Bonhams Auctions Historic Motorcycle Sidecars

January 29, 2009
Courtesy of Bonhams

Ex-Eric Oliver c.1949 Norton 596cc Manx Racing Motorcycle Combination
Ex-Eric Oliver c.1949 Norton 596cc Manx Racing Motorcycle Combination

Bonhams will recall the glory days of motorcycle sidecar combinations with an offering of no fewer than three historic examples at the International Classic Motorcycle Show in Stafford on 26th April. The sidecars are: Eric Oliver’s 1949 Norton Manx/Watsonian, Harold Tozer’s 1949 BSA Gold Star Trials and Bert Greeves’ 1968 Greeves/Watsonian.

Although only a minority interest nowadays, from the 1920s into the 1960s, the motorcycle and sidecar combination was a familiar sight on Britain’s roads, being the natural choice for the workingman with a young family. In the post-war years, the sporting heroes of the three-wheeled persuasion enjoyed a profile matching that of their solo-riding contemporaries, the discipline’s first pre-eminent star – in international road racing – being Eric Oliver.

A motorcycle racer in pre-war days, Eric Oliver served in the RAF during WW2 and enjoyed his first major international success in 1949, winning the inaugural World Championship in the sidecar class on the machine we offer, passengered by the celebrated motoring journalist, Dennis Jenkinson. Although never officially a ‘works’ rider, Oliver received engines from Norton and considerable assistance from Watsonian, and went on to win the World Championship three more times, as well as the first post-war Isle of Man Sidecar TT of 1954.

* Eric Oliver’s 1949 Norton Manx/Watsonian: Estimate £40,000 – 50,000.
The ex-Oliver Manx is of 596cc (600cc being the maximum permitted capacity prior to 1951) and was purchased from the estate of the late Reg Dearden, one of the most famous of all Norton tuner/entrants, by the late Eric Biddle, from whom the current owner acquired it in the early 1970s. Restored in the 1990s and verified as authentic by Eric Oliver’s widow, Dennis Jenkinson and Ron Watson (of Watsonian), this historic machine has been on display at The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu for many years.

The Harold Tozer 1949 BSA 499cc Multi-Award Winning Trials Outfit
The Harold Tozer 1949 BSA 499cc Multi-Award Winning Trials Outfit.

* Harold Tozer’s 1949 BSA Gold Star Trials: Estimate £16,000 – £20,000.
Had there been a world trials championship for sidecars in his day there can be little doubt that Harold Tozer would have added that crown to his countless successes at national level. During the late 1940s/early 1950s, there was no more famous partnership among trials experts than that of Tozer and his passenger Jack Wilkes. Between 1946 and December 1952, when he retired, Tozer won no fewer than 54 premier awards in national trials, from 1949 onwards using the machine we offer, ‘JOK 536’. More than any other, it was this outfit with its ‘trademark’ spare tyre strapped to the front of the Watsonian competition chair, that made the rather corpulent Tozer so readily identifiable.

Amongst his many achievements were Gold Medals in The International Six Days Trial and victories in the prestigious British Experts, Southern, Colmore Cup and D K Mansell Trials, plus the ACU Trials Drivers’ Star. ‘JOK 536’ has recently re-emerged, in amazingly original condition, from 40 or more years’ long-term storage in private ownership, kept in the front room of a house in the North of England. It has been gently re-commissioned by an ex-works mechanic and this historic competition motorcycle is now offered on the open market, we believe, for the first time ever.

* Bert Greeves’ 1968 Greeves/Watsonian: Estimate £4,000 – 6,000.
Although not a competition machine as such, this final outfit belongs to a manufacturer possessing a competition record out of all proportion to its small size – Greeves. It belonged originally to the man the gave the marque its name, Bert Greeves. A 36MX4 Challenger hitched to a Watsonian chair, ‘BVX 45G’ was first registered to Greeves’ parent company, Invacar Ltd, serving as Bert’s personal transport as well as the works development ‘hack’. Later registered in Bert’s own name, the machine passed from him in 1999 to marque authority (and ex-President of the Greeves Riders’ Association) Andrew King, from whom it was purchased by well known Villiers collector, the late Igor Ashwell, in 2005. Presented in original, unrestored condition, the machine is offered together with nine others, including an Invacar three-wheeled invalid carriage, from the Ashwell estate.

Further information and images Julian Roup on 0207 468 8259 or email or