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‘48 Monet & Goyon S4J – Pip Davidson


Posted on January 26, 2016 by Andrew in Classic. 23 comments

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Written by Martin Hodsgon.

When the custom bike revival began in earnest a few years ago, the bulk of builds were Cafe Racers based on the best of British from the ’60s and the Japanese legends of the ’70s. But as the scene grows, many builders have looked back decades earlier for both inspiration and donor bikes. For Pip Davidson, it started by joining the BSMC and with a few builds under his belt picked up an imitation Board Tracker, a bicycle really, with a 60cc mini bike engine. But it gave him an idea. What about the real thing, built from a small capacity machine, girder front end, vintage and rare? So after a long search and a winning auction bid, he found himself the perfect donor for his very own take on a Board Track Racer, a French 1948 Monet & Goyon S4J.

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So across the English countryside Pip went to collect his new steed “A trip to Dorset and I laid eyes on her for the first time, she was in a rickety old shed where she had been for 3 years, the current owner unable to get her started, I paid him then loaded her up and told him what was in-store for her, his jaw hit the floor as she was 100% original, unrestored condition and offered to buy it back, but she was mine!” Pip didn’t waste his time either, the very next day he was cleaning the points, replacing the leads and sorting out the timing to fire the M&G into life. Knowing he now had a runner on his hands the entire bike was stripped down to the very last nut and bolt so the build of his little lady could begin. I say lady because Pip names all his bikes female names beginning in the letter E, this time around Etta, meaning little one.

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With a bare frame to work with he set about detabbing, smoothing out and cleaning it up so that the bike could appear in only its bare essentials, true racer style. The rear guard was cut down and modified and with no desire for a side mounted number plate the original light section was modified and adapted to fit the back of the guard. Not only does it result in a cleaner, narrower look, but the clever way in which Pip has positioned the assembly gives the side profile a kicked up racer tail physique. With the frame, fender and associated parts out for powder coat in his signature black and cream there was time for one hell of a monotonous task. Every nut, bolt, washer and miscellaneous part was painstakingly prepared over a course of Sundays until they were ready for nickel plating.

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The engine powering this beauty of a boardy is a French 125cc 2-stroke, but it wasn’t made by the men of Monet & Goyon. Another French company, Jonghi, supplied many of the 2-stroke engines used by French manufacturers having built a solid foundation of success based on their race winning machines before the war. Jonghi was originally an Italian company that when rescued by an Argentinian industrialist, Tito Jonghi, was moved to France where his factory racers, particularly the legendary 4 valve 350 achieved great success. With M&G not afraid to source components from other companies based on quality their decision has been vindicated by what Pip found when he split the cases. The stepped piston and barrel were still in such good condition they were reused in his thorough rebuild of the engine. How many 2-strokes can you say that of today, let alone some 68 years later.

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There’s nothing quite like staring at a classic Monet

With the foundations of a great little engine Pip set about adding some snap, crackle and pop to the little smoker and sourced a Mikuni VM20 carb with a ram air filter from Allens Performance which was fitted up in the standard side mount location. With new fuel lines and filter in place the performance and rideability has come a long way from the original AM 4/ 2N fuel mixer. The refurbished exhaust looks an absolute treat and very different to the expansion chambers we have become used to, some heat wrap and a lick of black helps to give the bike the racer look it so thoroughly deserves. The visual appearance of the engine is also testament to Pip’s dedication to do things right. From the kickstart, to the cases and the period correct plug and lead the end result remains absolutely vintage in its appearance while performing better now than it ever has in its 68 years history.

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With the engine back in the frame it was time to start piecing this little Board Tracker back together and the factory girder front end in black with its single spring for dampening sets things off perfectly. The skinny rims front and back are typical of the period and are the original items that Pip has refurbished and fitted with the sort of ribbed tyres you would have seen pounding the boards in the ’20s. The rear end is rigid necessitating a sprung seat that has been given a new lease on life while more leather comes in the form of Yugoslavian ammunition pouches ( three for a tenner) mounted to store the supply of 2 stroke. The single headlight is simply stunning and while not fitted to the race bikes of the day, this is a 100% road legal and ridden motorcycle!

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With that she was done, but Pip just wasn’t feeling it “she fired into life but standing back she just didn’t cut the mustard” The standard tank didn’t look right, it was original and it’s not every day you see a Monet & Goyon flash past you on the road but it didn’t have that racer feel. So with cardboard in hand a template was made up that was sent over to Ryan at Runriot who put his skills to work making a period piece that would have been the pride of the paddock back in the day. Two leather straps were added that give the appearance of holding the tank to the frame and the final lettering was applied.

