Gnome et Rhone - AX 2
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Gnome et Rhone D2-492-09-04
Photo ou archives : F-M. Dumas

Capacity : 800
Model : AX 2
Production : 1938 - 1945
Category : (On-Off) Military

Gnome & Rhône

800 AX 2 / Powered-Wheel Bernardet Sidecar -1939

From Paris to Dakar - in 1939!

 As World War II loomed, every European nation was developing military motorcycle combinations with powered sidecar wheels. Belgium started the trend with their FN and Sarolea outfits; then came the Germans with their Zundapp and BMW Afrika Korps or "Type Russia," the English with their Norton "Big Four," the Italians with their Gilera Marte - and the French with the Gnome & Rhône 800 AX 2, a heavy, crude and virtually indestructible machine that had all the potential of its foreign rivals.

The Test of Paris-Dakar

Launched in 1936, the AX 2 went into production in 1937; there were several versions. The potential of the Gnome & Rhône was demonstrated in 1939, when an AX 2 successfully traveled a route that was to become an off-road legend - Paris-Dakar. Though the AX 2 was not really a true off-road machine, it had the advantage over its German rivals of having an ample ground clearance, which enabled it to get through where even a jeep might flnd difficultiesprovided that its rider was an expert, since the sidecar's principal fault was that only an experienced rider could get the best out of it.

Well-Matched Combination

Efficient without being outstanding in any particular respect, the Gnome & Rhône AX 2 was one of the best-matched military sidecar outfits. It's a pity it was also the last ·'big banger" from this famous French marque, which is nowadays known as "SNECMA" and has returned to its roots, the manufacture of airplane engines.


Engine: air-cooled 800cc (80x80 mm) flat-twin four-stroke

Valves: side

Fuel System: carburetor

Transmission: 4-speed, shaft drive to rear and sidecar wheels

Suspension: rubber-sprung girder rork (front); rigid (rear)

Brakes: drum (from and rear)

Wheels: wire

Weight: 697 lb

Maximum Speed: 56 mph

The wheel of the Bernardet sidecar fitted to this Gnome & Rhône military motor-cycle features a declutching mechanism.


Motorcycle encyclopedia Moto Passion, realised by François-Marie Dumas, include almost 2000 photos presented with an exhaustive history of the motorcycles exhibited.

This unique collection has been realised with the participation of many specialists. With many thanks in particular to Yves Campion, Michael Dregni, Didier Ganneau, Jean Goyard, Helmut Krackowizer, Michel Montange, Christian Rey, Bernard Salvat, Mick Woollett, etc

One can order here

  • Original cards on paper (in french)
  • High resolution scans or original documents presented and signed with my name.

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François-Marie Dumas

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