5 Responses to “My Magnat Debon”

  1. Erasmus Thump

    I acquired this motorbike from the original owner’s son in law. The original owner bought it from new in the Spring of 1929. At that time it was a 220cc sidevalve commuter. He had dreams of racing for France against the other, European champions of the day. He had no driving license or any formal education in engineering yet he set about turning this unassuming machine into something he could race.
    He began by removing material from the machine by drilling holes in anything he felt he could without destroying the bike. This included holes in the bottom of the walls of the cylinder itself to release internal engine pressure. He fabricated his own exhaust pipes and fitted a rudimentary foot shifter. He somehow managed to acquire a performance cam from Terrot, Magnat Debon’s owner at the time. The story goes that he went to Bordeaux in 1932 with the intention of entering into the GP of Bordeaux. Sadly, whilst trying to qualify, the engine exploded and he was unable to participate. This was the closest to competing in a race that he ever got.
    He scrimped and saved and in 1938 managed to acquire a Magnat Debon 350cc overhead valve BSP motor, a very highly sought after engine. He had to modify the frame with what looks like a crowbar, to fit the motor into the little frame. He then set about modifying the engine plates to install the motor in the machine. But, before he could get it completed, the word went out across France that the army would be impounding all motorcycles for their use as war was imminent — it was 1939. He was determined not to let his pride and joy end up in the Army so he dismantled it and put the bits in boxes and hid them in several wood piles around his village. He forgot about the bike until he retired in the 1970s. He went back to all the wood piles and retrieved all the boxes. He loosely assembled the machine over some months to ensure he had all the pieces. Then, without warning, he died of a heart attack, only nine months after retiring. The machine remained in his basement loosely assembled but completely intact. It stayed there until four years ago when his wife finally died and the daughter and son in law set about selling the machine. That is where I stepped in.
    I took the machine apart and rebuilt it from the ground up. The only modification i made was to replace the cable shrouds and install a Terrot factory racing cam which i managed to get through the Terrot club… I felt this is what he would have wanted.
    I can say that, although the machine is not blindingly fast, it does accelerate quickly for what it is, and what it lacks in top speed it makes up with a banshee howl!

  2. Mark Milligan

    That is some ride.

    And the idea of drilling holes in the cylinder to release internal engine pressure, that is ingenious.

    We had some ancestors that were somehow related to the Thumps. Do you have any Birdwhistles in your lineage?

    I believe they were from around the Anthill Common area.

  3. Erasmus Thump

    My father was a native of Pillock Ford. But my mother Myrnalia’s family is from parts south of there possibly deepest, darkest Sussex or some such dreary locale. We try not to talk about it.