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Restoration of a 'Mochet Velocar' Rolling Chassis

National Museums Scotland


Velocar was the name given to velomobiles made in the 1930s and 1940s by Mochet et Cie of Puteax, France and colloquially to the company's recumbent bicycles. Charles Mochet was the inventive maker of lightweight powered cyclecars (Le P'tit Auto) and pedal-powered cars (quadricycles), mainly two-seaters, built on a tubular-steel chassis with bicycle-sized wheels, variable gears, and aerodynamic bodywork. The popularity of the little cars declined in the late 1930s as cheaper, powered cars became available, only to rise rapidly when petrol became almost unobtainable during World War II. This vehicle became a symbol of the German occupation, and is remembered even today as such, this being the most sophisticated mode of transport available to a fuel-starved population.

Mochet also produced the first performance recumbent bicycle, or vélo couché, using a design that was based on half of his four-wheeled Velocar chassis.

Re-discovery of the Mochet concept in California in the late 1970s led to the subsequent development of recumbent cycles that took place in the US in the 1980s.

Charles Mochet died in 1934 and the business was carried on by his widow and his son Georges. After World War II, Georges Mochet continued making mainly powered microcars in the "Sans Permis" category from 1945 to 1957.

Work Required:

  • The plywood timber and canvas bodywork of the Velocar was in fairly poor condition and could not be saved. The chassis, mechanical parts and fittings were nearly all present however, though most were highly corroded, with virtually no original surface finishes left.

  • It was decided to carry out a full strip down and 'nut and bolt' restoration. The body was be unbolted, removed and set aside. This could be used at a later date as a template. A wood craftsmen within the Museum's staff would then replicate the body which would be re-fitted once complete.

  • Though this was a restoration project and as such the vehicle would be brought up to a working state for display, an approach of 'minimal intervention' was still used. Parts would be restored where any original finishes had now completely deteriorated. Otherwise original finishes were to be saved where at all possible. Missing parts would be replaced with identical or almost identical parts to the original.

Work Carried Out:

  • The vehicle was photographed and written notes taken to record the objects original construction and condition.

  • The body was first removed and set aside. The remaining parts of the vehicle were then stripped down and parts carefully labelled and numbered and photographed for later reference.

  • Oily parts were de-greased where necessary using a Kerosene parts washer and/or acetone solvent.

  • Paints requiring painting were further blasted with glass bead media to remove corrosion and looses paint. Chassis was further media blasted using steel shot.

  • Metal parts requiring a paint finish were treated with a corrosion inhibitor, primed and then painted with a top coat.

  • Some finer metal parts and plated parts were clean by hand using fine wire brushes, wooden tools and solvents. This retained the original steel and nickel plated finishes.

  • Other working parts such as dynamos were broken down to their constituent parts, cleaned and refurbished.

  • Once all parts were complete, re-assembly was started. All moving parts were oiled and greased where necessary.

  • Wheel rims and tyres were in a very poor state. It was impossible to source the correct size rims so the originals were repaired on the inside with 2-part epoxy resin and fibreglass matting. New wheels were then built up using new spokes and replacement tyres.

  • The vehicle was then complete and ready for the body to be fitted by a colleague. The only additional items missing here were small items such as brake cables and headlights, which had to be fitted after the body was in place.

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