Saturday, February 21, 2009

La lanterne Bowden "Aurora"

The Aurora light arrived from France yesterday, NOS complete with box and brochure, and still in it's original wrapping (photos #4, #5, & #6 are from the seller's original listing). The first thing I learned is that I had the manufacturer wrong - the model name of the light is "Aurora", and it's manufactured by the French branch of the Bowden company, "Anciens Éstablissements Bowden" of Paris (XVIIe) France (note address at bottom of brochure, photo #28).

Introduced in 1948 (see Rebour illustration, image #1), the Aurora appears to have been a top-quality light using expensive materials and excellent finish. The dynamo is installed inside the headlight shell, making it nearly waterproof. And with the mounting bolt above the wheel, there was less risk of the light or dynamo falling into the spokes in an accicent or if the pivot bolt should come loose.

The headlight shell is chrome-plated brass, highly polished. The leading edge of the shell is rather rough, and there are marks where the shape was drawn down to form the smaller diameter for the front opening. The red rib at the top is tranluscent plastic, and the top fin is aluminum. I think the function of the fin is to act as finger tab when engaging or disengaging the drive assembly.

The cast zinc mount for the drive assembly is attached to the bottom of the shell by two bolts and nuts. At the back, the heavy stamped steel mounting arm is attacked with a nut and bolt. on the right side, looking from the front, the drive assembly arm is pinned to the mount, with a spring pushing it toward the "engaged" position. A lever pivots at the center of the mount... pull against the spring to disengage the drive, or push down to release the arm and engage the drive wheel.

The drive arm is cast aluminum. It includes the streamlined guard (looks like the wheel pants from a Stuka dive bomber!). There is a grease fitting for lubrification of the drive wheel bearing.

A chrome tube runs from above the drive wheel to the shell. Inside this tube is the drive cable (I haven't taken everything apart yet, so I'm not sure what this looks like). The tube is not anchored at the bottom, but free to move in or out of the drive arm when the drive is engaged/disengaged.

Inside the shell, the dynamo is uncovered and entirely visible. It is attached to the shell by a nut and hollow bolt where the drive cable enters.

The clear plastic lens, plated copper bezel, and silvered copper reflector are inseperable (see image #21). The bezel fits very closely in the shell opening, much tighter than most headlights I've seen, which possibly helps keep water out of the dynamo. A small hole in the top of the bezel aligns with a very small pin in the top of the shell, and a spring clip at the bottom holds the lens assembly in place.

I was wrong about the red plastic band at the top acting as some sort of indicator - I ran the light with a power drill, and no light reaches the plastic, nor does the dynamo create sparks as I first thought it might (I guess that's motors, not small dynamos). I imagined the red plastic flashing with sparks in a aurora-like fashion, but it's purely decorative.

To provide power to a taillight, there's a wire entry hole at the bottom of the shell behind the drive mount, and a threaded wire attachment at the front of the dynamo (visible in photos #22 & #23).


Gunnar Berg said...

Do you have plans to mount this on a bike? I hope so. It seems kind of a shame to have it in a box on a shelf or in a glass case.

I chose to invest my hard earned money in the stock market, whereas you have opted to invest in French Light Futures. You seemed to have picked the better option - and more fun to fondle I would guess.

Aldo said...

For me, it's a difficult decision... might never find another one of these in "new" condition. But I agree with you about entombing it in some glass case.

I am tempted to mount is on the 1949 Bianchi "Sport" city bike, if it will clear the front fender. The juxtaposition of the tradition lines and primitive Cambio Corsa shifter, and the "Buck Rogers" headlight might be quite intriguing.

I wonder which taillight and reflector would best compliment this headlight? Hmmm... I'll dig through the boxes and post some pics for your perusal. Aldo

Zen said...

Beauty , form, function. Details. Exquisite bakelite, hammered and engraved details.Incorporate these items on a bike for me please. Mixte frame. I'll get back to you on TT measurement.

Richard said...

I happen to have one of those, also new in its (very worn) box. If you know someone who wants to buy let me know.
r_daylak @ hotmail com

If you're not interested, then please don't publish my e-mail. Thanks. Richard