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British 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 years of the Great Depression during the late 1920s and early to mid 1930s all manner of firms made sidecars just to keep going; so famous aircraft and motorcar names were seen on sidecars of this period, as well as those of established motorcycle companies. This produced some interesting designs, with aviation firms in particular using their own lightweight, high-tech methods.

Until the mid 1950s sidecar combinations were quite popular, providing a cheap alternative to passenger cars, and were frequently used by the military 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: Graces Guide



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