Dr Joe Ehrlich Motobecane D52 body Restoration

Published on 4 September 2023 at 08:19
motobecane d52 moped body in primer

One side done, this is isolating primer to stop any old paint reacting with new paint. Some of the areas that were not open to the atmosphere ie under the seat and tank were in amazingly good condition. 

motobecane d52 moped front wheel before restoration

The front end before any work was started Both wheel rims and spokes are being replaced with new, they are too far gone to do anything with. The original hubs will be cleaned and reused, both brakes work, as do the forks. 

motobecane d52 rear wheel hub being cleaned

The rear hub half done, it only took a few minutes, most of the grubbiness was just surface dust and dirt. I am not spending hours buffing every little imperfection out, Dr Joe didn't so nor will I.


With the engine put back together with new seals and piston ring and the gearbox in bits awaiting some new seals I thought I would make a start on my nemesis - bodywork. This is something I have never been much good at, it takes ages, I get impatient, new paint reacts with old paint, you name it, it goes wrong for me. Fortunately apart from surface rust under the nearly 60 year old paint work the bike is in extraordinarily good condition. It has never had any major knocks or bangs, nothing is rusted through, it's mainly a clean up, rust proof and paint sort of job. A company local to me - VRS - has a paint scanning machine and for very little money they can scan the clean paintwork on the tank and replicate the colour for me. I am using an isolator primer so that any areas where old paint remains can then be sprayed over with top coat without any fear of paint reactions - something that seems to be very common with modern paints going over old paints.


It is taking ages to rub it all down but it is important to do it right or the rust will break back through in short time. The bits that have been done so far are looking great, I am being careful to prime as quickly as I can after rust treatment in the hope it helps keep the tin worm at bay for the next 60 years. Once it has the top coat on it will get a coat or two of 2 pack clear so that it is protected against the devil's piss known as ethanol. I have had several tanks that I have done that looked great but the ethanol just washed the paint straight off, a combination of the nature of ethanol and the banning of certain chemicals within paint.

My aim is not to make this a museum piece, although I do want it to look nice. Most of the aluminium castings - including the original Motobecane ones are pretty rough. I could spend hours buffing them and polishing them but you can be sure Dr Joe didn't concern himself with such things back in the day. This was a test mule that would have been smartly presented but it was all about the engine tech, so that's how I am approaching it. Everything will be clean, new wheel rims and spokes are on order, the hubs will get cleaned and polished a bit but not to the point where every little imperfection has been polished out. The seat is in remarkably good order, the bike has only just over 600 miles showing on it's tiny speedo - I was rather delighted to find out the speedo works, the drive cable was connected so I have no reason to believe the mileage is not genuine.

Most of the bike was put together quite loosely so I have had a very easy time with no seized up nuts or bolts, I think nearly all the really hard to find parts are there, the rear light being one notable exception. The headlight chrome ring is also beyond saving so I shall be on the lookout for a better one.

I expect a week's work will have it looking a very different machine, I am working on a couple of others at the same time so I don't expect it to be ready for testing for a good while, then I have to get it registered. It has a number plate on it but when I went through DVLA the number was not recognised. I suspect this is both a good thing and a bad thing. It's good because it means the number has not been reassigned, it's bad because there is no guarantee I will be able to keep it. I do want to retain the number as Ted Snook mentions the registration in the letter where he describes how the bike came about.

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