One hundred years ago in 1910, my grandfather , James Goulding built his first sidecar in Melbourne, Australia. In 1956 He built his last sidecar in Saginaw, Michigan. A lot of Motorcycle History happened between these two events and James and his famous family were a part of 80 years of Bike History. Mr. Goulding was born in Carlisle, England in 1885. His family emigrated to Australia when he was four years old. James grew to be an energetic and ambitious worker and had his own home building business (and his first Harley-Davidson) by 1908. James designed his first sidecar to haul his building tools, and from the beginning he used his chassis idea with the floating axle system that made them so durable.
In 1915, he had his sidecar manufacturing business well underway. In 1911, he married Mary Olive Ratford. In 1912 Olive, as James called her, gave birth to motorcycling's most famous lady, Dot (Goulding) Robinson. She wasn't born in a sidecar as legend has it, but her mother was rushed to the doctor in a 1911 Harley belt-drive motorcycle with a Goulding sidecar. In 1915, Claude Goulding was born and in 1917 my mother Edna Goulding was added to the clan. By 1917, Goulding Sidecars were the primary brand in Australia and New Zealand.
In 1920, James decided to introduce his product in America. He did this with a 12,000 mile tour of the U.S. using a 1917 Harley "J' Model 1000cc with his sidecar. One part of this tour was a transcontinental run from New York to San Francisco. Photos attest to how nasty the dirt and sand roads were a good deal of the way. The trip ended at Dudley Perkin's Harley-Davidson dealership in San Francisco.
James had made contact with many motorcycle business's during his 12,000 miles of touring. By 1923, the Goulding's had relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The sidecars were made there for several years. In 1925, the Goulding's went back to Melbourne and spent most of a year transferring their sidecar business to A.J. Healing and his product continued to be manufactured in Australia throughout the 1930's. 1926 found the Gouldings relocated to Saginaw, Michigan where James and Olive lived for the rest of their lives. James built his sidecars and had a Harley-Davidson Dealership in Saginaw by the late twenties. The Great Depression seriously interrupted his success but he would not give up.
The Goulding Products are being covered in our Tech section , including the two basic chassis models and a number of body styles culminating with "The Goulding Rocket" in 1937, Mr. Goulding's most successful American model. The 1940's brought Goulding Manufacturing Co. out of the Depression with the U.S. Government War Effort work. Numbers of sidecars were ordered by the Canadian Military for their war effort and many were used in Europe. After WW II, James expanded his business into the burgeoning plastics industry. By 1956, the sidecar orders were becoming so few that the department was discontinued.
DOT (GOULDING) ROBINSON & EARL ROBINSON
In 1928, Dot was in high school and worked part time in her Dad’s dealership. A Saginaw area farm boy came into the shop to buy oil for his 1925 HD JD motorcycle. He was so taken by Dot that he took to hanging around the shop until Jim Goulding hired him to be a mechanic and sent him to the Harley Factory for his training. In 1931 Dot and Earl were married and were running the Harley Store. Their enthusiastic promotion of motorcycling was noticed early on by the Harley-Davidson management.
Dot and Earl were both riding and winning in Endurance Run competition in the early 1930s. In 1935 The Robinson’s set two transcontinental records, New York to Los Angeles. Earl set the solo record on a 1935 HD 45, at 77 hours and 53 minutes, and He and Dot set the sidecar record at 89 hours and 58 minutes. While at the Harley Factory in 1932, they were approached by Arthur Davidson (one of HD’s founders).
He told them he was impressed with their energy and enthusiasm for the motorcycle business, and asked if they would be interested in buying their Dad’s HD Francise. They told him they knew Mr. Goulding was really more interested in his Sidecar Company and would probably sell, but they had no money to buy it.
Mr. Davidson casually asked how much they thought it was worth. Earl answered, about $1500 for parts inventory and another $1500 for used machines. Mr. Davidson excused himself, and came back in a few minutes with a check for $3000 with no paper to be signed. $3000 was a bunch in 1932, but they paid him back within a year. In 1936 they moved their Harley Franchise to Detroit where they became one of the top selling Harley dealers for many years. Dot and Earl became major National Endurance Run competitors throughout the1930s, 40, 50s. They were famous for their Jack Pine 500 mile Enduro wins. Dot won 1st in the Jack Pine class “A” sidecar in 1940 and 1946 (against the men, of course). She also placed high in this event many times, and won the sidecar class in other 500 mile Enduros around the country.
Dot also co-founded (in 1940) and rode with her Motor Maids of America as president for many years. Earl won Class "A" solo in The Jack Pine a number of times and was was National Enduro Champion at Columbus, Ohio in 1940. They both won many, many 100 mile enduro events. Earl was also an accomplished flat track racer and placed at Daytona Beach (on the sand and tarmac course) a couple of times in the 1930s. They both won a number of Marathon race titles in the 1960s. They sold their popular Harley Dealership in 1972 and settled in Florida. They were each inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in the 1990s.
Claude Goulding began working in his Dad’s sidecar business in 1932 while still in high school and worked full time upon graduating. By 1941, he had become a full partner with his dad. He was the driving force in helping the Goulding company to diversify and survive after the sidecar era was over. In the middle nineteen fifties Claude had taken over running Goulding Manufacturing and ran the company successfully until it was sold to a Massachusetts company in 1967. Claude was one of the most famous and successful Enduro riders of his time, and he was equally at home riding and winning, solo or driving sidecar.
He started his competition riding in the early 1930s with a 1931 HD flathead 21ci single. In 1937 he won the class “A” sidecar in The Jack Pine 500 with an HD 45 and Goulding sidecar. Dot came in second place. In 1938 Claude repeated as sidecar champ with an HD Knucklehead and Goulding.
In 1946 Claude won the Overall Jack Pine 500 on a 350 BSA B31 single. It was the first foreign bike ever to win the Jack Pine. In 1947 he did the seemingly impossible. He won the Jack Pine Overall title with an Harley-Davidson 74ci Knucklehead and Goulding Sidecar, outpointing all the solo bikes.
It had never been done before and was never done again. Claude also won a number of other 500 mile Enduros around the country and was National Sidecar Enduro Champ in 1940 at Columbus, Ohio. Claude suffered a back injury in1952 and was forced to end his competition career. As those of you in the vintage motorcycle world are aware, the Goulding Sidecars are still seen at vintage events. Now you know a little of our family history.
Grandson of James Goulding
1. This page is adapted from an archive which may be found at the Wayback Machine.
2. The Tech Section is missing from the archive, as are several images from this page.