Graham Overd tells of a lifetime of motorcycling memories, from keeping a stock of box sidecars for sixteeners taking the bigger bike, three-wheel ‘L’ plate option to building off-road specials and proudly riding a succession of Triumphs on the road.
In February, Old Bike Mart ran a story about a reader who bought his first motorcycle on his 16th birthday in 1963, but instead of buying a learner-limit machine of up to 250cc chose a larger motorcycle with a sidecar attached. Since then, several readers have written in about their times on sidecar outfits.
In 1963 I was two years into my motorcycle business working from the Esplanade Garage on the Paignton sea front in south Devon, and for the learner/rider who wanted a big bike to learn on and then keep, I kept four sidecar chassis with large wooden boxes bolted to them so that when a customer chose his motorcycle, one of them could be fixed on. When he passed his test, the third wheel could be taken off and made ready for the next customer.
All four chassis were used, as trade was very good back then – until 1966, when the Prime Minister of the day put a credit squeeze on the whole country. As hire purchase accounted for 99% of my sales, it became much harder to sell the bikes, and some time later selective employment tax (SET) was levied on employees, so sadly, with the fall of sales and the cost of SET (£1 5s per employee) I was forced to lease my garage to another business.
From 1962, as well as the Esplanade, I rented a smaller workshop called Unity Garage in Church Street, Paignton, and it was there that I was able to do what I loved the most – building and riding off-road competition machines, overhauling engines, reboring, welding, grinding, wheelbuilding, selling spares old and new and building specials.
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