The Givaudan Story

(Click the photo to see a larger picture in a slide show.)


My Givaudan was manufactured around 1904 by C.Givaudan in Lyon, France. It has a genuine frame number of 163, with the engine being unnumbered at the time of acquisition. Since then I have numbered the engine as 163 in order to keep the DVLA happy. My machine has an automatic inlet valve and is measured at 70 x 70 - 270cc. In 1904 it was available at a cost of 750F, whilst a Zedel engined engined Griffon cost 900F and the Peugeot vee twin cost 975F. So, the Givaudan was competitively priced.

Claude Givaudan, the manufacturer, was extremely interested in Aeronautics and it is believed that he used the motorcycle side of his business to develop engines for his aeroplanes. Few machines were made, but engines were supplied to other manufacturers in France, such as Terrot, L’albatros, and Francaise Diamant(including a vee twin). Also, New Century, who were in St Albans, in the UK, offered Givaudan engined machines, according to one source. They built the Clarke racer and World record holder that was fitted with the 70 x 70 Givaudan motor. Roger Bird at the Brooklands Museum did wonder how the Givaudan 70 x 70 engine managed to take a world record, but I was able to confirm that my engine is quite free reving, and has a good turn of speed.

Whilst the stem and tank badges of my Givaudan clearly state ‘C.Givaudan’ it was a family business. Tragatsch quotes Givaudan as operating in London from 1908 and using Villiers engines – this entry in the Tragatsch encyclopedia should be viewed with suspicion as to its accuracy and is a mistake, I believe, which has been perpetuated in further publications. Hugo Wilson also quotes ‘Givaudan 1902-03’ under unconfirmed French Marques. Quite where Hugo got his information from, I don’t know, and having contacted him, he can’t remember.

Anyway, back in the 1970’s, somewhere in the Pyrenees sat a convertible touring car for sale. A Belgian doctor-collector from the Charleroi vicinity in Belgium was interested in buying it, and to get it, he had to “take” a Givaudan motorcycle as well. That way my Givaudan went to Belgium and ended up in a cellar to rest near an enormous Terrot engine. It is not clear as to the date that the Givaudan arrived in Belgium, but it must be the seventies at the latest. The following two photographs show the unrestored state of the Givaudan at that time.

By 1984 some restoration had taken place. From Photographs below, the Givaudan had only had a cosmetic restoration; the pedal axle had been repaired and the exhaust pipe badly copied – also, by 1984 the restoration had already faded. Even being stored in a dry cellar there was a lot of rust starting to show on the bars, suspension and brakes etc.

After a row between the doctor’s widow and son, “Mam I know that I cannot sell anything out of my dad’s collection, so I’m swapping it…..” An advert was placed in the CMB magazine – it read, “An 1898 motorcycle to be swapped against a pre-war 500cc motorcycle”, and Dirk Praet from Lede, Near Aalst, took the bait. He swapped his 1939 Norton 16H – Precision combination for the Givaudan. Willy Kesteleyn and Dirk retrieved the Givaudan from the cellar around 1983. The following photos were taken of the bike, on it's arrival with Dirk:

This photo shows the Givaudan on display at the Wieze Moto Retro in 1985, after Dirk had acquired the bike and before any re-restoration had started:

Dirk was not a man who was into restoring machines so he handed the job to Bernard Godfirnon. The restoration took two years and when the machine was returned to Dirk it was fully restored, cosmetically – but it would not run. The following photos were taken during the restoration:

Having spent a lot of money on the bike, Dirk put the machine on display in his flat above his business. At first it was hung on the wall but his children kept knocking their heads on the pedals etc as they walked past, so, the machine was put on display in the kitchen, with a potted palm at each end.

I now came into the story and in 1990, along with a few other VMCC section members, we attended and rode in the CMB clubs 9-Provinces weekend. Dirk was the main organiser and spoke to us. I told him that I had a 1902 Clement-Garrard and he immediately invited me to view his 1904 C Givaudan. When I first saw the bike, I fell in love; it was a real beauty and looked splendid under the spotlights in the kitchen of Dirks flat.

Dirk and I became good friends and visited each other fairly often, plus we attended the 9-Provinces event in Belgium most years. We often discussed the Givaudan and the fact that I would like it. Dirk eventually agreed to a swap, but he could not decide as to what he would like as an exchange. During one of our visits I had a good look at the Givaudan and found that it was fitted with an energy transfer ignition coil in a trembler coil setup. I explained to Dirk what the problem was and he then managed to find someone to correct the problem by fitting a suitable coil and the bike then ran for the first time.

Dirk did a few rallies with the machine but it did not run well at all and parts fell off the bike and were lost. 

The first photo below was taken whilst Dirk was riding an event in Holland; The second photo showing Fred van den Burgh repairing a puncture during the 13th Ibbenburen veteran rally in Germany in 1993.

By now Dirk was really fed up with the Givaudan and what it had cost him, so I was told that a Sunbeam S7 would be acceptable as a swap. I soon found one of those and rebuilt it as new inside, but kept it original outside, as Dirk preferred his bikes to be as original as possible.

Another good Belgian friend, Pierre Gyselinck, brought the Givaudan to Wales in 1999. The bike was not in a good state and needed to be stripped and rebuilt properly. 

The following are some of Dirks notes on his search for Givaudan information over the years. The notes were originally written in Flemish and then translated by Pierre Gyselinck for me.

In the mean time I’m looking for everything about Givaudan, and find nearly nothing.

In 1985 I find in the Musée de Falmignoul a quadricyle, Renault or Peugeot with a huge single cylinder Givaudan engine. Some time later the owner dies, and the heir quickly sells the collection to avoid the succession debts, the car disappears into thin air….

Bill Phelps sent me a copy of page 497 of magazine “The Motor” (issue of 16/12/1903), stating: “G. Givaudan, Lyons. In addition to a good display of motors some of which have two cylinders several complete motorcycles are shown by his maker. These vary in power from 2 to 3 h.p., and, although well designed and made, they are not distinguished by any remarkable departure from the standard types”.
That Givaudans had been sold outside France is proved with the following advert in “The Motor Cycle” (suppl. IV) on page 26 Advertisements, issue of 21/05/1906 where among makes such as Singer, FN four, Royal Enfield, Kelecom, Bradbury, Ariel, Chater-Lea, Werner, Gobron-Minerva, Rex, Riley Triumph, Kerry, Beeston-Humber, Antoine 6HP…….
”Givaudan, 2 ½ HP, 70mm by 74mm, 19 in. frame, 26 in. wheels, long bars, etc.; £12, 40 Woodville Road, Thornton Heath”.
Prices of second hand motorcycles varied in those days from £8 to £33 (makes your mouth water don’t they!)

1903, Terrot’s clients can choose out of three engines, Zedel, Faure or Givaudan (2HP).

On the 1993 Pentecost event in Ibbenbüren, (one day, 90 Km with the 1904 Givaudan), a German told me that he had a “La Française Diamant” motorcycle with a twin cylinder Givaudan engine. This was the first time ever he came across another Givaudan.

Yves Campion tells me that there is another Givaudan in the “Musée Chapleur” in Lunéville (near Nancy). A visit tells me that it’s a 1900 water cooled tricycle. I’m not allowed to take any pictures, but never the less I did. In the meantime the museum is gone. (BP note: The Museum is now near Metz)

Another Givaudan is found with Mister Callenvels, Grootenbroek, Holland.(BP note:– this bike is a Terrot)

Though a slight deception, the engine is twice as big, maybe 400cc plus, and they “modernized” it with an “open magneto”, whilst mine got a Ford trembler ignition

It remains quiet for quite a while, although I did several runs in Germany, Holland and Belgium until Mr. Luk Ryckaert makes me happy with a lot of Givaudan information. He had been strolling around in France and returned with a rich loot, Givaudans were found:

Musée Henri Martre, Rochetaillée-sur-Saône
Musée château de savigny les beaune
Run in Sorgues. The owner is Mr. Thomas, friend of Pascal Roby.

The magazine “La vie de la Moto” (nr 162, June 1995), publishes an article on Mr. Claude Thomas; according to him there are three known Givaudans in France, maybe another one in Switzerland. Givaudan made motorcycles powered from 2, 2.5 (two types), 3 to 4.5 HP.

On the Leek-Assen-Leek Run, (which I finished, Yves Campion pedalled his FN to the finish), a Mr. X (I have to find his name), claims to have information about Givaudan… I have to pay money in advance, I do not trust him.

