Old motorcycle sidecars.

From time to time old photos of motorcyclists turn up, occasionally sat on motorcycles fitted with sidecars. Whereas these bolt-on devices were once a common sight on Britain’s roads, with perhaps the most popular being the Watsonian sidecar, they are quite a rare sight nowadays. These are all original photographs from a variety of sources.

1. A couple with their motorcycle & sidecar combination.

First is this shot, showing a lady at the handlebars with her other half sat on the pillion. The motorcycle is registered FVB 812, a London series first used in 1947. Does anyone recognise the make of sidecar shown attached to the bike? Unlike some I’ve seen, this example has a small chrome rail fitted to the forward end of the tub. A note on the rear says the picture was taken in Lancing, nr Worthing, May 1952.

A couple sat on their motorcycle/sidecar combination

2. Two Panther motorcycles.

Photo two shows a pair of motorcycles with their sidecars, parked on camping field surrounded by tents.

A pair of sidecars parked near some tents
And from the same source, showing the same combinations, this picture, with two motorcyclists sat on their trusty machines. The first bike is registered HAA 833, a Hampshire series used from 1949 onwards, while the second is registered OPC 210, a 1950-on series from Surrey. I’m told that both machines are Panthers (598cc or 648cc), built by Phelon & Moore in Cleckheaton, Yorkshire.
Two riders on their motorcycles

3. Two pre-war motorcycles and sidecars.

The next picture features a pair of pre-war motorcycles and sidecars. The bike on the right is registered MK 7359, this series was only used for a short time in London (1926 & 1927) so dates the motorcycle reasonably accurately. The other bike’s number can’t be made out, but definitely has a 1920s air about it. I’m told the lefthand bike is a Norton of around 1923 – 1927, probably a model 16H 490cc sidevalve. The righthand sidecar could well be a Watsonian, fitted on the firm’s ‘Quickfit’ chassis (the sidecar, with chassis, could be detached from the motorcycle very simply by moving a lever/cam system and then could be wheeled up a side entry of a house to park it off the road). Something very similar can be seen attached to a 1920s Triumph onthis page too.

Two 1920s sidecars

4. A Matchless and sidecar in 1937.

Some of these photos appear elsewhere on the site, but seemed like a good fit to include on this page also. The first of these repeats shows a lucky chap with three young ladies for company, perched on his pre-war Matchless motorcycle & sidecar, reg. GW 1275. The photo dates to August 1937.

A Matchless combination

5. 1930 BSA motorcycle and sidecar.

Next, this shot, first shown on the classic motorcycles page. It was sent over by Stan, and shows his father leaning on a 1930 BSA, fitted with an open-top sidecar of unknown manufacture.

A BSA motorcycle fitted with a sidecar
I’m really grateful to receive any old photos from visitors to the site, and thank them for allowing me to show them on a suitable page. The following sidecar images have been sent over, and are shown with their owners’ permission.

6. At a campsite in 1938.

Barry in Canada sent these next two old photos over. The first is a great shot dating to 1938. It shows his mum and dad with their pre-war motorcycle & sidecar combination, stopped at a campsite they regularly visited at St Osyth, near Clacton. The second, colour, photo shows Barry himself this time, astride his classic Norton 16H, also fitted with a sidecar, this one capable of accomodating two adults. The location was Welwyn Garden City. Some more information on this combination turned up via the forum, suggesting a slightly different model of motorcycle: “Norton model 19S 600cc single cylinder fitted with a Busmar ‘Astral’ sidecar. The 19S was made purely for use with a sidecar”. Thanks for sending the photos over!

Two people and their sidecar combination in 1938

7. Norton, and Astral sidecar.

A 16H Norton motorcycle

8. Red India motorcycle.

Robin kindly sent over the next two vintage motorcycle & sidecar photographs. The first shows his grandparents on a vintage machine, and he adds: “Photo of my grandfather and grandmother, Ben & Cepha Curry, on a Red Indian M/C. Circa 1920. They used to go on trips with my mother (Maud Curry) on the pillion and my father (Charles Revens) being towed behind on his bicycle, holding an elastic rope attached to the back of the motorcycle. I guess they went slower in those days!”

An Indian motorcycle with sidecar attached

9. Motorcycle combinations in Suffolk during WW1.

The second of Robin’s photos dates to the WW1 era: “This is a photo taken outside Ampton Hall Suffolk which was used as a convalescent hospital during WW1. My mother met father when taking him to Ampton Hall from Bury St Edmunds rail station, when he returned injured from France. Mother was driving a Model T Ford ambulance for the Red Cross at the time (18 yrs old ).” Thanks Robin!

WW1 motorcycles

10. A vintage motorcycle combination in 1923.

Another from my own collection of old photographs now. The location is the war memorial at Garboldisham, in Suffolk. The date – 1923. A chilly winter’s day, with the passenger in the sidecar very well wrapped up while the rider takes the photograph. The motorcycle’s registration is RE 8694. Does the distinctive style of road wheel, or disc, fitted to this vintage sidecar help in its identification? St John the Baptist church can just be made out in the distance. Apparently the war memorial is located at the East end of Church Lane, at the junction with the B1111.

(Please click the thumbnail to view full-size image.)
A vintage sidecar in 1923

11. A Norton motorcycle & sidecar.

Kevin kindly sent over this next sidecar photo. Dating to the early 1960s, it shows him sat on the saddle of his dad’s Norton (model anyone?). Registered TNN 830, the Norton is seen parked outside the family home in Nottingham.

Norton motorcycle & side-car

12. BSA & sidecar.

Another classic British motorcycle now, a BSA, with a smart sidecar attached to it. Can anyone id the make of sidecar? The registration KYL 22 suggests a date of 1949. The bike looks similar to A7 500cc twins I’ve seen photos of.

BSA motorbike with side-car

13. Off-road trialling in the 1920s or 1930s.

Mark kindly sent over this next photograph, another car boot sale find. Two vintage motorcycles, with sidecars and passengers, are photographed competing in an off-road trial. The registration of the lefthand machine, possibly YM 1686, would date the bike to 1925/1926 and the London area. Note the 1920s/1930s Pratts two-gallon fuel tin strapped to the lefthand combination, and the streamlined design of the one alongside. Below that machine’s entry number (132) is a motor club badge, which reads ????LEY & DISTRICT. The riders and passengers (the latter brought along on bouncing duty) are well wrapped up for the muddy, chilly conditions that lay ahead.

Vintage motorcycle & sidecar trial

14. A 1913 Bradbury motorcycle & sidecar combination?

Celia in North Vancouver emailed this next photograph to me, hoping that some more information on the machine featured in it could be discovered. Checking around, the motorcycle looks very much like a vintage Bradbury – a number of similar machines feature on this other site, many of which are also adorned with a sidecar of vintage design. The registration is LH 1194, a London series used for just a few months during 1913, thus pinning down the date of this machine quite accurately. If anyone can confirm or dispute my thoughts regarding this machine’s identity, please drop me a line. What a great photo.

Vintage Bradbury motorcycle combination

Source: Old Classic Car

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