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Motorworld’s newspaper № 26
Test-drive video

Belgian FN can be fairly called a pioneer company which was the first to produce off-road 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 that serial manufacture was started two years later, the M12 was ahead of famous German military motorcycles produced by BMW and Zündapp.

FN M12a SM had a high-performance sidevalve flat engine (22 hp, 992 cc displacement) and a four-speed gearbox with reverse gear. The engine of the motorcycle was watertight cowled in order to successfully pass water barriers. An exhaust system had a single silencer for both cylinders.

The motorcycle was easily 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 were still in place when a wheel was removed.

FN M12a SM from the «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.

If the FN 12a SM was mainly intended for the motorization of infantry forces, the FN Tricar was designed to satisfy other 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 considered as motorcycles. Therefore, the total number of cargo handling vehicles was higher when using three-wheelers.

FN 12 T3 was just a forepart of the 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.

The max speed of FN Tricar at the level stretch of road was 75 km/h, which was pretty good for a 425 kg machine. The Tricar showed surprisingly good performance under load. 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! Thanks to such off-road capabilities this tricycle had no competition.

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

Manufacturer Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre Herstal (Fabrique Nationale SA, Herstal)
Years of manufacture 1939 – 1940
Quantity produced, units 331
Today’s value
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 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
Length, mm
3 300
Width, mm
1 600
Height, mm
1 530*
Wheelbase, mm
2 200
Ground clearance, mm
Seat height, mm
Mass, kg
Gas tank size, l
Maximum speed, km/h
Range, km

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