Simanaitis Says

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PERUSING A catalog for La Galerie des Damiers from Rétromobile 95 enticed me down a path to a fascinating concept of mobility, art and sound exhibited in Tokyo in 2003.

Rétromobile is an annual classic car show at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles. First held in 1976, it has grown to be an important exhibition and auction venue. La Galerie des Damiers held its first auction at Rétromobile 95. The auction firm has a website displaying classic and competition cars, though nothing is dated more recently than 2010.

At Rétromobile 95, La Galerie des Damiers offered a car that caught my eye: a 1926 Darmont, which, rightfully so, looked just like a traditional Morgan three-wheeler.

1926 Darmont Special Cyclecar. This and other images from the Retromobile 95 La Galerie des Damiers auction catalog.

The Darmont was one of two French marques built under license from England’s Morgan; Sandford being the other. Darmont retained the Morgan trike’s spirit, with a French version of the English Blackburn motorcycle vee-twin. The Sandford, aiming for sophistication, had a four-cylinder engine and even front-wheel brakes. Darmont was in business from 1926 to 1930; Sandford, 1922 to 1936.

Darmont cribbed Morgan’s “Supersport” name because, as the catalog says, en francais, “in the hands of a resolute and courageous pilot, it knew little rivals on an open road.”

Having driven two different Morgan trikes, I understand the resolute and courageous part.

Also catching my eye in the catalog’s Darmont picture was another trike, this one an artfully spindly velocipede. The term derives from the Latin, vēlōc, swift, and pēs, foot.

Wooden cycles built in Cour-et-Buis, southeastern France, in the fin du siècle era.

Wooden panels in lieu of spokes set the bicycle in the left foreground apart from the others. Both it and the trike at the right would have had pedal-actuated rear drive. The bicycle’s pedals are no longer there; the trike’s pedals actuate push-pull rods linked to a crankshaft on the rear axle. In the background is a conventional penny-farthing.

These fetching contraptions remind me of another artful cycle of vague memory: Yamaha? Wind? Tokyo Motor Show?

I found its photo saved on my Tokyo 03 flash drive. I had labeled it “whimsybike,” its display panel identifying it as the Dolsa Wind. This electrical two-wheeler show-bike was part of Yahama’s “Clean and Silent” theme.

The Yamaha Dolsa Wind, as exhibited at the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show.

The Dolsa Wind was powered by a 300-watt electric motor, roughly 50 percent more powerful than typical electric-assisted bicycles. Yamaha’s press release said the concept embodied “Riding Music” that combined “riding on the wind and the enriching experience of playing a musical instrument.”

The music was created by a sound generator beneath the seat, connected to two speakers down there and eight more in the handlebar assembly. The gizmo’s tones changed in response to the way the Dolsa Wind was ridden.

Claimed the company, “In doing this, Yahama has created a new value we call ‘Pleasure riding, artful riding’ that never would have been possible with a motorcycle powered by an engine that burns fossil fuel.”

I suspect those riding open-pipe hogs might beg to differ. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2017

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