It was not known at the time, but the FN Four was to signal a seismic shift in motorcycling. Technically, there cannot have been many two-wheeled breakthroughs to match the introduction of the inline-four engine! Belgium was the birthplace of that landmark layout. And FN was the much-to-be-congratulated manufacturer.
The first FN Four hit the highway in 1911. It produced 4bhp. From 491cc. At the time, such figures described state of the art technology. Top speed for the FN Four was 40mph. Not too shabby – for an 8-valve inlet-over-exhaust configuration. It rather went without saying that it was air-cooled!
The FN Four was light – tipping the scales at just 165lb dry. Not only its motor – but its chassis, too – was avant-garde. It featured a rudimentary form of telescopic forks. And FN added a new-fangled ‘clutch’ – and 2-speed gearbox – to the Four’s slick set of tricks. A solid shaft-drive set-up output the power. So, who designed this visionary vintage machine? You will not hear the name Paul Kelekom shouted from motorcycling’s rooftops … at least, not very often. But, you should – for it was he who fashioned the FN Four. And, in so doing, he kick-started a craze for fast, four-cylinder two-wheelers. Last time I looked, the fad was still alive and kicking!