Voxan mo­tor­cy­cles Stylish and well made, the Voxan range fea­tured top qual­ity com­po­nents

? France’s an­swer to Tri­umph ar­rived with a bang but soon fiz­zled out. Here’s why...

Motorcycle News (UK) - - New Bikes -

Voxan? Wasn’t that a sin­gle by The Po­lice? No, that’s Rox­anne. Voxan was a French mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­turer which launched in the mid-1990s and ba­si­cally aimed to ‘do a Tri­umph’ but with a bit of ex­tra Gal­lic flair.

You said aimed. Is it not around any more then? Sadly not… although it sort of is – but we’ll get to that later. But it’s cer­tainly not around in its orig­i­nal guise of stylish, modern V-twins.

Sounds good. What were they? A fam­ily of fairly funky road­sters, café rac­ers and even scramblers all based around an all-new, liq­uid-cooled V-twin. They were fun, fresh and fash­ion­able – a bit like re­vived Morini were, in fact, a decade later.

So how did Voxan come about? It was the brain­child of French en­tre­pre­neur Jac­ques Gardette who, re­put­edly in­spired by John Bloor’s re­vived Tri­umph, aimed to create a high-pro­file, French mo­tor­cy­cle com­pany. Voxan was the re­sult, and was founded in Is­soire (a town in south­cen­tral France, just be­low Cler­mon­tFer­rand) in 1995.

Who was in­volved? The cream of French mo­tor­cy­cling. The unique, 72-de­gree, 996cc, V-twin was de­vel­oped and built by Sodemo Mo­teurs, one of France’s most prom­i­nent tun­ing com­pa­nies. While its tubu­lar steel chas­sis was by no less than Alain Che­val­lier whose frames had won nu­mer­ous 250 GPS dur­ing the 1970s and 1980s.

You said a fam­ily of bikes… That’s right. Again fol­low­ing the Tri­umph model, the same en­gine and frame were used to create a whole range of ma­chines. The first, the Road­ster, was un­veiled in 1997 be­fore even­tu­ally go­ing into pro­duc­tion two years later. That was joined by a Café Racer in 2000 and then, quite prophet­i­cally as it turned out, a Scrambler in 2001. A few oth­ers fol­lowed later still.

Were they any good? Not bad, cer­tainly. Though that first, limited-edi­tion ( just 50 were made) Road­ster was a lit­tle odd-look­ing, the 100bhp mo­tor was fruity enough and with WP sus­pen­sion and Brembo brakes, it han­dled well, too. While the later Café Racer and Scrambler were not only hand­some they were also so fash­ion-ori­en­tated they were prob­a­bly a decade be­fore their time.

So why did it fail? More due to bad busi­ness than bad bikes (although that 100bhp max, cho­sen to ad­here to France’s then do­mes­tic power cap, did sti­fle in­ter­na­tional ap­peal). In truth, the com­pany had prob­lems from the out­set. Pro­duc­tion of the Road­ster was de­layed and by the time the Café Racer was un­veiled, huge avi­a­tion con­glom­er­ate Das­sault (most fa­mous for the Mi­rage) had stepped in to pro­vide ex­tra fund­ing.

What hap­pened next? It wasn’t enough. De­spite hav­ing ap­peal in France where a large num­ber of deal­ers were opened, Voxan strug­gled against the es­tab­lished op­po­si­tion from around the world. In 2001, 80% of the 125-strong work­force was laid-off then, in 2002, the com­pany was taken

over com­pletely. The Scrambler was launched soon af­ter.

So it was back on the up, right? Only briefly. With a work­force now of just 16 and pro­duc­tion of barely 700 bikes an­nu­ally, Voxan was now a much smaller af­fair. The Black Magic came out in 2004 with the Cha­rade fol­low­ing in 2006. Later con­tro­ver­sial de­signer Philippe Starck (he of the in­fa­mous Aprilia Moto 6.5) be­came in­volved, too, com­ing up with a Su­per Naked XV pro­to­type. None of it was enough, though. In late 2009 Voxan fi­nally suc­cumbed to liq­ui­da­tion and was ac­quired by Monaco-based Ven­turi Au­to­mo­biles.

That can’t have been it? Pretty much was. All pro­duc­tion stopped and the en­gi­neer­ing staff were re­lo­cated to Ven­turi’s HQ. Then, in 2010, it was an­nounced that there would be a new elec­tric Voxan in 2013.

A what? A Wattman, ac­tu­ally, as that was what it was called. Ad­mit­tedly it did look promis­ing at first, be­ing shown at the Paris Show and claimed to be ca­pa­ble of 100mph. Un­for­tu­nately, how­ever, it hasn’t been seen since.

And Gardette? Back in big busi­ness as the founder of med­i­cal drug com­pany Bio­corp and be­ing its Chair­man and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer since 2015. Quite ap­pro­pri­ate re­ally: Voxan must have given him a hel­luva headache.

Hand­some Voxan Black Magic was based on the firm’s orig­i­nal Road­ster and was a prod­uct of the firm’s 2004 resur­gence

The Black Magic (right) pro­vided the ba­sis for the nutty Cha­rade Rac­ing

Like Tri­umph, Voxan took a ba­sic model and turned it into sev­eral vari­ants

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