I want to tell you a story by Dave Bradley

May 29th, 2020

During 1965 I built my first sidecar outfit and started racing in 1966. For the following year I decided to build an improved outfit, see photo taken at Castle Coombe, leading the pack into the right hand turn at the end of the main straight. The outfit was powered by a pre unit 650cc Triumph fitted with a nine stud Bonneville head, 3134 cams and Amal monobloc carburettors. The gearbox is a Norton AMC with 4 speed close ratio gears.The chassis was my own concoction using Reynolds 531 tubing. Inch and a quarter o.d.17 swg tube was mostly used as being an electrician I could bend the tubes with a conduit bender. I did not have Oxy/Acetylene welding equipment at home but used a carbon arc torch connected to my arc welder to tack the tubes together with SIF bronze and then get the welding completed elsewhere. My passenger at that time was a centre lathe turner so could make bits for me, such as the steering head, which was a great help. For the front forks stanchions I used one and three quarter inch o.d.16 swg seam welded tube and fabricated the yokes from one eighth of an inch steel plate, with strengthening braces. I used short independent leading links similar to those used by Douglas. In Phil Irving’s book “Tuning for Speed” he stated that for sidecar outfits a steering head angle of 20 degrees was best, so that’s what I used for this outfit. Twenty degrees, I believe, is also similar to that of speedway bikes and on left hand bends the outfit actually steered like a speedway bike. If you entered a left hand bend sufficiently fast enough then instead of the sidecar wheel lifting the rear wheel would drift out and you then controlled the slide with the throttle. The wheels were sixteen inch front and rear and twelve inch for the sidecar. Lack of money meant I was unable to have proper race brakes. For the front brake I used two eight inch BSA half width hubs mounted back to back, with a sixteen inch rim, the spokes were less than two inches long. The wheels were laced up by ex speedway rider and British speedway team manager, Phil Bishop. The rear wheel was a fitted with a standard BSA “crinkle” Q.D. hub and drum. The sidecar wheel though was a cast alloy wheel from a Zundap Bella scooter! Look at the sidecar wheel arch closely, the projection at wheel spindle height is a mechanical fuel pump driven by an offset steel disc bolted to the wheel. The petrol tank is in the fibreglass wheel arch and petrol is pumped to a small header tank/weir mounted just above the carburettors. The pump works continuously whilst the sidecar wheel is turning, the carburettors are gravity fed from the small header tank and excess fuel is returned to the wheel arch petrol tank to avoid flooding the carbs. There is a lever on the fuel pump to prime the header tank for running the engine whilst the bike is stationary.

Now a little about the race meeting, it was a national event and for the sidecars there were heats with “A” and  “B” finals. I remember Chris Vincent and Owen Greenwood being there and needless to say I did not make the “A” final. I did win the “B” final though, however when I crossed the finishing line I failed to correctly see the chequered flag and did another lap at racing speed just to make sure! There was £15.00 prize money for winning and this was sent by cheque a few days later. I did not have a bank account though as this was in the days when we got a proper pay packet with cash in it each week. My dad would be able to cash it for me in his bank account but before this happened I managed to lose the cheque! The race organisers were sympathetic though and agreed to cancel the original cheque and send a replacement.

As you know the MCN is published each Wednesday and there on the back page of the following weeks issue, instead of  the usual photo of the main race winner, there was one of me leading the race with the caption “D. Bradley with his front wheel hard on the line” Ah memories of fame to be that was never to be!

Dave Bradley.

Castle Combe courtesy MCN