Riding those runs made a lot of damage and breakdowns; broken bars (fatigue of the metal?). A worn out sprocket wheel made me push start the motorcycle, luckily Jef Wuyts made a nice copy. Patrick Fransen solved the battery troubles (empty after a couple of minutes); he builds a trembler which uses just a fraction of power.

As no other motorcycle bares the Givaudan-logo on the tank and the stem, it makes me think that Terrot, Française Diamant and others just used the Givaudan engine. Maybe there is someone “out there” who knows the answers.

Dirk Praet,


When you want to dig further, maybe you have to go and find an enthusiastic around the Lyon’s airfield who is prepared to look up things related to Givaudan, who was, in his days, a well known engineer who founded the aero club and field tested his motorcycles also for flying purposes.

(Translation Pierre Gyselinck)

These photos were taken soon after the rebuild carried out by myself: The round box bolted to the frame in front of the engine is a period accessory for carrying a spare inner tube.

I needed to arrange a UK registration number and obtained a certificate from the VMCC that the machine was 1904 – that was the date that I supplied as a suggestion. The Sunbeam club, also, took my suggested date of 1904 for the Pioneer register, whilst the Science museum dated the bike as 1904, based on what the VMCC and Sunbeam Clubs had said.

After the re-build the first outing for the Givaudan was in the 2004 Banbury run, see the photo to the left.

I found that the engine would run fine at up to 10 mph – above that, misfiring occurred. No matter what I did I could not get the engine to run properly, however, the bike climbed all the hills, thank goodness, albeit slowly.

One problem that occurred was that the machine, despite starting with a full tank, ran out of fuel after 28 miles on the 35 mile veteran route.

To finish, I removed the belt and pedalled to the next checkpoint where I siphoned some fuel from the tank of one of the marshal’s motorcycles, which enabled me to run the last few miles back to the finish.

Some more work when I got home and I diagnosed that the trembler coil ignition system was the main problem. So I fitted the bike with a ‘normal’ set of points adapted from a Villiers Junior De Luxe flywheel magneto, plus an 'ordinary' 6v coil. I then found that the engine would now run cleanly, and at well above its previous 10 mph.

So, the 2005 Banbury was entered and the bike ran much better and gained a Silver Award. One main problem still remained and that was the fuel consumption – 25-28 miles again on a full tank, but this time I had some spare fuel with me - note the red can on the carrier in the photos.

Eventually, I discovered that the problem was simply due to vibration, the carb flooded when the engine was running on the road. This was due to the float needle not sealing the fuel supply. The carb is a new one that Dirk had made by Willem Pol in Holland – unfortunately, the original carb never came back, so comparisons could not be made.

I remade the needle and seat, several times, but things only improved slightly. The Dutch arrangement in the new carb for float control was that used by AMAL in their 276 float chambers and was a case of the float trying to pull the cone on the bottom of the needle up, so as to seal the bottom fuel feed.

I had contact with David Plant on the Isle of Man, who owns a Givaudan engined Terrot and David kindly stripped the Longuemare carb on his Terrot and took photographs and measurements of the float control etc.
I also found, in a book by Victor Page, titled ‘Early Motorcycles’, a line drawing of a Longuemare carb and from that it was obvious that the needle arrangement in the float chamber of my Dutch made replica carb was totally wrong. So, the next job was to remake the float chamber setup and run again in the Banbury for 2006.

The Longuemare system had a weighted needle that sank into a taper to cut off the fuel supply. As the fuel was used, the float came down and pressed down on two rockers that lifted the weighted needle allowing more fuel into the chamber.

Success – I still had nearly half a tank of fuel left at the end of the run and the bike ran very well, despite the unsympathetic route and the hills, which have put me off ever riding the Banbury again with the Givaudan.

Other Givaudans

I have photographs and notes of a number of different Givaudan engined motorcycles and a number of separate engines, but, apart from mine, the ex-Claude Thomas bike and the one in the Henri Malatre collection near Lyon, the others are mostly Terrots. Not forgetting the Chapleur collection tricar, which may or may not be of Givaudan manufacture.

Benoit Gonin
Manufactured in the Lyon area from 1907 to 1929. Used  Zedel, MAG, Anzani as well as Vee twin Givaudan engines. Production was around 2 machines per week from the 20 employees.


The L'Albatros, in their 1905/06 catalog of general supplies H.Billouin (L'Albatros) offers the single cylinder Givaudan engine – another make to use Givaudan engines.

