Egon Brütsch of Brütsch Mopetta fame, the colourful promoter of glassfibre construction, showed his Brütsch 200 prototype at the Paris Salon of 1954. He impressed a number of people and sold several licences to build his cars. The licence for France went to the Société Air Tourist, headed by Jean Avot, who had the French rights for the American Cessna aeroplanes.
The French car first appeared as the Brütsch-Avolette at the 1955 Paris Show. It was essentially the Brütsch 200, still with the German chrome script on the nose, with its twin faired-in headlamps, and with just a large 'Avolette' decal under the bumper, and portholes in the tail. The diminutive car had a 175cc Ydral motor fitted in place of the Sachs unit, the normal Brütsch single T-tube chassis, and a fixed steering column.
The L’Avolette (the Brütsch bit was soon dropped), which made its debut at the 1956 Paris Salon, was changed considerably. Most obvious was the single 'cyclops' headlight, which now formed a central sculpted feature running the length of the nose. The wings now had polished aluminum brightwork framing them front and back, with the rears incorporating step plates. These flowed into the large black rubber moulding joining the upper and lower halves of the body. Vertical air-intake slits were at the rear body sides, and the indicators were moved to the tops of the wings. There was now a proper chrome-framed windscreen in place of the previous wraparound Plexiglass item.
The basic Brütsch T-tube chassis received considerable additional stiffening in the form of two D-shaped transverse hoops in front of and behind the cockpit, and they were joined horizontally under the cockpit rail to form a stiff cage. The steering column became a flexible heavy Bowden cable while the front suspension was by Neidhart rubber-in torsion units, and the rear suspension was by traditional Niemann rubber loops.
A range of five models was on offer. The Avolette Normale was the basic version, with the Ydral 125cc motor and hand-starting, which could be driven without a licence. This very stripped-down version could be upgraded later with the features of the other models. The Avolette Tourisme was next, with a top and heater and also coming in 175cc Ydral form, with the same comforts and accessories. The Avolette Turisme Deluxe came with a 200cc Sachs motor in convertible or coupé form. The coupé on display at the Paris Salon featured a very shapely, nearly spherical top that retracted rearwards. This would be replaced in production with a tube-framed affair with large Plexiglass side panels and a fabric roof, which tilted forwards over the windscreen for entry.
The Avolette Record Deluxe was the speed model, similar to the above but with twin rear wheels for stability and a Maico 250cc engine. This motor was used in the powerful Maicoletta scooter and featured a washing-machine starter, which tick-tocked back and forth until it kicked over centre and started the motor.
An Avolette Competition Deluxe model was deleted from the literature early on, and it possibly became the rebodied Lambretta-engined New Avolette, which was shown at the Cycle-Salon in 1957 but came to naught.
A hangar at the ex-military airport of Toussus-de-Noble, 10 miles west of Paris, was used for assembly. An indication of the number of Avolettes produced comes from a journalist who visited the airport for a road-test and reported that the “large hangar was filled with vehicles in various states of assembly.”
|Rear-mounted, 250cc, 1-cylinder
- The car shown was sold by RM Sotheby's in 2013 for $74,750, as part of the Bruce Weiner microcar sale. This very special example, restored by the museum to its original orange color, is the only one of the most powerful versions of the Avolette known to exist. Many thanks to RM Sotheby's for the use of its pictures to illustrate this article.