Noteworthy features include Bowden controls, Germania headlamp, Watford speedometer, and the oil tank, which bears the badge of its maker, Lempereur & Bernard of Liège, Belgium. The pedalling gear was made under licence from Columbia in the USA, while the magneto, number '195731', was made by Bosch specifically to mount upside down on the timing case.
The machine is offered with a spare parts list, FN brochures (x2), and a (reproduction) instruction manual. There is a spare crankshaft and camshaft, drive shaft with gears, timing gears, and the original leather tool boxes available as a separate lot.