Photo: Forum Velo Retro Course. Carre 1956
Bernard Carre had a history in competitive cycling but after his career in racing ended, he went to work as a frame builder for CNC/Fletcher-Ducret in Paris. There was a cadre of excellent framebuilders at CNC which included Rene Andre and Bernard Carre. They built high-end frames there, such as team bikes for East Block countries and at least those two men became notable, independent builders. After leaving CNC, Carre established a production shop of his own in Montreuil, an eastern suburb of Paris, about 6 kilometers from the city centre. I believe he worked with his brother, Lucien Carre, and a group of employees who batch produced frames and frame sets for large manufacturers as well as for smaller specialty producers and bike shops wanting their own unique line of bicycles to set them apart from the mass market firms like Peugeot, Manufrance and Cycle France-Loire.
Photo: Forum Velo Retro Course
Once the business was up and running in the mid to late 1950s, Carre undertook commissions to build custom framesets for top level French racing cyclists. He is known to have built framesets for Julien Arne, Raphael Geminani, Jean Pierre Danguillaume, Henri Anglade and Jacques Anquetil. A Daniel Rebour technical drawing from 1964 shows the distinctive leaf-shaped seatstay cap with Anquetil’s initials on his 1964 Tour de France winning “Gitane”. (Gitane continued to use this style stay cap on its in-house built bikes even into the 1970s.) In addition to the bikes for pro level riders, Carre built custom framesets for club riders, track riders and occasionally, for randonneurs.
Photo: Bir Hakim
As mentioned in the Classic Factory Lightweight Bicycles article, Carre produced in three or four levels of quality and finish. The highest would be the custom level. These were usually built with Prugnat S series lugs with diamond-shaped cutouts. Lug variations, chroming on lugs, forks and stays, tubing variations, all were possible on Carre’s custom level work along with a superior level of finish. Fork and stay ends were fish mouthed in design, the brake bridge had diamond reinforcements, the seat lug typically had brazed-on ears for the fixing bolt and dropouts were Campagnolo (with or without eyelets) depending on the frame’s purpose. The frame tubing was usually Reynolds metric 531.
Often, from what I have seen in photos, the second level, the pro bikes, were very similar to the first category with slightly less in the way of finish as was typical of French competition frames before quality was debauched during the 1970’s bike boom. The French attitude was that the bike was a tool not a shrine and was finished accordingly.These bikes had none of the fancy chrome of the customs, used Prugnat 62S lugs and were built with the same features as the customs. A good example of this type of bike are the ones built for Lejeune’s racing team and high-end retail sales. An excellent overview is available here at Classic Factory Lightweight Bicycles’ on Lejeunes. These are also Reynolds 531 in metric dimensions.
The next category would be the production frames built for sale by smaller manufacturers and larger retail bike shops or chains.These would be of the same design as the competition frames above and this is where Carre Bertins enter the picture. After the destruction of the factory, the pro/am Bertin team needed framesets and the high-end market needed to be fed with C 37s as ordered by stores at the end of the previous season. It must be remembered that Andre Bertin had a home in Paris and a Paris office as well as the main operation in St. Laurent-Blagny. He must have been familiar with Carre’s operation through trade shows and sheer proximity. Consequently, I believe a deal was struck for Carre to provide framesets for the high end C 37s. I have seen no evidence that the C 35 and C 34s were produced by Carre in that year of disaster, just C 37s.
These frames were nicely finished, well designed and sometimes came with half chromed front forks. They had all the distinctive Carre production trademarks mentioned previously, including metric Reynolds 531 tubes, but did not have the B. Carre stamping on the stay caps, at least on the three examples I am aware of. Fork crowns were Vagner DPs and the Prugnat 62S lugs were normative. The only braze-on was the rear derailleur cable stop on the chainstay. I do not know how the frames were painted and assembled since the Bertin factory was in ruins but built, painted and shipped they were as I will show, in detail, in the next installment of this discussion.
The third category of Carre’s production were the sport bikes or demi-course group. These would have similar features to the other types but with slightly less expensive lugs, crowns and finishing. Carre built frames in this category with Reynolds 531 main tubes but other tubing was probably substituted at the request of the institutional buyer. Carre even sub-contracted with his old employer, CNC, producing this type of frameset for the Thomann brand of CNC. Click on the picture below to see details of construction.
Another example of this category is to be found on Classic Factory Lightweight Bicycles with the Delcroix being not just 531 main tubes but having a 531 fork as well. Click to enlarge.
Photo: Classic Factory Lightweight Bicycles
If you are interested in other aspects of Bernard Carre’s work, please click on the links below: