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New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day
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Wolfhound
Posted 5/8/2013 5:49 AM (#71409 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: Re: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day


Veteran

Posts: 227
10010025
Location: Ball Ground, GA.
Mr. Sweet, you are welcome. Your stories are much more than just back in the day side car history. You are sharing the story of a family that had true family values and lived, survived thru
the toughest economic times in this nations history. Those values seem long gone now days but they can be brought back. Families like yours were what made this nation great.
God bless you for sharing the story with us.
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Johnny Sweet
Posted 7/14/2013 9:59 PM (#72772 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: RE: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day



Veteran

Posts: 164
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Location: In South Carolina but grew up in Massachusetts.

Are we having fun yet!

I would like to thank those of you that have spent the time to email me over the last few month. I've had three requests for instructions on how I did the modification to Charlies Velorex sidecar body so that the front would lift up. I'm in the processes of finding and assembling pictures of the project and soon hope to post them with instructions in the technical section for all to view.

  My shop has been abuzz with different project and I just got back out on the road after a lengthy sidecar hiatus. I keep five sidecars around the shop but have proffered driving my T Bucket Hot Rod over a sidecar but that all changed a week ago. My interests are so varied that I go through periods from time to time and the Summer of 2013 will be a sidecar summer.

   The Goldwings were in town for one of their national events and I was somewhat disappointed at the sidecar turn out. The two wheel count was around five thousand bikes and we only counted three sidecars the entire week. Trikes made up over one hundred units and they were well represented. I spent some time at the Cherokee Victory dealer visiting with old friends and they got me fired back up on sidecars so I went back to the shop and looked around and threw a sidecar togehter in a few days. It's rained off and on for the last thirteen days so I've only put twenty miles on my new rig.

   We have a few of my Sweet SL model sidecar being restored in the New England area and even a new owner on Prince Edward Island in Canada. I dragged out my old Consew machine and stitched up three new upholstery's for different guys asking for them. It's been fun learning how to stitch all over again, but it's like riding a bicycle you never forget. 

   A twenty six year old gentleman named Joe picked up one of my Sweet SL-440 sidecars complete with the original Honda motorcycle. The rig was built before he was born and he's in the processes of restoring it. I hooked Joe up with one of my guys that worked in the shop back in the day and he just completed the paint restoration.  

Well thanks again and I figured I would post a few pictures of projects being worked on and some that are completed so that those that are interested can see what's been going on.

Thanks for reading,

Johnny Sweet

 This is my new Sweet Classic sidecar. I built the body a few years ago and painted it "Old School" with black lacquer. The paint is well cured and  I spent the time to color sanding and buffing. Never again; I forgot how hard we worked back in the day painting and buffing that old lacquer paint. The bike is my son Eric's that he's had for years and we figured it was time to install a units on it. He's planning on building an SL-220 like he built when he was in High School;twenty five years has flown by. I no more than left the yard and ran the sidecar into a muddy area, but have since cleaned the sidecar tire. They talk about the shine being a foot thick; check out the sidecar wheel reflection on the side of the body. We lost the seat years ago so I built one from scratch and stitched it with the same materials as the sidecar. Right off the shop floor the sidecar runs straight and no adjustments have had to be made, so I'm very happy with it.

 

  T Bucket with a Corvette LS-2 engine. A fun drive and can get on down the road. Retirements a lot fun with everyday feeling like a Saturday.

 

 Before: Bill Hoyt's shop with Joe's  SL-440 sidecar body in the condition that he got it in before he started the restoration.

 

 After: Bill does great work and it's funny how when he was fourteen years old he came to the shop and stood in the yard just watching us build things until we invited him in.  He went on and became one of the best paint and body men in the New England area. I guess true friendships are forever and I'm glad I could count on Bill after all these years to take care Joe and his Sweet sidecar. Bill's even going to help Joe with the installation of the upholstery that I stitched up for it.

 

 

     



Edited by Johnny Sweet 8/21/2017 10:32 PM
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New York Bear
Posted 7/15/2013 7:08 PM (#72783 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: Re: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day


Regular

Posts: 82
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Man, they do shine, don't they.
Any one ever approached you about putting your sidecars back in production? Be nice to see them on the road.
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Wolfhound
Posted 7/16/2013 6:20 AM (#72790 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: Re: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day


Veteran

Posts: 227
10010025
Location: Ball Ground, GA.
Mr . Sweet, you have done it again. Beautiful craftmanship, you are a true artisan. Now about the T Bucket. 60 years ago, when I was a teenager, I wanted one of those but never
had the money or the skills to build one. The Ford B model bucket was also a favorite back in the day. I agree with NewYorkBear and might add that it would be of great benefit
to the Fancy if you could teach your craft to others.
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Johnny Sweet
Posted 8/11/2013 9:14 PM (#73369 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: RE: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day



Veteran

Posts: 164
1002525
Location: In South Carolina but grew up in Massachusetts.

 Are we having fun yet? It's been a great Summer and I've put a thousand miles on my new temporary rig between rain storms.

   The littler T Bucket on the right was built for car shows and parades. It's half sizedT Bucket with one of my full size Hemi fiberglass/plastic display engines in it. Little T is powered by a handicap scooter electric motor and goes three miles per hour. When I show up at a car show it always draws a big crowd. It's funny but theirs always an old timers wanting to buy it for their grand kids.

 

 Dad and son after twenty five years making it up the driveway. When my son was just a kid he rode in my sidecar and when he turned sixteen he built his own. Twenty five years later he will build another SL-220 sidecar for he and his son David who is going on three. This picture was taken the other day when Eric was up for a visit and he took me out for a ride. It's been over twenty years but he still knew how to drive a sidecar rig. The sidecar is already sold and will be installed on a friends bike at the end of the season.

 

 Eric at sixteen back in the 80's with his SL-220 that he built without any help. In all he built four sidecars for himself and drove them in High School and when he went off to Engineering school. No one else in his class had a sidecar and the girls seamed to always like em. Eric and David's new Sweet SL-220 sidecar will be the same as the one that he built back in High School but will be yellow and on the Honda that I'm presently driving. It's funny but over sixty years ago my Dad had a yellow and blue bike and sidecar that I rode in.

 

 

 Joe and his new old Sweet SL-440 sidecar.

 

A new owner of one of my old SL-440 sidecars Joe just had it painted. Joe lives in Massachusetts and I hooked him up with one of my old friends Bill Hoyt. Bill came to my shop when he was fourteen years old and stayed and  learned a few things. Bill's made a good life for himself and sure as heck perfected his trade. It's rewarding when you can call on an old friend to do a good job for young Joe and he doesn't let you down. Some friendships are for life and I'm lucky to have Bill as a friend.

 

 

 

 I stitched this upholstery up for Joe and shipped it to him with instructions on how  its to be installed. It looks like it fits OK and soon I expect to hear that he's out on the road

with his new old Sweet SL-440 Sidecar.

 

 Bill on the left and Joe on the right. Bill and I haven't seen each other in almost thirty years and time stands still for no man. Joe wasn't even born when his Sweet sidecar was manufactured. As the years pass I'm still amazed that a new generation has come along that are finding my old sidecars and restoring them and finding a new enjoyment just like we did back in the day.

 

 A few sidecar waiting in the wings:

 The SL-220 in the background has been waiting for a few year for me to find the time to take it out. I have it on a Suzuki 650 and the body was built to fit the bike weight wise. My sidecars only weigh around 120 pounds or less but have the strength values higher or as high as any on the market. Never had one brake in over forty years.

