In the early years of motorcycling, the sidecar outfit was a practical cheaper alternative to the car. The 1914 Gamages catalogue (below) announced bicycle sidecars – with either a wicker body to carry a child or a basket for transporting goods – as ‘Something Quite New.’ This era was Gamages heyday and they would have been quick to introduce new innovations in cycling, so I assume that this was when cycle sidecars first came onto the market.
1930s Watsonian Pedal Car
Displayed alongside 1937 BSA ‘Piled Arms’ Tandem
fitted with Watsonian ‘Model 8’ Two-Seater Tandem
This unusual pedal car uses an aluminium cycle sidecar body made by the ‘Watsonian Sidecar Co’. The interior is similar to that of the sidecar. The body is not actually a sidecar body repurposed – if you look at the profiles of each (above) you can see that it’s a different shape. I’ve never seen another example, but I’m sure it was manufactured by Watsonian as it has been fabricated to a high professional standard, certainly good enough to have been sold in a department store. Perhaps it was a prototype? Its wire wheels have solid tyres. Below, you can see it displayed next to the 1937 BSA ‘Piled Arms’ tandem fitted with the rarest type of cycle sidecar, the No 8 Two-Seater.
UNDERNEATH THE WATSONIAN PEDAL CAR
WATSONIAN CYCLE SIDECAR CATALOGUE
WATSONIAN PEDAL CAR v SINGLE SEAT CYCLE SIDECAR
The original business was established in 1912 by Thomas Fredrick Watson as the ‘Patent Collapsible Sidecar Company Ltd’, after he built a folding sidecar that allowed him to get his motorcycle and sidecar combination through a narrow entrance to the yard at his house. Early sidecars were built with wicker bodies, which were then replaced by ash frames with plywood or steel panels. During World War 1, the company built sidecars for use as motorcycle ambulances. In 1922, they moved to Hockley in Birmingham. In 1930, the company name was changed to the ‘Watsonian Sidecar Company Ltd.’ In the same year the factory was destroyed by fire and in 1931 the company moved to new premises in Greet.
MAY, 1937: KING GEORGE VI CORONATION
The coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth took place on 12 May 1937. King George ascended the throne on the abdication of his brother Edward VIII. Edward’s coronation had been planned for 12 May 1937 and it was decided to continue with his brother and sister-in-law’s coronation on the same date.
The rear mudguard tip fitted to the 1937 BSA ‘Piled Arms’ tandem would not have been fitted at the time. Obviously many souvenir items had already been manufactured ready for the Coronation. Items such as this, featuring the name of King Edward VIII, became obsolete the moment his abdication was announced on 10 December 1936.
WATSONIAN SINGLE SEATER SIDECAR
(Delphy, aged 18 months)