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European Motorcycles

Sidecars

A sidecar is a one-wheeled device attached to the side of a motorcycle, producing a three-wheeled vehicle. Early sidecars were intended to be removable devices that could be detached from the motorcycle.

The first mention of a sidecar is in a cartoon by George Moore in the January 7, 1903 issue of the British newspaper "Motor Cycling". Three weeks later a provisional patent was granted to Mr. W. J. Graham of Graham Brothers, Enfield, Middlesex.

Early models were often like wicker armchairs and are now rare collectors' items, but even in the early years they were starting to look like the classic forms still seen today. They were often coach-built the traditional way, with jointed, wooden frames and sheet metal or wood veneer bodywork.

In the recession years of the 1930s all sorts of firms made sidecars just to keep going; so famous aircraft and motorcar names were seen on chairs of this period, as well as motorcycles]companies. This produced some interesting designs, with aviation firms in particular using their own lightweight, high-tech methods.

Before the 1950s, sidecars were quite popular, providing a cheap alternative to passenger cars; they have also been used by the army and police.

The heyday for sidecars in Britain was after the Second World War, peaking in the 1950s. There was plenty of good second-hand stock still around from before the war, and a number of pre-war firms continued in production. There was enough demand for new firms to start up too, producing innovative designs using new methods and materials carried from the war effort into industry.

There are only a handful of British sidecar manufacturers today, all but the biggest operating like cottage industries.

Sources: Grace's Guide



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Allen Motorcycle Museum
Allen Motorcycle Museum
Private museum in Boston, MA, with many highly collectable vintage motorcycles for sale.