The black SL-440 has been built and set up for an early Goldwing and will have black upholstery. The body still has to be buffed and polished.

 

 I've always liked diamond tufted upholstery and the blue paint and upholstery will be the same on one of my sidecars and newest  T Bucket. I use tape to hold the upholstery

in place when I'm fitting it to a body

 

 

 Little T and a broken Cobra in the background. When they wreck their Cobra's they ship em to me to get em fixed. This one came in from Michigan and I built a new fender for it.

 

 

 My latest T Bucket that will be painted blue like Little T and my sidecar. The 3D flames on the side are a first anywhere on a Hot Rod. I got the idea back in 2000 when I was

working for Water Mark and we designed and built a Kayak named "The Blaze" with 3D flames on the body. I've been wanting to do it for years and figured "what the hay".

 

 

 

 

 The old man doing what he does, making things. In this case sanding my 3D flames on my T Bucket.

 

 

 

 

 Thanks for reading.

Johnny sweet

 



Edited by Johnny Sweet 8/21/2017 10:33 PM
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Wolfhound
Posted 8/12/2013 6:58 AM (#73380 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: Re: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day


Veteran

Posts: 227
10010025
Location: Ball Ground, GA.
As always, Mr. Sweet, you come up with great pix and exciting projects. As a young man I hungered for a T-Bucket but could not afford one. At 77 I am not that hungry any more.
Thanks for sharing with us.
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Johnny Sweet
Posted 8/12/2013 8:44 PM (#73410 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: RE: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day



Veteran

Posts: 164
1002525
Location: In South Carolina but grew up in Massachusetts.

 

 One of my SL-110 sidecars that was found on Craigslist on the coast of Virgina. I built a little over fifty of this model. Even when I came out with the next model the SL-220 I was still being asked for this model. It was a wind in your face sidecar and you would be surprised at how many people prefer the wind in their face. I found that most people drove their sidecar rigs locally and a day outing in New England was no more than a few hundred miles.

   At one time I was driving down the road and noticed a sidecar rig coming my way and as I looked over I could see that it was one of my SL-110 models and in the passenger compartment of the sidecar was a lawnmower. It takes all kinds of people in this world and I had the fortune of meeting a whole lot of em. Someone should have a good time with this rig. It's around six hundred miles from where it was built. Very few of my sidecars made their way out of New England.

 



Edited by Johnny Sweet 8/21/2017 10:34 PM
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Johnny Sweet
Posted 8/14/2013 8:52 PM (#73436 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: RE: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day



Veteran

Posts: 164
1002525
Location: In South Carolina but grew up in Massachusetts.

 

 I was planning on running this rig this year but got sidetracked with a few other projects. I've always liked the Suzuki 650 single and figured I would install one of my Sweet SL-220 sidecar on one. Fifty years ago I had a Matchless 500 single and liked the pulling power. I had saved for two years and purchased a Norton Atlas 750 and ran the heck out of it. Two weeks later I wrecked it up on cemetery hill racing between the tomb stones. My buddy's and I carried it home in the back of a pick up truck. My Mom was mad as heck plus I was headed off to school and the plan was to take the Norton with me. So a new plan and that's when I picked up the Matchless. It wasn't as fast at the 750 Norton and possibly save my life but I always like the sound and reliability of a single. I had been following the Suzuki 650 for some time and when I was offered one I picked it up. Since this picture was taken I painted the fenders and tank with the blue base coat clear coat like what's on the sidecar. I took the seat and stitched up a clean looking diamond tufted upholstery for it so that it matches the sidecar and my T Buckets. I may change and go to a new fabric that I've been playing with that looks like "Carbon Fiber". They have a great looking blue that should blend nicely if I re do the sidecar and bike. If I don't like it all I have to do is change it back to what I have at the moment.

   I hope to get the rig out this year but I can only drive one at a time. Note in the background another SL-220 with the whale tail that I hope to set up on something soon. Like I need another project.

 

  I went with my Sweet method of mounting sidecars and as you can see it's very clean and unencumbered.  My system is totally different  than what you will find others doing. With my set I start by mounting the frame to the bike using my "Hot Rolled Rod system". The brackets are first fabricated and bolted to the motorcycle. Then the frame is set on blocks at the correct ride height and aligned with the bike. Next the rods are bent to shape and installed on the frame and inserted into the brackets. The lower rods are installed first starting with the front and then moving to the rear. I then set the bike at one to two degrees camber away from the sidecar tipped out at the top. At times I have to take into consideration the weight of the driver of the bike and then adjust accordingly. I then weld the rods to the frame brackets and that part of the set up is complete. If a final adjustment to the camber on the bike is needed it can be performed later with the adjustable rod ends on the top rods. The camber on the bike can be adjusted at any time and never changes the tow in or ride height; they always stay independent of each other. I then set up the swing arm and wheel adjusting the "toe in" at 5'8" to 3'4". Once this is set I weld up the swing arm brackets in place and the tow in is set for life. The shock and the ride height is the last step and I'm finished with the set up. My way of doing it allows the customer to remove the sidecar from the bike as many times as they would like and every time when they re install the sidecar it is always set up correctly. It takes from three to five minutes to remove the sidecar from the bike and from eight to ten to re install it; try that with any other set up.

I've asked people that have my sidecars; some over thirty five years old and they all tell me the same thing. It's still in alignment after all these years.

    I do have a new set up that I just recently designed that will allow a person to bolt the rods onto the sidecar frame like I did for one year back in the 1970's; I think it was 1977. This way the rods aren't welded to the frame but bolted and can be removed and changed if the sidecar is to be mounted onto a different model motorcycle in the future. The set up is the same with the frame being installed first to the motorcycle. The swing arm is also bolted with grade 8 bolts and the new set up allows for the swing arm to be moved forward or aft up to four inches. This allows the sidecar wheel lead to be fine tuned to the bike. How often have I read that a particular sidecar would not hook up to a motorcycle with the correct sidecar wheel lead or with to much lead. The new set up also allows for the tow in to be adjustable along with the ride height. My thinking is that I can manufacture a sidecar (in fact a new model) that's no more than "a sidecar in a box". My new design will be manufactured so that the pieces go together for a specific model motorcycle and the customer once he takes the crate apart can remove the sidecar and mount it onto the bike specific in one hour with all the adjustments and tow in completed. I built a jig fixture for the Sportster back at the first of the year when I had one in the shop and will start with the Sportsters up to 2003. In the South East they are very popular and my buisness model shows that it's a good starting point. I also intend on a version that's for guys like myself that can fabricate and weld.  You would be surprised at how many guys can weld and fabricate in fact I have two different gentleman at the moment going through the mounting exercise. Check out Roman's Sweet sidecar and how he set it up in a past post.I figure that I can do a video and walk anyone with fabricating skills through the steps. If I can do it with just emails and pictures then a video would only be a plus.  I use one inch solid "Hot Rolled" steel rods on all my sidecars. Once the rods are set in place they never move plus they are very inexpensive to make and easy to work and I have no plans on changing a tried and proven system that's worked for over forty years.  

