Griffith Park Sidecar Rally Report

Paul Garson
by Paul Garson

Once a year, the popular Los Angeles Griffith Park – known for its world-class zoo, Gene Autry Museum and Griffith Planetarium – offers another attraction, serving as a gathering point for fans of the sidecar, a.k.a. sidehack. Attendees trundle in on three wheels from all over the country for the annual Griffith Park Sidecar Rally, now celebrating its 44th event. All shapes and sizes, from antiques and classics to super swoopy high-tech wonders arrive, each rig as unique as its owner. This year’s rally also attracted many spectators rolling in on two-wheelers who enjoy learning about another aspect of motorcycling.

The event was founded by Doug “Mr. Sidecar” Bingham, the country’s leading edge in sidecar design and promotion of the sport. The decades-spanning event is akin to a family reunion; many of the rigs that showed were built by Doug 30 or more years previously. Founder of the Side Strider company in 1969 and also a long-time sidecar racer, Bingham was inducted into the U.S. National Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame for his achievements as a designer/inventor and for his contributions to the advancement of motorcycling in general.

My images of the many stellar machines and their equally stellar riders hopefully provides a taste of the event and an encouragement to perhaps venture onto three wheels. Adding an extra chair always helps to attract more friends.

Best Shifting Gears by former TV Late Nite Host. Jay Leno rumbled up on a major chunk of history, an Excelsior Henderson four-cylinder.
Every sidecar rally needs at least one flying chair!
Best Isle of Man Buddies. Geoff Hughes, Isle of Man resident, and his California racer buddy, Warner Grayson.

Despite the thermometer tripping the triple digits thanks to L.A.’s heat wave, a wide spectrum of very cool machines were in attendance, hailing from as far away as Canada and the Isle of Man. Geoff Hughes, who not only served as one of the TT event marshals for 35 years, is also rated as a World Champion sidecar racer, having piloted Triumphs and BMWs. He arrived aboard a blue and white 1972 Triumph 500cc Twin with a 1952 made-in-India Globe sidecar.

Best Bingo Street-Legal Monster.

This 1970s 1000cc Ironhead Sportster was campaigned by Dave Roach back in the day, and it was Wolfy’s dream to own and make it street legal. Asked how it was to ride, Wolfy smiles and says, “It’s a rush.” When asked what he did in real life, he smiles again and says, “I deliver bingo supplies.”

Perhaps even rarer was the Beta Project. A Chinese replica of a flathead, sidevalve 1938 BMW R71, the Beta Project is owned by John Heim, who brought the machine from China 13 years ago. The only other existing example, the Alpha, is still ridden by the original builder in China.

Best from China with Flathead Love Bike.

Produced in China by the People’s Liberation Army, almost all 4,000 original bikes were melted down during Mao’s infamous Cultural Revolution. The owner says he runs airplane oil and has never had a mechanical problem with the bike. When asked why he wanted it, John laughs and says, “Because no one else has one.”

Best Hack Attack.

Mike Koldberg teamed a 1980 Honda 400T with a Thomson Cycle Car chassis topped by a 1980s “ice cream box” and now employs the refrigerated sidehack as a delivery vehicle for his medical lab supply company.

Best Beemer Me Up Scotty.

With seven classic Beemers in his collection and literally hundreds of thousands of miles ridden aboard them, Eugene Garcin recently survived a frame-breaking encounter with one of L.A.’s growing number of freeway potholes, but he finished repairs on this 1954 R51/3 the day before the rally. Meanwhile, his R69US recently took home honors from the Quail Lodge show.

Best Scary Cool Ride.

While Mike Vils’ 1929 Harley-Davidson JD, aka “Mean Green,” also carries a factory Harley sidecar, he rode it to the rally in solo form. Well known for his antique bike restorations, custom racers and paint work, Vils took part in the 2012 16-day Cannonball Run for pre-1930 bikes, riding from Newburg, NY to San Francisco. This bike also happens to be his daily driver. Mike’s beefed up the performance saying, “It started out making 6 hp, now it makes 30 and will go 70 mph all day long.” His plans for the bike, “Just ride the wheels off it. That’s what they were built for, not to get dusty in some museum.”

Best Ride the Hack Out of it to Everest Rig.

This one-off, super heavy duty hack was fabricated by Boxer Metal. Based on a design by Raphael Bertolus, the 2002 BMW 1150 Adventurer is used as a chase vehicle for RawHyde Adventures. The special rig carries an additional 11-gallons of gas, serves as a medical transport, and has an espresso machine.

Best Ratified Harley.

Chris Birkett, originally from Australia and now making his home in Reseda, CA, has spent years adding to the patina of his 1966 Harley Electra Glide and factory sidecar. His girlfriend, Olivia, adds the extra umbrella touch. The bike has worn out two motors, first a Knucklehead, then a Shovel during its extensive travels, and is now powered by an Evo for which Paughco fashioned a custom frame. The hack was originally put together in 1980 by the award-winning custom bike builder, Paul Wheeler. Chris has added what he calls a “few modifications” during the 300,000 miles it’s clocked, including a round-the-U.S. tour in 1983, and, more recently, a trip to South Dakota for the 75th Anniversary Sturgis Rally.

Best Sidehack Café Racer for Sale.

BMW 60/6 “toaster tank” also happened to be for sale, asking price $5k.

Best Spitfire in Disguise.

It does have three wheels like a Spitfire… The S&S-powered Morgan looks like it only needs a pair of wings to take flight. Looks like the same Morgan the MO crew thrashed in its three-wheeler shootout.

Polaris Slingshot vs. Can-Am Spyder F3-S vs. Morgan 3 Wheeler

Best Tandem Flyer. This VW-powered trike was another alternative vehicle attracted to the event.
Best Honey I Shrunk the Sidecar. Don’t you just want to run up and hug it?
Best Dog-gone Dog with its own sidecar.

Pup’s name is Timmy, his name printed on the 1970 Jawa Velorex sidecar matched to Sherry’s 2007 Honda Shadow. She found the sidecar at last year’s Griffith Park event.

Best Mobile Advertisement. Okay, please no nasty notes to the ASPCA.
Best Three-Up Bye Bye. See ya next year at the 45th Griffith Park Sidecar Rally.
Paul Garson
Paul Garson

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  • Lena Starbird Lena Starbird on Aug 17, 2016

    Anyone know when the rally at griffith park is for 2016?

  • Dorothy Logan Dorothy Logan on Mar 02, 2017

    We are looking to sale my Fathers Harley with sidecar its a1989, he was a harley mach, for 57 years he loved to ride and build bikes he passed one year ago and would not like it if he knew his bike was just siting round.