The long-running Watsonian Palma range

Mick Payne looks back at the long history of the Watsonian Squire Palma range of sidecars, which were innovative at the time of their introduction and remain available to this day.

I mentioned last time that our editor, Pete, had offered his BMW R100RT and Watsonian Palma to Kate and I on long-term test.

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The Palma range of sidecars is probably one of the longest-running models ever built, and in its various forms it is still a mainstay of the Watsonian Sidecar Company’s catalogue.

The same steel loop chassis serves all models, from the single-seat Monza and Monaco to the child/adult Palma, and there is now a big wheel option too.

This 10in Mini wheel was always fitted to Pete’s Palma – but when the original Mini tyres started to crack, the only new tyres available proved to be just that little bit too fat for the original flared mudguard.

Traditionally, the Sixties option would have had a 10in Mini wheel (that’s an Issigonis Mini, not the modern van-sized car; ironically the car that was supposed to have killed off the outfit, and this is what Pete’s example is fitted with).

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This option is quite rightly listed by WS as the Classic, the rim being fitted with a very period-looking stainless steel trim.

The other options are the DL, with a 10in alloy wheel and a very nicely sculpted mudguard, while the Jubilee has a 15in spoked wheel and a few more bits of ‘eye candy’ to justify its premium price.

John and Jill Hind have kept a pleasant period feel with their Triumph Thunderbird and Monza sidecar.

As for the price, this is the greatest change since Pete’s chair rolled out of the factory 54 years ago in 1962, as the design has remained remarkably static.

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Sure, it has evolved over the years, but a flared trouser-wearing owner would be able to recognise the sidecar that carried his young wife and child until she put the pressure on to get a ‘nice little car’.

Sometimes this would have been one of the plethora of three-wheelers such as Bond or Reliant – I remember many young men turning from their bikes to one of these – indeed I was one, and stand guilty as charged. I drove a Reliant Regal van until it caught fire rather spectacularly.

The editor’s Palma sidecar dates back to 1962, and was in good fettle when this photo was taken just over two years ago.

The modular concept of Watsonian’s range was quite innovative for those early days. As already mentioned, the range shared the same loop chassis and the glass-fibre bodies were clever in their execution and design.

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The cheapest, the Monza, had no opening boot, but the similar Monaco was squared off at the back with a large boot accessed through a hinged lid, and also featured a larger wrap-round screen.

To make the child/adult Palma, just remove the boot lid, continue the screen right around and add a small hammock-like seat and you have accommodation for junior.

Beautifully colour-matched, this Hinckley-built T100 Triumph Bonneville/Monaco outfit is a delight to the eye.

Probably not the most popular of Watsonian’s models, the chair lives on, but the price now would have bought a whole lot of Minis in the early Sixties. You’d even have a bit left over for a new waxed Belstaff suit – and just look at the price of those now!

Before signing off for this month, I’d like to say thanks to all those OBM readers who have donated to my Just Giving page, some of them with very personal heartfelt messages.

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