 So if the Good Old Boy's show up with their older larger Harley's Ill set them up with my new set up; I've had some requests latley since I've been out on the road. I figure Harley made enough big bikes with sidecars to supply the ones that want them for some time to come. I beleave that not every bike is suited for a sidecar regardless of what others that know more than I think. It's never made any sense to me to have to install a new front end and car tires just to make a rig work and yes I know that it's done every day and a lot of people are making a good living doing it but it's not for me and what I manufacture.  As I get up in age I have very little time to spend disusing trivial minutia so you will find that I will not respond to any discussion pro or con on this matter. I figure it is what it is and I'm on the other side of the fence but if others are doing it then so be it and I wish all of them the best.

 A clean and simple mounting system!

 

 

This is what my new "Sweet 16 Sidecar" will look like. I got the idea from different custom bike builders that took old sidecars and mounted them on new bikes using new materials. I took to the look and idea right away and couldn't stop thinking about it so I decided to do something about it. That's how the new frame design was born so that it could go along with the new body design.

This is "not my sidecar" but a custom rig that I got my idea from.

 

 

 A few models to get an idea as to what I'm looking to achieve:

I will eventually build two different versions and each one will have a door in the side. I started with one of my Liberty bodies and cut, shortened, and re fit sections and came up with something different. The hood on the Liberty when shortened has an interesting look to it so I decided to make one model with this design. The second design will have the hood  area like the forty percent model sitting inside the full size version and the red sidecar in the picture also with a working door.

 While I was at it I built my own helmet because I didn't see anything that I liked. It doesn't have a Snell rating so I can't use it outside of South Carolina but that's OK. But I did cheat a little because thirty years ago I was developing crash helmets along with many of the other company's and went through the Snell Foundation study and the requirements. It was a product that we looked at and did a buisness model. My partners at the time wanted to run with it and I wanted to go in another direction. I ended up working on the development of the new at the time knee replacement. My project was the development of the second design phase. I always wondered how the helmet buisness would have worked out. For those of you that don't know it the fee for the Snell rating is or should I say was $1.00 per helmet and they test a helmet at random off your assembly line.

 

Thanks for reading,

Johnny Sweet 



Edited by Johnny Sweet 8/21/2017 10:36 PM
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Johnny Sweet
Posted 8/19/2013 5:18 PM (#73525 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: RE: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day



Veteran

Posts: 164
1002525
Location: In South Carolina but grew up in Massachusetts.

Sweet Sidecar SL-440

This is just one of the latest Sweet sidecars to be found and restored to better than new condition. This one was found North of Boston and had been sitting in a back yard for over twenty years. The metal frame and rods were in good condition and only needed some cleaning and paint. The tire was replaced and the rim re painted. The body being made from fiberglass was still in good shape but the shine on the black finish had lost it's gloss so I set Joe the new owner up with one of my old friends that started out working in the shop when he was fourteen years old. Bill Hoyt has become a world class painter and is a master at his trade. Bill spent around a month in his spare time working on the SL-440 body and when he was finished with it the end result was a show quality paint job that anyone would be proud to own. I stitched up a new upholstery in my shop a thousand miles away and boxed it up and shipped it to Joe. Taking his time Joe installed the upholstery just like I explained using pictures and nothing more than emails.  Joe designed, cut and fabricated a new windshield with his own design and the finished product looks as good or better than anything we produced back in the day. It's exciting to see one of my old sidecar coming back to life after all these years. The great part of it all is that Joe is only twenty six years old and my Sweet/Lyon sidecar was built before Joe was even born. Congratulations Joe on a job well done.

Joe took his fiance out for her first ride and she totally enjoyed the experience. The plan is to keep the Sweet/Lyon sidecar in their family and someday their children will ride in it. This is what makes it all worth while.  

 

 

 

 



Edited by Johnny Sweet 8/21/2017 10:36 PM
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Johnny Sweet
Posted 9/12/2013 11:35 PM (#73980 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: RE: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day



Veteran

Posts: 164
1002525
Location: In South Carolina but grew up in Massachusetts.

 

 

                                     From Sidecars to Trikes, it was bound to happen.

When I first started writing this installment about my Trike experience I hadn’t been back out on the road with one of my Sweet sidecars in twenty five years. Months have passed and I’m proud to say that I’m once again a one percent sidecar nut. I still have the passion for sidecars and wonder why I stayed away so long.

I’ve noticed some post on this site and on others about motorcycle trikes and the likes and dislikes. I always found it interesting that one group or another will always have different opinions about different things, but let’s face it; it’s the way of the world.   Motorcycle sidecars and trikes are no different.  I have a passion for sidecars and never would even consider a trike while others are trike lovers and will turn their noses up to a sidecar. Then you have the largest group that wouldn’t have either until they get into a situation and need a third wheel. So for those of us that have a passion for sidecars the thought of owning or driving a trike probably never comes up. When I was in the thick of building my Sweet sidecars in the 1970’s every so often someone would come into the shop and mention trikes. In very short order they were first asked to change the subject and if they didn’t I would ask them to leave.  I will admit that I wouldn’t even have a friendly or spirited discussion about trikes. I had no intention of filling my head with such minutia and would make it known.  How things change from one generation to the next with people my age and younger looking for a new adventure and finding it in motorcycles. It’s amazing who much Harley Davison has done for the motorcycle industry.  Love em or hate em they and the American people have taken motorcycles and a brand to a place that others could only dream about and what’s been proven over the decades is that many want a product with the “Made in the USA” stamped on it. It’s funny but these lovers and followers are a breed into themselves with a split between the lovers of the old Harleys and the new owners circle. The majority of this new group of riders will all tell you how they have been riding for decades but in truth most are newcomers all because of the Harley Davison brand and good financing.    

I retired in 2006 and moved up next to the base of the mountain range to what’s called horse country. It’s been declared as one of the five different places in the US that the baby boomers go to when they retire to for fill a lifelong dream. A few roads over from my wife’s and my Arabian horse farm is a road called the Cherokee Scenic Trail. People come from all over the country and travel the trail on their way in and out of the mountain range. I’ve noticed that on any given spring, summer, or fall day hundreds of motorcycles can be seen driving up and down the trail and along with these two wheelers dozens of trikes will also be out cruising.  From 2006 till 2008 when I saw these different trikes I thought to myself that they sure have come a long way from the old days  when they were nothing more than a VW converted to some piece of crap or an old Harley Davison police bike that someone wasted a lot of time and money on. But you know the sad part of this it that I only saw one sidecar during the entire two year period and even five years later I’ve only seen three more.

     While living a more relaxed life I had been playing in my shop working on whatever fit my fancy, in 2008 that would change and my life went in a different direction.  I had been building 427 Cobra race cars; a reproduction of the Shelby 427 Cobras of the 1960’s. I had built three Cobras for a select customer base; old friends that had a background in racing with deep pockets. These cars were nothing more than stripped down “Road Rockets” that could be driven on the street.  One of my buddies when out running the roads on one of the few warm winter days that we had made a stop off at the local Victory Motorcycle dealership to look over the bikes.  He parked his little Cobra in front of the entrance and the owner of the dealership Dan Paterson noticed the Cobra and went out to take a look. Dan asked who built the Cobra and my name was given along with a synopsis mentioning that I was also one of those old time designers that could still sculptor in clay.  Dan mentioned that he had herd that name before and could he get my phone number. My buddy gave Dan the information and the following Tuesday I received a call.  It was Dan, he asked if I wouldn’t mind coming down to the dealership to visit and talk about a project that they had been considering for a few years. I agreed and we set a time to meet.  I had never been inside of the Victory dealership but had driven by it for almost two years at least four or five times a week.  Once inside the dealership I was surprised at the number and quality of the motorcycles and trikes; this was a first class operation.  I had been out of the sidecar and the motorcycle game for some time and hadn’t kept up with what was going on. Dan gave me the tour and in the process a quick overview of what Lehman Trikes the largest trike manufacturer in the world at that time was all about. I counted twenty five Lehman trikes in the show room and another ten of more in the warehouse.  I had no idea that the dealership was that large.  Looking at the trikes and the high quality was an eye open.

     I was shown the different Lehman Victory Trike models that were nick named “Bar Hoppers”. They had some very nice lines but weren’t equipped for the open road. For that they had the bigger bikes with larger trunks and custom boxes for carrying luggage. Then came the Victory Vision motorcycle and I was told that this was what they wanted to convert to a trike. I couldn’t believe my eyes, the lines and styling of this motorcycle in my opinion was out of this world. I’m an old school designer and loved the cars from the 50’s that I grew up around, and this motorcycle had what many of us in the design world call a “Timeless Design”. Some of you reading this will have a different opinion and call the Victory Vision a “Star Wars” looking design. Each to his own but in my opinion and the designer Arlen Ness along with the sales numbers the public have a different view.   Dan told me that they; Lehman had been to BMW looking for a design from their design team but could never put anything together plus what they were going to get for an exorbitant  amount of money wasn’t what they were looking for. At this point Dan had my attention. At first I thought his dealership, like most was living from day to day and hand to mouth something I had observed first hand when I was young and the entire time I was manufacturing my Sweet sidecars. What I’m talking about is the guy’s that have an unbelievable amount of talent and ability and ran these small motorcycle shops around the country barely getting by. I knew many guys like this running small Mom and Pop operations with so much talent it was scary but they chose to run these little shops and in the end when the world went in a different direction they got left behind; to me it was always sad, but it’s the way of the world. If you don’t keep up you will get left behind.  After seeing all this and listening to Dan I still wasn’t making any sense of it all. We spent some time going over the lines of the Victory Vision and he asked me how I would go about designing a trike body for the Vision. I explained about using the lines that already exist on the motorcycle and incorporate the style and type of lines on the trike body making the entire unit flowing and fluid like.  We then went over to some of the other Lehman trikes like the Harley conversion and I started to critique the designs in different areas.  I explained that in my opinion the lines in the front like the tank have a sweeping timeless design to it and even the fenders sweep fore and aft have a nice line even at the crown of the fender. I then asked why they would design a trike body that was square and didn’t match the lines of the motorcycle. I could see that I was putting him on the spot and that wasn’t my intent so I moved on to the Honda.  I discussed a few more areas that I would have changed of not have done at all. I think I got his dander up but that wasn’t my intent, he asked and I gave an opinion. In fact he never knew how close I was to just walking out of the dealership never to return, but if I’m anything and that’s very thick skinned. I have been known to be opinionated and if I’m asked I’m going to give my opinion.  I had been in the public eye back in the day when I was racing and sometimes the critics could be brutal. One day there on your side and you can do no wrong the next day you’re a bum. I always thought that was funny when you look at the human condition.  we have critics; people with very little talent and absolutely no ability that attempt to tell the masses what’s good and bad.  Dan and I walked back over to the Vision and talked about a few more ideas. He then invited me into his office and that’s when I started to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.  I had brought a portfolio with me filled with pictures of different projects that I had designed over the past thirty five plus years.  Dan took the time to look at every picture studying the smallest details with interest. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about people and how they carry themselves. People that have been involved in building things will look at a picture for instance and study every detail or when their looking at almost anything mechanical will inspect it with great interest just to see how it’s made. Then you have others that are so smart that they know absolutely everything and can’t be taught or shown anything; those are the ones I stay away from. When Dan was finished he looked up at me and said “we’ve been looking for someone like you for over two years and we’ve looked all over the country and you were in our back yard all the time”.

  At one time Dan had been the head of the Kennedy Space Center and then headed up one of the aircraft company’s. After retirement he purchased the Victory dealership that his son runs. Dan then took the position of CEO of Lehman Trikes that was the largest trike manufacturer in the world at the time. To build a trike for the Victory Vision was his prize project and before he retired from Lehman he wanted to see it happen; so Dan had my attention.  I had been retired for a few years working on whatever I chose to, but it looked like I was going to be back in the working world again. Dan asked how much I would charge to design and sculptor a model and make two prototypes. I had worked for other captains of industry and new from firsthand experience that these kinds of men make their minds up in five seconds when all the pieces of a project fit together.  I gave Dan a price and some conditions and sure enough within ten second he said OK let do it. He then got on the phone and hit a speed dial and a few second later one by one five different voices came on the speaker phone. It was the different departments of the team at Lehman Trikes in Spearfish South Dakota. Dan explained that he had found what they had been looking for in a designer and introduced me to five different voices on the phone; that was a first for me. The Lehman team welcomed me to the group and we talked for a little while about the same things that Dan and I had discussed earlier about what it will take to get a production body for the Victory Vision making it into a trike. The group then thanked me for my time and hung up.

  Earlier on as Dan was giving me the tour I noticed that he had a high dollar spray booth that wasn’t being used in the warehouse so I asked if the spray booth could be used when I was sculpturing the model.  I thought that they were going to give me a new Victory Vision motorcycle to make the model off. I didn’t want to be responsible for the bike and was more concerned about scratching the paint during the modeling process. I once did a project for Peterbilt trucks and they gave me a new tractor that I was responsible for. I spent more time protecting the asset than working on the project.

   This is when the entire game changed, Dan asked if I would be available to fly to South Dakota to the Lehman plant to go over the design with his team and set up the initial plan. I agreed but told Dan that they needed to find a commercial artist that would work with me on the initial design and was capable of drawing scaled artist renderings of what we wanted so that I would have something to go by when sculpturing the original model. I also mentioned that I could work within twelve thousands of an inch and what plus or minus where they looking for. I almost laughed when he said one eighth to a quarter of an inch would be fine.  We ended the meeting and I went back to my shop wondering if what had just happened really happened. I had driven past the dealership no less than a hundred times over the last few years and all the time they were looking for a guy like me to come in and introduce himself.

    A few days later I received a call from a lady in South Dakota giving me all the booking information about my trip. They picked up everything, airfare, car rental, hotel rooms, everything.  I was even paid for my travel and consulting fee. When doing design work for most corporations we the designers will almost always have to pay for your own travel and expenses and then bill the company getting paid weeks later if at all. So this was a pleasant surprise for me, or should I say a first.

 

 

 

Headed to the Black Hills:

 I left the following week and spent one day in the air going from airport to airport. No direct flights from South Carolina to Rapid City South Dakota. When I landed in Rapid City they had a new car rental waiting for me with directions on how to get to Spearfish fifty five miles away.  It was early March and it was still minus four degrees below zero.  I grew up in New England and new all about cold so I was prepared. I headed up the interstate towards Spearfish and as I approached the Sturgis exit I got off and decided to take a little trip around town to look things over. Places like Sturgis are like ghost towns in the winter months with less than three hundred people living in such a place in the off season.  I made my way back onto the interstate and traveled the seventeen miles to Spearfish. I checked into the hotel and made my way over to Walmart to pick up some items that I would need to measure the project bike and to take notes with. With the way things are today at the airports I wasn’t sure what they would let me take aboard the plane  and I sure didn’t want any of my expensive measuring tools to be taken away from me because after all, I like every other American today is a potential terrorist.