La Francaise Diamant

Complete Givaudan motorcycles

In the Henri Malatre collection, Rochetaillée-sur-Saône, France (just north of Lyon). Note the distinctive Givaudan chainwheel extension to enable the crank to clear the ignition housing.

There are some slight differences between this engine and mine, such as the horizontal exhaust port angle and the spark plug being at the rear of the cylinder.

This is the Givaudan - owned by a Mr Claude Thomas, as mentioned in Dirk Praet's notes - followed by newspaper scans of the same bike: It is now believed to be in Switzerland, but the exact whereabouts have not been confirmed. There is a You-Tube video from Jean Schoenner from about 2011, but I still do not know the whereabouts of the bike. Please let me me know if you have knowledge of the Givaudan: you tube video

Givaudan engined Terrots

Seen at the Musée Moto Vélo - Chateau de Bosc Domazan - France (to the West of Avignon, in the South of France)

In a collection on the Isle of Man

The following Terrot seems to be trying to attain full Givaudan manufacture. The third photo below appeared on Dutch Wikipedia as a Givaudan - since corrected. This bike is the one known to have been owned by a Mr Callenfels, Grootenbroek, Holland, it is believed that it then went to the Dutch 'Yesterdays' dealer for a short time - and subsequently has appeared for sale, in France, claiming to be a Givaudan, with 'Givaudan' now written on the tank. Mr Callenfels borrowed the original tank badge from my Givaudan and returned two silver replicas cast from it - the original badge was not returned and has not been seen since. One of the silver badges was fixed to the tank of my Givaudan in place of the original and the second badge was used by attaching it to the steering head. This givaudan has been listed as 360cc and was catalogued as 1906/7 by Yesterdays before being withdrawn from sale.

Back in 1903/4 Fanir used to supply Triumph in Coventry with their engines and no doubt, due to sizeable orders, even replaced the crankcase casting to say 'Triumph', rather than 'Fafnir'. It would appear that Givaudan did the same for Terrot , who was their largest engine customer. The following photos are taken from a short article in La Vie De La Moto edition 1st April 1992.

Interestingly, the Terrot above uses the same exhaust pipe as in the Claude Thomas bike, as described under Givaudan motorcycle above. That raises a question mark over the Claude Thomas Givaudan - as it may well be a Terrot, but it is fitted with a Givaudan chainwheel, so further research needs to be done on that bike. The magneto drive is a later modification. Note the chainwheels, the Terrot one is built up with bolts and spacers, whilst the Givaudan one uses a solid casting to extend the pedal out far enough to clear the Ignition housing, which is missing in the photo.

The above egines are again similar with "Terrot et Cie" cast into the crankcase of the second one. This 4.5 hp engine appears in the Terrot 1905 catalog (see also on page 139 of C.Reynaud's book: "The prehistory of the motorcycle"), but, from 1906, it was replaced by a Zedel, V-twin engine. That same year Terrot also offered a Clement engine.

The Lyon manufacturer Givaudan, in addition to his own motorcycles (see Moto Revue No. 716), fabricated engines at its factory or (against the payment of royalties?) to the mark of another manufacturer, Terrot in this case. At the moment it is not known if any other Givaudan engine bears a brand other than Terrot.

Givaudan engines

An engine in the Musée château de savigny les beaune, France (South of Dijon)

A 500cc(possibly may be 344 or 360cc) engine currently in France.
Similar engine timing chest to that in the Terrot as mentioned above.
Photos courtesy of Jean-Luc Lamouroux

A water cooled engine seen in Chamery, France and offered for sale

Another water cooled Givaudan motor

1904 Givaudan motor, whereabouts uncertain

Givaudan Vee Twins

A water cooled Vee Twin engine, believed to be in the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Seen in the Chapleur collection in Metz(well worth a visit) is this Givaudan engined tri-car, listed as a Givaudan from 1900 - at least two years before Givaudan is believed to have started production. Whilst the engine is clearly marked as Givaudan, the cycle parts may not be, certainly 1900 seems to be too early as a date for a Givaudan engine with both valves being mechanically operated? More likely to be a post 1905/6 engine. Certainly Givaudan persisted with AIV and  this engine is the only known one that has a mechanically operated inlet valve. The Tricar could do with a much closer inspection.