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The bike as Pip first saw her

If it was somehow possible imagine Pip and Etta transported back a 100 years, man and machine from across the Atlantic taking on the Americans at Speedway Park in Chicago in front of the regular crowds of over 70,000 Board Track Racing fanatics. The boards might have aged in the weather, been pulled up and the stadiums packed away, but thanks to builders like Pip the legacy of those times and the revolutionary work of two French motorcycle companies will live on as Etta blasts around the English streets.








  • I like the original, but this tracker is also a great build! Would be cool to drive this beauty on a hot summer day…

  • Dave Coetzee

    Looks like a 2-stroke, single cylinder but it has 2 exhaust pipes?

    • Really good point. I have no idea why…

      • guvnor67

        Would I be right in guessing It’s a “Split Single”? There have been a few over the years.

        • martin hodgson

          Good question Dave, before MZ had their secrets stolen and sold to Suzuki during the cold war a lot of companies struggled with their two strokes in achieving a good balance between a flattish torque curve and outright horsepower. This was compounded on small capacity machines like this one that had particularly poor flowing heads, it was pre computer modelling, availability of flow benches etc And without the ability to also really tune the acoustics of the expansion chambers some engine manufacturers like Jonghi used a single cylinder twin port exhaust to give the best of both worlds. Equal port area for high rpm, but the reduced size meant at low pressures experienced at low rpm you got a better cylinder fill during overlap for improved low down torque. Much like the principal of a twin scroll turbo that enables it to spool up at low gas flow. Something that was important before ball bearing cartridges became the norm. MZ’s discoveries changed everything and made Suzuki a motorcycle powerhouse, but before the greatest theft of the motorcycle industry occurred it was a case of finding what worked and in the case of a small single it was a case of two small straws over one big toilet roll!

    • Tony Curr

      Twin exhaust ports, to give decent port area but give the piston rings an easier time than crossing one big port. CZ scramblers and 360 Greeves used this feature.

      • Dave Coetzee

        Thanks Tony and Guv. Could I impose on your knowledge and Andrew’s not banning me from future comments, by asking for your honest comments on my latest super-amateur build as per
        https://youtu.be/fw0wzkZ06vI

      • My son’s TS185 ate a ring because of a large exhaust port. That, and some improper chamfering when we had it bored out. I could see where twin exhaust ports would be a bonus.

  • Pontiaku

    Leather ammo pouches. Most likely russian.

  • Blake Proudfoot

    Like it, but love the original.

  • disqus_DBQb35Bb59

    I’m confused. The original looks awesome. The finished bike looks like they made do with certain parts missing. But there they are.

  • mtnsicl

    They should have restored it back to its original condition.

    • Jack Eero Burrows

      Yeah I hate it when guys take some initiative and have vision and then put a lot of time and hard work into building a personal custom out of a bike you would not have bought before. Lol.

      Give me a break. @mtnsicl

      If anyone wants a stick one look around and you’ll find one to restore that will cost you twice what you’ll be able to sell it for. In the meantime sit back and marvel at the creation this lad has made for Harle and shared with us.

      Ps I see a lot of criticism on here all the time. We should make a deal, for everyte you want to criticize you should have to put up pictures of your own work and builds. Make sure you’re as par as the guys work you are slamming.

      • mtnsicl

        Just my opinion bra. No need get your camel toe in a bind!

      • mtnsicl

        Sorry Bra, I’m not gay. You’re looking in the wrong place. Take your little dicks someplace else!

  • PalmsyP

    Nice, great attention to detail. Love the tank and how stripped back it is.
    Yellow lights are always a nice touch. A really memorable bike.

    A new lease of life to a non-runner is always a good thing to do in my opinion and the
    ‘should have restored it’ remarks seem odd on a website based around custom builds.

  • CX500TL

    I like both the original and this one, you can get bikes like this fairly easy in Europe for little money. What I don’t understand is : ‘ Every nut, bolt, washer …painstakingly prepared … for nickel plating.’ Why is that necessary? Where I bring them they just have to be free of grease. Just a question as i’m curious.

  • Bultaco Metralla

    I really like this one. A stripped down French 125 two stroke; slow as a wedding waltz, smart as new shoes and the most fun. There are originals getting dusty in museums, this is out and about changing perceptions and reality. .

    • guvnor67

      And definately doing it in style!

  • Michael Brady

    The Guys at Run Riot do a great Job on there welding, I know those overlays like a row of nickels fresh out of the rapper, Nice Job Run Riot Motorcycle Parts. UK.

  • revdub

    I leave the internet for a few days and miss the best bikes. I love this thing. So cool.

  • Richard Worsham

    I thought it was perfect until I saw the picture of the original… Perhaps adding that was a mistake? Very nice build though!

  • Jim Roberts

    just because you can doesn’t mean you should…yeah, i imagine the guy that sold it just about crapped his drawers when he heard what was about to happen. a lot of bikes out there that are missing parts and would make a great place too start a project like this.
    the finished product is obviously a matter of taste, on many different levels, i really enjoy this website