 

 The next morning at the plant I was introduced to the plant manager and told that Dan would be coming in the next day. After signing a non-disclosure agreement, something I had done many times before. I was told that the project t was going to be called “The Open Road” project, and that it was top secret and could not be discussed outside of the special room that was designated for it; our “Skunk Works”.  I was told that Harley engineers were in the R&D building and that Victory was one of Harley’s biggest competitors and this Victory project had to be “Top Secret”. I also was told that they; Lehman were working on the new Harley Trike project and would be building the first Harley trikes when they first came out.  I was then shown around the plant and R&D area and introduced to the engineers.  At this point I was just the guy they brought in to help design and sculptor the body for the new open road project and the engineers did what engineers do and gave me the cold shoulder. They were polite but it was like I wasn’t even there. The engineers did invite me to lunch but I think they were told to do so.  As we were looking over the menu I noticed one of the Engineers had on his pinky ring. I mentioned that I hadn’t worn my “Order of the Engineers” ring in many years because it gets in the way with the type of work that I do. (The Order of the Engineer is an association for graduate and professional engineers in the United States that emphasizes pride and responsibility in the Engineering profession.) They look at me with surprise and one said “we thought you were just a guy coming in to sculptor a trike body”.  I laughed and said “you never know who you may meet in life so never rule anything out”. At that point it was like we were all in World War II together; all smiles and fraternal brotherhood. They then asked if they could see my picture portfolio. It was funny because five minutes earlier they could have cared less, but since I was one of them all of a sudden they were interested. This wasn’t the first time that something like this had happened to me over the years and I’m too thick skinned to ever take it personally; plus I understand this mind set. My problem has always been that I’m an engineer and designer first but can do the craftsman like work using my hands that the untrained and unskilled could never do. Not meaning this in a bragging way; this is very rare and very few people that follow different disciplines cross over and can do both or in some cases many. A good example is Dean Webster a friend of mine that I have mentioned in different writings. He’s achieved a Masterly level of achievement in many different disciplines in his lifetime. Probably the smartest and most capable person I have ever known. In Dean’s case he chose the corporate life and has exceled at it. Another thing that I’ve learned over the years is that it’s best to hold back what you may know or have achieved until it’s asked for. As the guys were looking over the pages of projects they noticed my sidecars. That’s when the questions started; they first asked if I ever had trouble with some sidecars shimming. My answer was “it’s something you live with but the sidecars don’t shimmy the front end of the motorcycle does”. They mentioned that they every so often have a trike that will shimmy and have used shimmy dampers. I exchanged information about the different ones that I had used over the years. The rest of the meal was pleasant and when we returned back to the R&D area I was invited into the inner sanctum. The R&D area was up to date with the best of equipment for what they were doing. They even had a machinist and a metal fabricator that could make almost anything they could dream up. The machinist probably had the neatest working area of any machinist anywhere. The R&D building is up on a hill in what’s called a “Hog Back”. The machine shop area has large picture windows behind the machines with a full view of the Black Hills to look out at. I stood there in amazement and mentioned to the machinist that he had to have the best view of any machinist while working in the world. He just smiled and agreed as he told me it was a better view than the farm pastures in Wisconsin where he was from.

  The Engineers showed me around and then took me into what they called “The Skunk Works”. With the Harley Engineers walking around they had a special room with a coded security lock on the door and when the door opened all one saw was a blue tarp and nothing more. Inside the skunk works they had two Victory Vision bikes that were used for prototype work; so much for me having to worry about scratching a new bike. I was shown the mechanical workings of what the drive train was going to look like. This gave me an idea as to what I had to work around. They were planning some changes to the frame extension that would be used on the production trikes but other than what they had sitting there was what they were going to use.   We then went back to the discussion of the shimmy problems and went back into the machinist area to look over a Harley that had been giving them a problem. They had half a dozen trikes in the shop with each one having some little problem. I think it was more of them making improvements than the trikes having a problem.  It was cold out but that didn’t stop them from running trikes up and down the road and on the skid pad. Having not been around trikes this was a new experience for me and I was interested in how they would match up to a sidecar rig. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I didn’t want to waste it. The” Lehman solid rear end “is what makes every Lehman trike perform so well.  Some without any knowledge or experience when it comes to trikes claim that they are unstable but I’m here to tell you that the Lehman Trike is very stable and to turn one over would take a lot. I saw some of the factory riders putting them through rigorous maneuvers and in a right hand turn only a racing sidecar could compete. The left hand turn would most likely be a draw between a sidecar rig and a Lehman Trike. The down side is a trike has very little storage or luggage area compared to most sidecars and the sidecar allows the rider to fall asleep inside the sidecar without having to worry about falling of the bike.  I’m still in favor of a sidecar but don’t think for a second that trikes are unstable or dangerous to drive; if you’re thinking that your miss informed.

  In my opinion a funny thing happened and I was told this story.  The Lehman team takes customer requests very seriously. They did have a request that was asked for more than once and I thought was funny. More than one woman would write in or phone asking if they made an extra wide storage compartment for behind the passenger seat. Evidently some have a wide girth and want to hide it when sitting on the back of the trike. Some gave detailed stories about being laughed at when driving down the road on the back of the trike and asked if Lehman would custom make a wide trunk compartment for them. That way they wouldn’t be laughed at any more. Back in the day when I was manufacturing sidecars we never had a problem like this but I guess it’s the way things are today. Back in the day I don’t remember people starting out the day with a forty two ounce “Big Gulp” just to get going; and some wonder why they weight three hundred pounds. I will say this about the Lehman team; all were very respectful and even though they were behind the scenes they never showed any disrespect for people with sly comments. I on the other hand kept my feelings and comments on this subject to myself. I have been known to being a jerk at times but that’s what you get when you’re a free spirit.

We were told that Dan and the artist would be coming in the next day.  Evidently Dan had a condo that he lived in when he was in town up on the other side of the hill behind the factory. We finished out the day in the inner sanctum talking about ideas and different directions that we could go in with the open road project. At the end of the day the group of engineers that car pooled the fifty five miles back to Rapid City left for home and I was on my own.  I drove around Spearfish with a population twelve hundred and looked for a place to eat. If there are twelve hundred people in the town I don’t know where they were but I don’t think I saw ten people the entire time I was driving around town. I made my way back to the hotel to find out that I was the only one staying in it. The person at the front desk was pleasant and at eleven they made a shift change.  It was funny watching the local TV news at nine o’clock because there is no crime unlike South Carolina where a large portion of the news is taken up covering different murders and arrests of the day.

   The next morning I had breakfast at the hotel; they had a self-serve breakfast bar and I was the only one in attendance. I arrived bright and early at the R&D area and was informed that we were having a meeting in the big room at ten. At the meeting we went over the project and what they were looking for. I was then told that they had a fellow coming in from Rapid City that was a motorcycle builder named Michael Prugh who had won what’s called a “Biker Build Off” on discovery TV. I never saw any of this biker build of stuff so I had no idea that he was “famous”, or at least in today’s shallow world of fame.  After the meeting it was back to the inner sanctum and keeping away from the Harley Engineers.  I was expected to attend lunch with the Engineering group; what a difference in twenty four hours. Dan and the entire marketing team along with the general manager all came along. We went up the hill to the Holiday Inn; the club house for the Hamsters; a motorcycles group that Dan and his head of marketing Ken Niles who was a former Blue Angles pilot belong to. Some of you may have seen the TV documentary about a group that rides to Sturgis every year called the” Hamsters”. People like Arlen Ness and Peter Fonda are all members riding with their yellow t shirts. Big whoop, but we were in the restaurant hall that they have their meetings in. I had to have all this explained to me as I sat thinking who gives a flying you know what. You the reader would have been proud of me because I was a perfect gentleman even though I think very little of the phony baloney so called celebrities.

