Once you hack, you never go back.


California Side Car

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007 Posted in California, Manufacturers | No Comments »

I admit I do not know much about the California Side Car company (yes, the name is two words; “Side Car”). I know that they did play a significant roll in the 80’s and early 90’s American scooter scene, although they did not fair so well in European markets. (perhaps due to the availability of older sidecars and the Watson). They were light weight sidecars and readily available alternatives to increasingly hard to find original Vespa, Globe, Steib and other out of production rigs here in the States. I imagine that they were also very popular here in the states because they fit that pre-eBay niche market for hard to find items (God bless eBay!!!). If anyone knows the story of why they decided to give up on the scooter market, please let me know.

Here is some great information about the American sidecar legend. Note that the California Side Car for scooters is out of production, but they do have a website with Motorcycle sidecars. check it out: http://www.californiasidecar.com/

Many thanks to Dan Rickard for providing the scanned photo’s and flyers.

  • Installation instructions - Mostly for the “Friendship” and “Companion” sidecars which are for motorcycles. Much of the concepts are the same for scooters. You can download the entire scanned pages in zipped format here. (5.7 mb)
  • An article about the company - As ran in 1980 in “Touring Bike”

Original California Side Car flyers (click to view original size).

Check out the pricing!

California Side Car

Note the MOUNTING challenge: “We challenge you to find a scooter we can’t fit!”

California Side Car

Check out the personalized note and pricing, great stuff!

California Side Car

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Article about California Side Cars

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007 Posted in California, Manufacturers | 1 Comment »

As featured in October, 1980, Touring Bike

  The interest in sidecars has tripled in the last two years and sidecar sales reflect that the smaller displacement motorcycles are getting hitched to a fair share of chairs. How come? Well, in a world of economics the experts say watch the length of mademoiselle’s hemline; if it’s up so goes the nations economy and when the dresses are dusting the shoe tops, we’re in a depression. Another gauge of a nations economy which I feel is far more realistic although not as pleasant on the eyes, is a simple matter of looking at the country’s mode of transportation past and present and then checkarticle1what you’re paying for gas today compared what you paid just about a month ago. The Europeans have been shelling out two to three dollars a gallon for some time, and they also drive smaller cars-and we’re starting to do likewise. The Europeans also ride bicycles, and motorcycles are used for transportation almost exclusively, with the recreation aspect of motorcycling taking a back seat to economy. The motorcycle’s displacement is also much smaller in other countries and sidecars are commonplace. So even though the hemline is going up this year, count the motorcycles and more particularly count how many wheels they have.
  In the past we have probably converted more sidecar events and tested more rigs than normally seen on the pages of  motorcycle magazines, mostly because I’m a two and three wheeled enthusiast, and try to keep up with the sidecar information requests we receive. But lately I’ve been drowned in a sea of mail with similar questions. What is the best sidecar for my bike or how do I learn how to pilot a sidecar, or what’s the smallest displacement I can safely get by with? We are going to work closely with the different sidecar manufacturers to bring you the most current and up to date sidecar technology and do some rod testing as well. My advice to those readers who are interested in sidecarring is to catch one of the sidecar rallies this year and look over all the different rigs and powerplants. There are plenty of experienced chair experts and manufacturers of sidecars at these rallies. They’re a friendly bunch and you are quite welcome to show up at a rally on two wheels.
  Which brings us to the California Side Car Company, 1630 Oregon Ave., Long Beach CA 90813, (213) 432-8880, Bob and Vickie Newsom, who own and operate it, invited us over to look at the plant and their product line and discuss a few things they see in the sidecar market. The California Side Car Company can make a sidehack for just about anything on two wheels, and we do mean anything. The basic model is the Commutor, and it is generally intended for anything from 200 cc to 750 cc. The Commutor body on a different chassis is sold for use on Vespa scooters, but will also fit such earlier versions as the Allstates (remember?), and will work on a scooter with as little as 50 cc displacement. For larger bikes there is the Spirit Eagle, which has many similar
The sidecar bodies get a thorough prepping before paining to
insure a top finish. Then they make the trip to the paint booth.
The assembly room is where the prepared body and chassis meet.

construction features with the Commutor but a slightly larger, more stylish body that uses a larger wheel and tire than the 4.80 x 8 inch DOT-approved assembly of the Commutor. The largest is the American Spirit, a very stylish and luxurious sidecar with an attractive list of features. Understandably, the most popular is the Commutor, with its wide adaptability. While we were at the shop, we saw hacks on a 50 cc Vespa, an RD400 Yamaha, a Suzuki GS400, and there were other, bigger bikes being readied for installation.
  At California Side Car, Bon Newsom does very little of his own manufacturing of components, but he keeps a very close watch on his suppliers and does all the painting and assembly. The frames are very sturdy, tubular affairs, with trick torsion bar suspension arrangement that is both compact and durable. The frames are built outside, and Newsom requires verification that all welding is done by certified welders. The fiberglass bodies likewise receive quite a bit finish work before painting, and the glass works is very good. All the wiring is done before shipment, so if you buy one as a kit the drudgery and difficulty will not be a concern; Newsom believes in the philosophy that it’s better to have the customer satisfied the first time than have to answer the phone all day long explaining how to make things right. It’s a philosophy that makes it easier on him and better for the customer
  The interior of the sidecar is carpeted with a good quality indoor outdoor-type carpet that is glued to the insides. The seat is a bucket, upholstered in black. The windshield attaches with screws to the body.article2


According to Newsom, they are very careful with production tolerances, so replacement parts are no worry.
  The reason for the relatively shall wheel on the Commutor is interesting. Newsom sells quite a few units to dealers and also exports impressive numbers abroad, largely to Japan. The small wheel is DOT-approved for trailer use and uses all standard, easily-available parts and bearings, so there is no trouble with satisfying government regulators or with repair and maintenance. Again, another plus for the customer.
  The basic Commutor attaches to a motorcycle with spring-loaded ball-and-socket joint, that allows removal of the entire sidecar in only a few minutes. In fact, Newsom took one off while we were standing there watching and talking about it, and it was obvious that if you wanted change from three wheels to two the conversion would be quick and easy.
  You can also get color matching for just about anything. When you place you order, just tell them what make, model, and year and color your bike is and when you open the sturdy wooden crate there will be a matching sidecar. <added text> The prices from California Side Car range from $850 to $1150 for the top of the line - the Freindship </added text>
  Additionally, you can order a tonneau cover and luggage rack, to add protection and more versatility. And if that isn’t enough, Newsom is working on a design for really small bikes and mopeds called the Tagalong which will fit right up to a Honda CT90 trail bike. Like we said, just about everything. When we were there, the production was at a rate of 5-8 per day, but by the time you read this it will probably be up to 11-12 a day, so that proves the sidecar business is growing; that’s a lot of sidecars in a year’s time.
  With fuel economy so important, perhaps it’s not surprising to see so much interest in any way possible to save a few gallons of gas. The sidecar is becoming a reasonable alternative to a lot of transportation problems. It’s versatile, it’s economical, but at the bottom line there is one other very important factor: It’s just one heck of a lot of fun.
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