Motorworld’s newspaper № 26
Test-drive video
Belgian FN can be fairly called a pioneer company that is the first to produce road-free heavy motorcycles. As early as 1936, FN had started the paper studies related to the M12a SM army model with sidecar wheel drive. Despite the fact serial manufacture was started two years later, M12 was ahead of famous German ATVs produced by BMW and Zündapp.

FN M12a SM had a high-performance opposed-piston flathead engine (22 h.p., 992 cc displacement) and a four-speed gearbox with reverse gear. The engine was watertight cowled for the motorcycle to successfully pass water barriers. An exhaust system had a single silencer for both cylinders.

Motorcycle was easy maintainable. You could hose down watertight parts. A petrol tank cap and an oil gage were readily available. All three wheels could be interchanged and hubs were mounted in such a way that brakes and bearings are still in place when a wheel is removed.

FN M12a SM from «Motorworld by V.Sheynov» collection

FN M12a SM motorcycles were supplied not only to Belgian armed forces but also to Iran, Greece and several countries in South America. FN had managed to design a perfect military motorcycle. Later, using M12a SM know-hows, the company designed a tricycle FN 12 T3, also known as FN Tricar.

When an FN 12a SM was mainly intended for motorization of infantry forces, an FN Tricar was designed to satisfy another military needs – delivery of freight of all kinds from 6 to 700 kgs. Before tricycles, delivery tasks were completed by trucks, but such a solution was expensive and inefficient. Tricycles were relatively inexpensive and, according to the military classification, were motorcycles. Therefore, the total number of cargo handling vehicles was higher when using three wheelers.

FN 12 T3 was just a forepart of an M12a SM with a conventional automotive rear axle and a well car with handrails & seats above it. FN was thinking how to increase serviceability and decided to divide the frame at the seat level. The frame could be divided into two independent parts connected by five connection joints. Both parts could be independently repaired in field. As a result, downtime was significantly reduced.

FN 12 T3 was a mechanical soldier carrying out heavy-duty army tasks. It was a versatile machine with all features a military vehicle needs: conveyance of the General Staff officers and troops; transportation of ammo, communications station equipment, telephone installations, fuels, provisions; a mobile workshop; a base for machine guns and many other applications.

Max speed of FN Tricar at the level stretch of road was 75 km/h, which was pretty good for a 425 kg machine. And performance figures of Tricar under load are surprisingly good! During the load test (550 kgs), FN Tricar steadily made the grade at 40% without a speed-reduction unit. And with a reduction unit activated, the slope percentage the machine could climb was limited only by the adhesion of wheels! Such off-road capabilities made a tricycle a machine, which couldn’t be beaten by any machine of its kind.

Manufacturing of FN Tricar started in 1939 and ended in May, 1940 after Belgium was occupied by Germans. The total number of tricycles produced is 331.

Manufacturer Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre Herstal (Fabrique Nationale SA, Herstal)
Years of manufacture 1939 – 1940
Quantity produced, units 331
Price
Today’s value
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
Type Two-cylinder, opposite
Engine capacity, cc 992
Bore and stroke, mm 90 x 78
Engine rating 22 hp at 3200 rpm
Sparking Kickstarter on the left side
Carburetor Amal
Battery 6V
Clutch Singplate, dry
Transmission 4-speed with rear speed
FRAME AND WHEELBASE
Frame type Tubular, welded
Front suspension Parallelogram with friction damper
Rear suspension half-elliptic spring
Brakes Drum type
Wheel size Front 12 x 45, rear 14 х 45
DIMENSIONS
Length, mm
3 300
Width, mm
1 600
Height, mm
1 530*
Wheelbase, mm
2 200
Ground clearance, mm
250*
Seat height, mm
940*
Mass, kg
   425
Gas tank size, l
19
Maximum speed, km/h
     75
Range, km

* – Data on the results of the measurement at the exhibit of “Motorworld by V.Sheyanov”.