   When we came back from lunch I got to meet Michael Prugh and after introductions and some small talk we were sent into the skunk works to do our thing.  Michael is an excellent designer and we hit it off right from the start. I spent the time later to check out these biker build offs and noticed that it’s a clown show of the highest order; the bikes are great but why each participant have to look like something out of a circus is beyond me but it’s the way life is today and one has to except that regardless of how one feels. This is what I liked about Michael; he looks like a normal person and is not pretentious in any way. Our ideas seemed to flow together and as we talked about different lines and how they should blend into each other he was taking notes and doing some sketches. After about an hour the entire Lehman team came in to see how we were doing.  We went over our ideas and what happened next is very common.  They looked at a few of the sketches that Michael had done and the both of us using our hands explained how the lines would flow around the body then there was silence. People like Mr Prugh and I look for ideas from others and not just compliments on what a great job we were doing. So I had to give the group “The Talk” and when I got them to understand that it was their project that we were designing and not ours they then got the point and started giving us feedback.  I then explained how the best designs are always done by what’s called “Designing by Committee”.  We spent the next two hours going over ideas with Michael sketching the entire time and before we were done we had a great looking trike concept thought out even if it was still just an idea. Michael took my phone number and I his and we planned on calling the next week to see how far he had gotten with the artist renderings. Michael left for Rapid City and I went back into the inner sanctum spending the rest of the afternoon working with the engineers and the fabricator on a new idea for a shimmy damper. Dan and the general manager came in and I was asked if I would spend one more day working with the engineering group and would it be OK if they picked my brain. I agreed and spent the rest of the day working on some ideas that looked promising.  After work I went down the hill to Walmart and purchased a swim suite. The hotel had an indoor pool with hot tub, steam room and sauna and I was going to take advantage of it. I was still the only one in the hotel and went for a dip and steam even though it was below zero outside. It was just fun being the only one in the hotel and swimming with it being below zero outside. How often does one get a circumstance and condition like that, almost never?

The next day went by way to fast and the engineers asked if I would drive down to Rapid City after work and we could all go out to dinner in the down town area at the “Fire House restaurant”. One engineer rode along with me and we had a better chance to get to know each other.  Everyone showed up at the Fire House restaurant even the general manager and we had one great time and I received a talking tour of the greater Black Hills from people that live and play there.  The travel agent had me booked into a hotel in Rapid City and I spent the night with just a short trip to the airport in the morning. Another day spent in the air and I was home in South Carolina.

 

Headed to the Black Hills:

 I left the following week and spent one day in the air going from airport to airport. No direct flights from South Carolina to Rapid City South Dakota. When I landed in Rapid City they had a new car rental waiting for me with directions on how to get to Spearfish fifty five miles away.  It was early March and it was still minus four degrees below zero.  I grew up in New England and new all about cold so I was prepared. I headed up the interstate towards Spearfish and as I approached the Sturgis exit I got off and decided to take a little trip around town to look things over. Places like Sturgis are like ghost towns in the winter months with less than three hundred people living in such a place in the off season.  I made my way back onto the interstate and traveled the seventeen miles to Spearfish. I checked into the hotel and made my way over to Walmart to pick up some items that I would need to measure the project bike and to take notes with. With the way things are today at the airports I wasn’t sure what they would let me take aboard the plane  and I sure didn’t want any of my expensive measuring tools to be taken away from me because after all, I like every other American today is a potential terrorist.

 

 The next morning at the plant I was introduced to the plant manager and told that Dan would be coming in the next day. After signing a non-disclosure agreement, something I had done many times before. I was told that the project t was going to be called “The Open Road” project, and that it was top secret and could not be discussed outside of the special room that was designated for it; our “Skunk Works”.  I was told that Harley engineers were in the R&D building and that Victory was one of Harley’s biggest competitors and this Victory project had to be “Top Secret”. I also was told that they; Lehman were working on the new Harley Trike project and would be building the first Harley trikes when they first came out.  I was then shown around the plant and R&D area and introduced to the engineers.  At this point I was just the guy they brought in to help design and sculptor the body for the new open road project and the engineers did what engineers do and gave me the cold shoulder. They were polite but it was like I wasn’t even there. The engineers did invite me to lunch but I think they were told to do so.  As we were looking over the menu I noticed one of the Engineers had on his pinky ring. I mentioned that I hadn’t worn my “Order of the Engineers” ring in many years because it gets in the way with the type of work that I do. (The Order of the Engineer is an association for graduate and professional engineers in the United States that emphasizes pride and responsibility in the Engineering profession.) They look at me with surprise and one said “we thought you were just a guy coming in to sculptor a trike body”.  I laughed and said “you never know who you may meet in life so never rule anything out”. At that point it was like we were all in World War II together; all smiles and fraternal brotherhood. They then asked if they could see my picture portfolio. It was funny because five minutes earlier they could have cared less, but since I was one of them all of a sudden they were interested. This wasn’t the first time that something like this had happened to me over the years and I’m too thick skinned to ever take it personally; plus I understand this mind set. My problem has always been that I’m an engineer and designer first but can do the craftsman like work using my hands that the untrained and unskilled could never do. Not meaning this in a bragging way; this is very rare and very few people that follow different disciplines cross over and can do both or in some cases many. A good example is Dean Webster a friend of mine that I have mentioned in different writings. He’s achieved a Masterly level of achievement in many different disciplines in his lifetime. Probably the smartest and most capable person I have ever known. In Dean’s case he chose the corporate life and has exceled at it. Another thing that I’ve learned over the years is that it’s best to hold back what you may know or have achieved until it’s asked for. As the guys were looking over the pages of projects they noticed my sidecars. That’s when the questions started; they first asked if I ever had trouble with some sidecars shimming. My answer was “it’s something you live with but the sidecars don’t shimmy the front end of the motorcycle does”. They mentioned that they every so often have a trike that will shimmy and have used shimmy dampers. I exchanged information about the different ones that I had used over the years. The rest of the meal was pleasant and when we returned back to the R&D area I was invited into the inner sanctum. The R&D area was up to date with the best of equipment for what they were doing. They even had a machinist and a metal fabricator that could make almost anything they could dream up. The machinist probably had the neatest working area of any machinist anywhere. The R&D building is up on a hill in what’s called a “Hog Back”. The machine shop area has large picture windows behind the machines with a full view of the Black Hills to look out at. I stood there in amazement and mentioned to the machinist that he had to have the best view of any machinist while working in the world. He just smiled and agreed as he told me it was a better view than the farm pastures in Wisconsin where he was from.

