Richard Dredge

Richard Dredge

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Richard Dredge

Richard Dredge

Reyonnah microcar

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It was ingenious, but the Reyonnah was destined to be a footnote in automotive history

The post-war economic climate in France was one of shortages and restrictions. The cyclecar, with its fiscal advantages, was taken very seriously, and a number of entrepreneurs (some inspired, others less so) entered this competitive field. One such entrant was garagiste Robert Hannoyer, proprietor of a large, successful auto repair shop in Paris.

The startling vehicle that Hannoyer displayed at the 1950 Paris Salon, was an exceptionally original concept that owed nothing to existing designs; it would be another three years before the Messerschmitt and Inter three-wheeler tandems saw the light of day. The car was named Reyonnah because it was his surname spelled in reverse…

One of the post-war restrictions was on public parking space. To overcome this, the Reyonnah’s most ingenious feature was its ability to fold up its front wheels under itself to reduce its width so that it could be moved off the street through a garden gate, courtyard doorway, or even into a house. This was made possible with the front suspension’s parallelogram arms and flexible hydraulic brake hoses. The car’s nose was easily lifted due to its light weight, and the wheels collapsed together on their own accord to a width of only 29 inches. There was no lock to hold them in the 'garage' position when the car was rolled forward.

The prototype car on the stand at the 1950 show differed somewhat from the production models. Its sleek bodyshell, built by Jean Demarne, featured fully enclosed rear wheels (with spats) and elegant helmet-style front wings, as well as a belt line that curved down and back from the folding chrome-plated windscreen and up at the curved tail. The front seat was of the exposed-tube aircraft type. The car had unique radially slotted wheels. There was no evidence of a top at the show, but the same car was photographed later with a sideways-tilting canopy incorporating a canvas top.

The production version of the car that emerged in the spring of 1951 looked rather different, with its high, straight beltline, cutaway rear wings, and simpler motorcycle-style front wings. The windscreen was now fixed, and the car had a pair of narrow running boards, with aluminum footpads on the right side, for leg-up access to the interior. The aircraft-style lifting canopy was hinged on the left and could be had with either a folding canvas top or a slightly taller steel hardtop incorporating side windows and a sunroof.

The wheels of the pre-production car still owned by the Hannoyer family have circular perforations and feature elaborate, colourful paintwork, but the production cars (as shown here) used the solid disc wheels from the Simca Cinq. The interior was improved, and the large steering wheel was extended under the dashboard into the hinged front luggage compartment. There was a choice of motors by AMC or Ydral, at first with hand-starting via a long bar, and later with an electric start.

Hannoyer was determined to make a splash in the press by entering his car in two ACF-sponsored events. In 1951 he entered the Paris-Chartres economy run, and in 1952 he built a special Torpedo-Sports model for a speed run at the Montlhéry race track. The Torpedo, which featured a low, streamlined windscreen and tonneau cover, hit 100kmh (62mph) in a high-speed run, a notable achievement at the time for a 175cc car.

Despite five Paris Salon appearances, press coverage, and full order books which even gained an offer of production from a coachbuilding firm, actual production capital was not forthcoming in the end, and Hannoyer closed his doors in 1954. It's estimated that just 17 or so Reyonnahs were made.


* This car was sold by RM Sotheby's in 2013, for $184,000, as part of the Bruce Weiner collection sale. Many thanks to RM Sotheby's for the use of these photos to illustrate this story.

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