Claude Givaudan

The following is the research that I have collated  on Claude Givaudan, the man:

Givaudan, Claude; born 16th September 1872 in Caluire-et-Cuire, a suburb of Lyon, France.

Claude was an engineer who provided his vast culture to the service of science. He registered a large number of patents relating to a wide variety of inventions from aerospace to chemistry.

In 1903 he took over, as an engine manufacturer, the workshop where Claude Rochet and the Francisca brothers built their cars at 40 rue Sainte Genevieve, Lyon. Claude produced and supplied engines to other maufacturers, as well as making complete motorcycles branded with his own name. At the Paris Show of 1903, he exhibited a selection of 2hp and 3hp engines, including some vee twins, along with several examples of his own motorcycles.

In May 1909, he built several airplane prototypes of unusual design, and known as a Tandem Drum design, but none really flew (patent No. 398943 January 29, 1909). A famous aviator of the time, Adolphe Pegoud, seeing the airplane commented by saying that he only had one fear: that it would actually take off.

The engines in these airplanes, including a V8, were designed and created entirely by Givaudan, who was then working as an engineer at the Vermorel factory (Villefranche sur Saone, a town just north of Lyon). He had been hired by Victor Vermorel in 1906 to develop the company moving it from a traditional method of cars manufacturing to a small assembly line.

The coloured picture above was taken from an aviation book with the following descriptive notes attached:

Built by French aviation enthusiast Givaudan, during early 1909 at the Vermorel factory in Villefranche; this very peculiar and totally impractical aeroplane consisted of two concentric drums, united by small, radiating planes spaced uniformly apart, which acted as both lifting and stabilizing surfaces. These multi-cellular structures mounted near the ends of a framework fuselage that passed through the centre of each and fitted at it’s forward end a tractor screw of 2.4m diameter, driven from the motor through reduction gears. The control system was extremely original. By means of a universal joint, the forward cell was connected to the fuselage, thus movable in every direction; while the rear cell remained stationary. The machine rested on four wheels,the front pair being steerable. Doubtful to as ever have flown; the 5.8m Givaudan multicell plane was powered by a 40hp, air cooled vee 8 Vermorel motor weighing 80 kgs of Givaudan’s own design.

In 1910, Givaudan won the Eiffel prize of the Aero Club of France and the first prize of the Aero Club of Belgium.

In 1911 he received his balloon pilot license: number 111.

In 1912 he founded a military school for aircraft mechanics in Lyon (apparently the first in the world) taking the role of director.

From 1904 to his death on the 30th October 1945, he was secretary and vice president of the Aero Club of the Rhone but kept patenting designs together with his son Emile until 1944.

A variety of Givaudans mentioned in some 'for sale' adverts and reports etc:

The Motor - 16th December 1903(note: Claude is incorrectly noted as G.Givaudan)

The Motor Cycle - 21st May 1906

The Motor Cycle - 28th February 1908

The Motor Cycle - 1st April 1908

The Motor Cycle - 15th April 1908

The Motor Cycle - 10th June 1908

The Motor Cycle - 15th July 1908

The Motor Cycle - 5th August 1908

The Motor Cycle - 30th Sept 1908

The Motor Cycle - 28th July 1909

The Motor Cycle - 27th October 1909

The Motor Cycle - 15th November 1909

Finally - a World Record

It was reported in ‘The Motor Cycle’ of 1st Sept 1910 that W.Chitty at the BMCRC speed trials on the 17th August 1910 had set world speed records of:

52.67mph over the Kilometre
51.78mph over the Mile

Using a 70mm x 70mm Givaudan engine of 270cc

Whilst the engine is undoubtedly Givaudan, it is believed that the frame is of British Manufacture as it was seen in later years with several different engines fitted and there are no similarities with any known Givaudan made frame. I suspect that this photo is of the actual Givaudan engined New Century racer that D.R. Clarke used in 1908/9.
Interestingly there was a note in ‘The Motor Cycle’ of the 2nd Feb 1911 where a correspondent asked: “Why did Chitty, in the speed trials, use a 1906 Givaudan to make his world records and Collier a 1908 JAP”

With thanks to Pierre Gyselinck, Dirk Praet, Giovanni Orlando, Ken Hallworth and Roger Bird at the Brooklands museum for all their help and research.

Bill Phelps - August 2015