  The Engineers showed me around and then took me into what they called “The Skunk Works”. With the Harley Engineers walking around they had a special room with a coded security lock on the door and when the door opened all one saw was a blue tarp and nothing more. Inside the skunk works they had two Victory Vision bikes that were used for prototype work; so much for me having to worry about scratching a new bike. I was shown the mechanical workings of what the drive train was going to look like. This gave me an idea as to what I had to work around. They were planning some changes to the frame extension that would be used on the production trikes but other than what they had sitting there was what they were going to use.   We then went back to the discussion of the shimmy problems and went back into the machinist area to look over a Harley that had been giving them a problem. They had half a dozen trikes in the shop with each one having some little problem. I think it was more of them making improvements than the trikes having a problem.  It was cold out but that didn’t stop them from running trikes up and down the road and on the skid pad. Having not been around trikes this was a new experience for me and I was interested in how they would match up to a sidecar rig. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I didn’t want to waste it. The” Lehman solid rear end “is what makes every Lehman trike perform so well.  Some without any knowledge or experience when it comes to trikes claim that they are unstable but I’m here to tell you that the Lehman Trike is very stable and to turn one over would take a lot. I saw some of the factory riders putting them through rigorous maneuvers and in a right hand turn only a racing sidecar could compete. The left hand turn would most likely be a draw between a sidecar rig and a Lehman Trike. The down side is a trike has very little storage or luggage area compared to most sidecars and the sidecar allows the rider to fall asleep inside the sidecar without having to worry about falling of the bike.  I’m still in favor of a sidecar but don’t think for a second that trikes are unstable or dangerous to drive; if you’re thinking that your miss informed.

  In my opinion a funny thing happened and I was told this story.  The Lehman team takes customer requests very seriously. They did have a request that was asked for more than once and I thought was funny. More than one woman would write in or phone asking if they made an extra wide storage compartment for behind the passenger seat. Evidently some have a wide girth and want to hide it when sitting on the back of the trike. Some gave detailed stories about being laughed at when driving down the road on the back of the trike and asked if Lehman would custom make a wide trunk compartment for them. That way they wouldn’t be laughed at any more. Back in the day when I was manufacturing sidecars we never had a problem like this but I guess it’s the way things are today. Back in the day I don’t remember people starting out the day with a forty two ounce “Big Gulp” just to get going; and some wonder why they weight three hundred pounds. I will say this about the Lehman team; all were very respectful and even though they were behind the scenes they never showed any disrespect for people with sly comments. I on the other hand kept my feelings and comments on this subject to myself. I have been known to being a jerk at times but that’s what you get when you’re a free spirit.

We were told that Dan and the artist would be coming in the next day.  Evidently Dan had a condo that he lived in when he was in town up on the other side of the hill behind the factory. We finished out the day in the inner sanctum talking about ideas and different directions that we could go in with the open road project. At the end of the day the group of engineers that car pooled the fifty five miles back to Rapid City left for home and I was on my own.  I drove around Spearfish with a population twelve hundred and looked for a place to eat. If there are twelve hundred people in the town I don’t know where they were but I don’t think I saw ten people the entire time I was driving around town. I made my way back to the hotel to find out that I was the only one staying in it. The person at the front desk was pleasant and at eleven they made a shift change.  It was funny watching the local TV news at nine o’clock because there is no crime unlike South Carolina where a large portion of the news is taken up covering different murders and arrests of the day.

   The next morning I had breakfast at the hotel; they had a self-serve breakfast bar and I was the only one in attendance. I arrived bright and early at the R&D area and was informed that we were having a meeting in the big room at ten. At the meeting we went over the project and what they were looking for. I was then told that they had a fellow coming in from Rapid City that was a motorcycle builder named Michael Prugh who had won what’s called a “Biker Build Off” on discovery TV. I never saw any of this biker build of stuff so I had no idea that he was “famous”, or at least in today’s shallow world of fame.  After the meeting it was back to the inner sanctum and keeping away from the Harley Engineers.  I was expected to attend lunch with the Engineering group; what a difference in twenty four hours. Dan and the entire marketing team along with the general manager all came along. We went up the hill to the Holiday Inn; the club house for the Hamsters; a motorcycles group that Dan and his head of marketing Ken Niles who was a former Blue Angles pilot belong to. Some of you may have seen the TV documentary about a group that rides to Sturgis every year called the” Hamsters”. People like Arlen Ness and Peter Fonda are all members riding with their yellow t shirts. Big whoop, but we were in the restaurant hall that they have their meetings in. I had to have all this explained to me as I sat thinking who gives a flying you know what. You the reader would have been proud of me because I was a perfect gentleman even though I think very little of the phony baloney so called celebrities.

   When we came back from lunch I got to meet Michael Prugh and after introductions and some small talk we were sent into the skunk works to do our thing.  Michael is an excellent designer and we hit it off right from the start. I spent the time later to check out these biker build offs and noticed that it’s a clown show of the highest order; the bikes are great but why each participant have to look like something out of a circus is beyond me but it’s the way life is today and one has to except that regardless of how one feels. This is what I liked about Michael; he looks like a normal person and is not pretentious in any way. Our ideas seemed to flow together and as we talked about different lines and how they should blend into each other he was taking notes and doing some sketches. After about an hour the entire Lehman team came in to see how we were doing.  We went over our ideas and what happened next is very common.  They looked at a few of the sketches that Michael had done and the both of us using our hands explained how the lines would flow around the body then there was silence. People like Mr Prugh and I look for ideas from others and not just compliments on what a great job we were doing. So I had to give the group “The Talk” and when I got them to understand that it was their project that we were designing and not ours they then got the point and started giving us feedback.  I then explained how the best designs are always done by what’s called “Designing by Committee”.  We spent the next two hours going over ideas with Michael sketching the entire time and before we were done we had a great looking trike concept thought out even if it was still just an idea. Michael took my phone number and I his and we planned on calling the next week to see how far he had gotten with the artist renderings. Michael left for Rapid City and I went back into the inner sanctum spending the rest of the afternoon working with the engineers and the fabricator on a new idea for a shimmy damper. Dan and the general manager came in and I was asked if I would spend one more day working with the engineering group and would it be OK if they picked my brain. I agreed and spent the rest of the day working on some ideas that looked promising.  After work I went down the hill to Walmart and purchased a swim suite. The hotel had an indoor pool with hot tub, steam room and sauna and I was going to take advantage of it. I was still the only one in the hotel and went for a dip and steam even though it was below zero outside. It was just fun being the only one in the hotel and swimming with it being below zero outside. How often does one get a circumstance and condition like that, almost never?

The next day went by way to fast and the engineers asked if I would drive down to Rapid City after work and we could all go out to dinner in the down town area at the “Fire House restaurant”. One engineer rode along with me and we had a better chance to get to know each other.  Everyone showed up at the Fire House restaurant even the general manager and we had one great time and I received a talking tour of the greater Black Hills from people that live and play there.  The travel agent had me booked into a hotel in Rapid City and I spent the night with just a short trip to the airport in the morning. Another day spent in the air and I was home in South Carolina.

 

 

The next week I received a call from Michael Prugh and he was making good progress and informed me that they would be ready for a showing the next week. Dan gave me a call and we were on for the next week.  It was time to go through the whole traveling thing again. Dan had been doing this traveling thing while running the company for a few years; I don’t think I would have cared to do it myself.

