Photo ou archives : F-M. Dumas
Gnome & Rh么ne
Beating the tax man
Europe has always had a soft spot for smallcapacity utility motorcycles, well-suited to the generally high rates of gas taxes. Typical was the little Gnome & Rh么ne R4 range, developed from the 98cc Model R of 1941.
Any Color You Like
In its standard black livery, the R4 was a mournful-looking machine, whose design was as unadventurous as the choice of color. It had a simple cradle frame, and when rear suspension at last became available, on the 1953 R4C, it was a simple plunger layout with a grudging 2 inch travel. Moreover, Gnome & Rh么ne continued to produce the R4B with a rigid rear end.
The three-speed gearbox had a left-foot selector pedal (contrary to normal French practice, though it was common across the border in Germany) and was so compact that Gnome & Rh么ne had to design an entirely new transmission for its 125, 175 and 200cc four-speeders. An advantage was that the R4 engine developed 6 hp (most of its 125cc French contemporaries produced only 4.5 hp), giving a 53 mph top speed. Later versions of the H4 were rather more attractive: the R4D of 1956 fina lly gained swing arm rear suspension, an upgraded engine and a twist grip gear shift. In 1957 came the R4S, strongly influenced by the small sporting Italian machines, with a racing red paint job, dual seat, lowered handlebars and 16 inch wheels. But it was too late to save the marque: Gnome & Rh么ne production finally staggered to a halt in 1960.
Engine: 125cc (55x52mm) air-cooled singlecylinder
Power Rating: 6 hp @ 5000 rpm
Fuel System: carburetor
Transmission: 3-speed, chain final drive
Suspension: telescopic forks (front); rigid (rear)
Brakes: drum (front & rear)
Wheels: 19 inch wire (fron[ & rear)
Weight: 176 lb
Maximum Speed : 53 mph
The standard finish of the Gnome & Rh么ne R4B was black enamel; the olive green color scheme of this restored example makes it tess of a Plain]ane.