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Bike Review - Posted Monday 23rd December 2013
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1972 French Advancer

RealClassic reader Paul Ralph is looking for more information about an unusual rotary engined special built in the early 1970s. Or maybe even the bike itself...

I'm investigating a one-off special built by a chap called Colin French. The bike started life around the Sachs/DKW rotary engine. Apparently, Colin French aimed to put it into production, built to order, along the lines of the Silk 700. The 'French Advancer' was tested and written about in MCN; I'm trying to find that copy so please get in touch if you have it.

French Advancer... 1972 French Advancer

The bike's frame and tank unit were one-off items built by the famous frame builder Mick Whitlock, well known for his Suzuki trials specials. It used standard shocks and forks available at that time and this was then mated with the Sachs/DKW rotary engine and a drive and gearbox from a R60 BMW, giving a very clean and simple drive line.

French Advancer... Hercules W2000 Powerplant
Christmas Projects on

The same single-rotor air-cooled engine was used in the W-2000 which was marketed under both Hercules and DKW brands. The 294cc motor produced between 23 and 32bhp during its development life: in production form in 1974 it delivered 27bhp at 6000rpm which was good enough to propel its 175kg chassis to 90mph. However, in Advancer form the bike was rather different…

French Advancer... 1972 French Advancer

As you can see in the picture the bike had very sleek and futuristic lines for the early 1970s. Being a simple design it had very little weight and apparently good performance was achieved, although the last owner complained of the 'gyroscopic' feel of the engine while riding and the strange high seat line.

The first private owner who got the bike from Colin was Mr WD Wigley who worked at an architectural metal works in Hampshire. He then sold it in 1986 to J Gibbs in Overton. The bike wore the original registration of FCG 1K which would date it to 1972. Mr Gibbs kept the Advancer for two years and took it to many shows, and even took it to the Isle of Man TT races that year.

French Advancer... 1972 French Advancer, advertised in MCN in 1988

The bike was then advertised in 1988 in MCN and was reportedly brought by an Australian who was buying machines for export to Australia. Here the story ends and the bike disappears from sight. So where is it now? Does anyone know of this bike or did you ever see it or have any dealings with it?

I know Colin had various correspondences with many manufacturers such as Smiths and Lucas about production issues such as reverse rev counter drives and ignition issues but where did this all go?


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