Getting Hacked on Halloween

32nd Annual Griffith Park Sidecar Rally

The annual Griffith Park Sidecar Rally brings out the real hacks. Hey, we're not talking about this rider/writer.

We mean some real celebrity sidecars aka side hacks and even a TV variety showed up for the Halloween month event, the rally held around mid-Octoberish every year for the past 32. Ever since 1969, a good year for musclecars, landing on the moon and Woodstock, L.A.'s Griffith Park has been the flocking point for the "flying chair" people and their wondersleds.

Speaking of celebs gone good, making his first appearance at the party was PBS TV's "California Gold" host Huell Howser, about as affable and friendly a guy you'll meet either side of the TV tube. Well, I'm a big Huell fan and Huell was obviously a big fan of the event as he strolled around with his camera crew and took in the goings on. I did point out some points of interest to Huell who good naturedly took my advice.
  Crash Dummy "crashed" the event with Ernie Aragan and Joan DeVore.       
Yeah, I want his job, but that's another issue. In any case, it was Huell's first Griffith Park Rally, but it was organizer Doug Bingham's 32nd. Doug runs Side Strider, Inc. and builds and sells about everything you need in the world of sidecars, in fact, he even builds a sidecar rig complete with a machinegun for the U.S. Marines, a few of whom were reportedly seen recently doing some serious Saddaming around Baghdad.

By the way, Doug's an inductee into the National Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame, an honor well earned as a designer/inventor, a racer and for his contributions to the advancement of motorcycling in general. Doug also serves as the Director of the Sidecar Industry Council so if Doug builds a sidecar rally, they will come.

Solo riders and sidecars alike poured in the Crystal Springs section of the park for the two day event with many camping out under the stars. Well, you can't see any stars in L.A. but at least there was Huell. In any case there were bubble tents popping up all over the grassy fields and a couple motor homes or what I thought was a motor home but turned out to be a 1940s vintage trailer housing a truly incredible collection of motorcycle memorabilia, the results of a 27-year collecting frenzy by one Steve Wilhite who hails from San Diego. Steve who says he literally "dreamt" the scene of people walking through his mobile "Toy Machine" museum spent six years arranging every one of the hundreds of items. He plans to tour bike events with his collection. He only takes donations so if you chance upon his exhibition, stuff some green his way.

Russian imported sidecars are a bargain. The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming! You saw the movie, now see the bikes. Ural Russian Motorcycles, importers of the ex-CCCP stump pullers, brought several of their serious sidecars for test rides. There was one painted in desert camouflage that could have found work in Iraq, and the prices for these bikes are really hard to beat, in dollars not rubles. On the other side of the border, rather pavement, was a couple ex-Wehrmacht BMW sidecars complete with schnellfeurers that may have seen action against the Urals' cousins with Rommel's Afrika Corps, but all now sat peacefully side by side basking in the SoCal sunshine.

The sheer variety of bike and sidecar combinations was well, sheer. I saw a dainty Vespa scooter/sidecar snuggling up to a fierce Yamaha V-Max with an attached "chair." Then there was an H-D sidecar racer with "monkey" Jack Straw perched on the back while Douglas Whitson manned the controls as they chugged around the event. It was a 20-year reunion kind of thing for Doug and myself since way back in the day I had written the first article about his custom Webley-Vickers bikes, and now I see he's still building them two decades later, way cool VW-powered retro-cruisers using BMW and Guzzi frames. Think 2000cc and sodium filled valves. More about them at mailto://

Ben Bennett's alternate to a wheelchair. One of the stellar attractions was "The World's Most Expensive Side Car" or so stated in the sidecar publication Hack'd back in Fall 1986, and here it was at Griffith Park for all to ogle. The semi-legendary machine was a very rare, as in bloody red, Ron Russell original replica "1918 America" Sidecar built in the image of a Harley-Davidson JD Model.

Reportedly only one of six known to exist, its design emulated the classic antique H-D but utilized a 1988 Sportster engine, this one also intricately engraved. As its owner Nancy Voyer of Ojai, CA explained, the machine was fabricated from a kit designed by Ron Russell, the ownership of the kit then being acquired by none other than Arlen Ness, of master custom bike builder fame. Arlen went on, says Nancy, to offer his versions of the "1918 America" for $35,000. Dan Dunn investigates Doug Whitson's H-D racer. Nancy pointed out that her example, unlike Arlen's offering, had an operational sidecar door and suspension. After 13 years sitting in the garage it was prepped for the rally by a team of students from Ojai's Bright Academy who took on its spiffing up as a class project under the direction of teacher Jim Nye. Well done Chris, Devon and Eddie you all get an A+.

As did the entire event from this observer's point of view. Be there next year and get hacked in style. Whether you ride solo or sidehack mark the annual Griffith Park Sidecar Rally on your calendar. For more info on the event and all things sidecar log onto or call Doug Bingham at 818-780-5542.

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