Sidecars were patented in January 1903 by the Graham Brothers of Middlesex, England. An interesting anecdote about the sidecar is that was first proposed as a joke in a cartoon in a motorcycling magazine. The Grahams thought is was a good idea, so they patented it three weeks after the magazine hit the newsstands! Ariel and Trafalgar were among the first companies to build and sell the outfits, licensed to Graham. So this Trafalgar in the 1903 adverts was one of the very first to be seen by the buying public and was the beginning of a million stories about dogs and children riding as passengers, or new drivers putting the outfit into a ditch.. The image is from The Veterans, by Lord Montague. Note the name SIDE CARRIAGE. Which we now of course call a sidecar.
That sidecars appeared on the market so quickly seems a bit shocking, but they were based on known technology. The chasses of lugs and tubes had been used on bicycles and motorbicycles for some time, as had the spoked wheel of course. The attachments were simply cast iron lugs fashioned to work as clamps to the bikes downtube and other suitable places. (It was few years before bike frames had sidecar mounting lugs cast integrally). But the wicker chair was a new feature for motor vehicles though. I thought it was novel, but some time ago I saw an old movie that featured a Victorian era wheelchair. And of course it was made of wicker, and looked very much like the sidecar bodies that were rolled out in 1903/04. So it was simple to buy or build these and drop them onto the sidehack. Here is a photo of an Invalid Chair as they were called and a link to a description:
The early sidecar chairs had big, long leaf spring suspensions for the body. The wicker cane made for a light weight assembly, although not as durable as a steel body. We can only imagine how many of these fine cane bodies were destroyed in minor accidents. While it was common back then to find people that could repair the wicker, that skill is now another one of the those things that is largely forgotten today. Every so often a worn wicker seat comes up for sale, but I’ve so far resisted the urge to buy it and teach myself underwater basket weaving. Chris K in Australia has bitten the bullet and made his own, I’ll show it in a future article.
“Displacing the horse”
A “shoe” type sidecar body. I don’t recognize the bike, but it is around 1910. A “coffee grinder” handle can be seen on the left side of the fuel tank, so it may have had a NSU two speed… The missing mudguard on the sidecar gives a good view of the long leaf springs.
I don’t recall where I got these next two images, sorry. Taken on the Banbury run a few years ago. Chris Read with his Vindec. Note the Traffault front forks and not one but two dogs on board.
Two pics of a Matchless outfit from Yesterday’s.
This one looks a bit like a Rey:
A Christmas card from Barnstormers New Zealand
Photo by Bill Phelps. He rode his Triumph in the 1960s. The wicker is from an invalid chair, and the combination still does the Pioneer Run each spring.
This final note from Ixion’s Reminiscences of Motorcycling: