Friday, April 17, 2009


Old Things That Still Work, Part 2 : I was relating Clive’s sobering tale of consumerism and when I asked him for the details of the indestructible photo enlarger, the De Vere 504, something rang a bell.


504 is also the designation of a lion of a car, the Peugeot 504, particularly the estate version. In Europe, we’re so fashion conscious that when the 505 is produced, we sell our 504s and trade up … and so on. In Africa, if it isn’t actually dead, they keep driving it. I used to live in South Africa (when I was 9 years old) and have visited several other countries; so I can say from experience, in Africa, the Peugeot 504 is ubiquitous. I have actually taken a photo of a fully-loaded 504 in Egypt, just like this photo but couldn’t find it. To be honest, while going through my box of non-digital photos, I got lost in nostalgia; it must be somewhere. Believe what you see, the Peugeot 504 is as solid as the De Vere 504 (read my previous blog.


Another elderly, but fully functioning, automotive device purred and popped up to our front door the other day, carrying the ample figure of our village baker, Jacky. It’s a Solex, a motor-assisted bicycle. In the first video (at top) Jacky shows Gabrielle how to ride the Solex but does he give her enough detail? will she come back?


The Solex is a conventional bicycle with a petrol motor mounted above the front wheel. A pull on a lever brings the engine driven roller into contact with the substantial tread of the front tyre. You don't use it all the time, just for a bit of help getting up the steeper hills. That’s it, couldn’t be simpler; or could it? Will Gabrielle come home.


While I’m suggesting you keep your old car, European governments are offering you taxpayers’ money to scrap your perfectly serviceable car so you can buy a new one, thus keeping car manufacturers in business. Nice to see they have a firm grasp of the ecological state of the world we live in … ho hum.


Did Jacky tell Gabrielle how to work the brakes? Can she turn round? Did she have enough fuel? Click the video below for the answer.

Coming soon (I promise): Swales, Part 2 and how elderflower leaves keep flea beetles away.

4 comments :

DOT said...

I have always wanted a Solex since my first sighting of one at the age of fifteen on my first visit to France - Dinard as it was.

Solexs are up there with steam engines in terms of romance.

H said...

The other car that is as hard as the 504 is french too. Renault 12.

Here, on very bad roads (high desert, hard winds, when it rains the roads get destroyed) you can only see Renault 12, Peugeot 504, pickups, and a few Ford Falcon. Tourists come up on new cars and go down towed.

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Thanks for your comments, David and H,

David: it's never too late, you might yet have your Solex dream machine when you sell your novel. perhaps you can then do a travelogue entitled "Around the World on a Solex" or, perhaps just round the British Isles, or round Brighton, as you see fit.

H: where are you from? Ford Falcon makes me think you're in Australia. Amazing to think that these two French cars are doing such sterling service the other side of the world.

H said...

Not Australia, but Argentina. The three cars were produced here, I think that well into the 90s.

(Looking for data)
Falcon: until 1991
R12: 1994
504: 1999

The 504 was "the taxi car" until not many years ago. They went and went. Many of the pickups here are 504 too.cal