French Boxer: 1961 Ratier 600 C6S

The Ratier’s boxer twin looks very much like a contemporary BMW’s, but with slightly smoother styling.

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by Kel Edge

1961 Ratier C6S
Engine: 594cc air-cooled OHV opposed twin, 72mm x 73mm bore and stroke, 7.9:1 compression ratio, 32hp at 6,500rpm
Top speed: 100mph (claimed)
Carburetion: Two 26mm Bing
Transmission: 4-speed, shaft final drive
Electrics: 6v, coil and breaker points ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Dual downtube steel cradle frame/56.3in (1,430mm)
Suspension: Telescopic fork front, swingarm with dual Lelaurin shocks rear
Brakes: 7.9in (200mm) TLS drum front, 7.9in (200mm) SLS drum rear
Tires: 3.25 x 19in front, 3.5 x 19in rear
Weight (dry): 429lb (195kg)
Seat height: 30in (760mm)
Fuel capacity: 7.1gal (27ltr)

“My Ratier is better than any BMW!” proclaimed my new friend Marcel as he knocked back what surely wasn’t his first shot of marc (the French version of grappa) that morning.

Marcel worked as a delivery rider in Paris for the French sports daily L’Equipe, starting at 4:30 a.m. each morning as the first edition rolled off the presses in that pre-internet era. It may resemble a BMW, but it was created with French style, and Gallic passion. Monsieur le Président Charles de Gaulle personally chose the Ratier for his Garde Républicaine to escort him. Vive la France!

I got to know Marcel before my life in bike journalism, occasionally sharing with him the zinc counter of the café across from my Paris apartment just off the Rue de Rivoli. I’d become interested in the flat-twin-engined bike bearing the Ratier name that I’d often seen parked in the cobblestone triangle outside the café, attached to a sidecar stacked with bundles of the latest edition of L’Equipe, which Marcel dropped off at newspaper stands around the city. It looked like a BMW with its shaft final drive and cylinders sticking out on either side. It sounded like a BMW, too, cranked into life via a rear-mounted kickstarter. And it looked as lusty and robust as any of the similar BMW sidecars ridden by Marcel’s colleagues working for rival newspapers, who’d park up alongside the Ratier outside the café. But the Ratier was indeed something different – while clearly of German heritage, it was made in France, not Germany.

Order the March/April 2019 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the 1961 Ratier 600 C6S. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email

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