During the early days of motorbike production many companies wanted to make the most of the emerging technology, even when they specialised in other products. This was the case with Fabrique Nationale, more commonly known as FN. Originally, the company produced military weapons and ventured into motorbike design in the early 1900s. FN produced motorbikes until 1965, but the company left its mark on the industry. We’re looking into the history of FN to see how they developed.
Military manufacturers to motorbike producers
FN was founded in the city of Herstal in 1899 in order to manufacturer Mauser Model 89 rifles for the Belgian government. The company began a profitable relationship with a firearms designer called John Moses Browning in 1897. In the 1900s, FN diversified by producing cars and motorbikes, with the latter receiving a large amount of development.
FN experimented with single-cylinder machines, producing their first motorbike in 1901. This was followed by a shaft-driven 188 cc in 1903. It led to the development of the 1907 FN Four, the world’s first production four-cylinder motorbike. Designed by Paul Kelecom, the Four came with a 350 cc or 362 cc engine. By 1906 the displacement had increased to 410 cc. The FN Four was revolutionary and led to the development of future models.
After WW1, FN added the letter ‘T’ to their model names, with an early example being the Type 700T Four. From 1924, all models came with a less expensive chain drive. These models ranged from 596 ccs to 198 ccs. Variation increased after WW2, with 249 cc, 344 cc, 444 cc and 498 cc models being produced.
During this time, FN experienced success in Motocross, particularly with Lambert Schepers. He started out in the military and became employed in FN’s competition department. He competed in Belgian observed trial races and won most of the national 50 cc competitions from 1955 to 1960. He went on to become the Champion of Belgium and earned a gold medal.
In 1955, FN also branched out into outsourcing mopeds. The mopeds were built by Royal Nord and Sarolea, though FN started producing their own versions in 1959. These included Luxe, Fabrina, Princess, Utilitaire and the Rocket.
By the late 1960s, FN had stopped producing motorbikes. The last FN moped left the factory in 1967 and the company decided to focus on weapon manufacturing.
Even though they no longer develop motorbikes, FN have left a lasting impression. The creation of the FN Four helped to move the industry forward.