  I left on the following Monday and went through the airport to airport thing one more time. As I was in the Denver terminal walking to the gate for Rapid City I came upon a soldier sitting in the area headed to Rapid City. As I looked at his right shoulder patch I noticed it was a Special Forces patch. The right shoulder patch represents that he was in a combat.  I went up to the Lieutenant and introduced myself. I then pulled out my Special Forces Challenge coin that I have carried with me for forty seven years as I write this. He pulls his out and we exchange the coins using the hand shake. We then sat and talked for around an hour and then we got the call to board. We shook hand and boarded the plane.  The lieutenant was sitting in the last row and I was three rows in front of him in the aisle seat. I got settled in and the gentleman next to me told me that he was with a group from Florida that comes up to the Black Hills every year to run snowmobiles. As we were talking in my left ear I thought I heard” Ranger”. I looked over to the gentleman across the aisle from me and said “excuse me, but did you say that you were a Ranger”. He said that” he was not but was in Special Forces”.  About that time I squirm around in my seat trying to get my hand in my front pocket and pull my coin out. While he’s reaches into a little pouch he has on his belt and pulls out his. We both laugh and he said “what the chances of three of us being on the same plane from three different generations”. I was from the 1960’s, he was from the 1980’s and the Lieutenant was present day. As we flew along we told different stories about the funny things that happened and some about the training never giving away any secrets but about some of the more difficult parts of it all. As we talked and told these stories the people around us were asking questions and before long I could tell that they were genially interested in what it was like to be a Special Forces Soldier or as the public call us a “Green Beret” and what it took to become one. The trip from Denver to Rapid City was over in no time and as we were getting ready to disembark a lady behind us said “I can see why you gentleman are “SPECIAL”. And at the same time others thanked us for the stories and our service. We in turn looked back at the Lieutenant and both of us must have been thinking the same thing and thanked him for his service. At that point we asked the Lieutenant if he would please disembark first with all our respect for his service. As we made our way into the terminal I noticed a gaggle of people with signs “Welcome Home Lieutenant”.  His first name was on the sign but I don’t remember what it was.  As I was driving up the interstate I started thinking about “what were the chances of three of us “Long Tabs” from three generations being in the same place at the same time. Long tab is the military phrase for “the Special Forces Tab above the shoulder insignia”. Airborne and Ranger are also tabs but are shorter, hence Special Forces; long tab. Back when I was in Special Forces they didn’t have a tab that read “Special Forces” that came in later years.

   I made my way up to Spearfish to the hotel and it was a full house with one other guest.  The next morning I made my way over to the R&D area and the greeting was somewhat different than my first entrance on my first trip.  We had a few hours before the big meeting and they had brought in all the directors and the big stockholders along with Mr. Lehman and his family and some of the original investors.  They even had the Polaris and Victory people in attendance because any project using a Polaris product had to pass final inspection. The engineers wanted to show me all the things that they had been working on since my last visit; you would think that I had been working for the company as long as they had. We went over some of the designs ideas that we had talked about and how they had improved upon them. It was time to go out and be introduced to the family as they called them. As I looked around the room I could see that this was an important day for these people. With the Victory becoming as popular as it had and after two years of planning the” Open Road Project” was finely becoming a real thing. After Michael Prugh and I were introduced to everyone we went into the Skunk Works along with the engineers and went over the artist renderings. He had drawn four different design versions and anyone of the four would look good. We didn’t have to worry about the Harley engineers because they had gone back home and wouldn’t be back till the next week.  Michael also pulled out a drawing of his next project and asked for an opinion. It was something he had been thinking about for some time and intended on building it for the upcoming “Biker Build Off”.  About that time the meeting was called and we made our way into the big room. The meeting room was set up so fifteen or so could sit at the table with chairs for a second row and a viewing area for those that wanted to stand. Dan opened the meeting and introduced Michael and I officially to the group.  He then had Michael present his Artist renderings to the group. Everyone liked the drawings and I soon figured out that they thought that they were all the same design.  Michael had figured the same thing out and as I sat there I had to come up with a way to make this group understand that there were four designs so that I would know what design they wanted me to sculptor. This had to be done in a polite and respectful way.  So I started to compliment the artist renderings going over different lines and asking for opinions. The screen was large enough so that all four drawings could be seen without any difficulty. Using one of those lazar pointers I went over some of the different lines and started asking questions like what line looks better as I went from drawing to drawing.  Michael picked up a marker and the two of us together worked as a team asking and answering questions.  I could see that they started to understand there were  slight differences in the drawings and before we were through I hoped to find out what design they wanted me to build.  Dan made a statement that they all looked good and to let Johnny work with all four and we know he will come up with something that we will all like. That was easy and we went on to other steps in the development of the project.  As they made their way down the list they came to the measurement of the width of the new Open road trike. Lehman had a company policy that no trike would be over fifty three inches wide. I was looking for fifty six inches, and that’s when the bidding, begging pleading and just plain asking for fifty six inches came about. I was a designer in the wilderness with everyone insisting on fifty three inches and I wanted or needed fifty six. I had done what’s called an aspect ratio comparison and felt that fifty six would work better for this one project but remember I was the new man in town and had the entire company wanting to go with the company policy of fifty three inches. I had done weight and balance, roll and Center of gravity calculations and in my opinion firty six inches was needed.  In the end they relented and I got my fifty six inches, but before it was over months later in the middle of the project Dan would have me redesign the model to fit the fifty three inches and that’s what we ended up with and I ended up taking one and a half inches out of each side.  When the meeting was over everyone went out into the main area of the R&D area and with a new project soon to be started excitement was in the air. As we were standing around talking the word went out that we were having lunch at the Holiday Inn and everyone was invited; it didn’t take long to empty out the R&D area. At lunch they sat Michael and I together and I had a chance to spend some more time with him. We talked about working in a mentoring capacity with the younger kids. I mentioned to him that he was becoming famous and the kids could identify with him and who knows one in the bunch could become another Michael Prugh.  At this point he had not but a few years later I saw on the internet that he had a thing going with one of the schools working with the kids. I couldn’t help but think that a few words at that lunch may have got him to thinking about it. We finished out the day and the next morning I was on a plane headed back home to South Carolina.

 

On the flight from Rapid City to Minneapolis I was seated next to an older lady and her daughter. As we talked the conversation went around the block as it will and the subject of her late husband being in the service came up. Come to find out the lady’s late husband and she and her daughter were at Fort Sherman in the Panama Canal Zone at the same time that I was in 1966. Her husband, a Sargent like me was part of the cadre that trained us. They were stationed their full time as I went through Jungle School.  Years later they lived in Florida and the daughter worked at the Arabian Knights Supper club working with the Arabian horses. Her instructor/trainer was the same person years later that became my wife’s instructor and trainer allowing my wife to get good enough to win a National Championship on our prize winning Arabian horse. Talk about a small world.  

 Once home all I could do was wait for the scaled drawings and the Victory Vision motorcycle to be shipped to Dan’s dealership so that I could pick it up and start on the Open Road Project.

 

 

 

 

              Modeling a one of a kind trike body:

 

The victory Vision trike was delivered to Dan’s dealership and I went down and picked it up and took it to my design shop to start the project. It took another week before the scaled drawings came in from Michael Prugh. I went down and had the drawings that Michael gave me scaled and printed on a grid but didn’t dare to use them just in case I was off the smallest amount. The drawing did come in and when I compared them to mine Michaels were scaled the same; so much for a wasted week.

When I built my design studio it was constructed as a modeling shop so that I could do work like the Open Road project. As the concrete on the floor was being poured and smoothed out extra time was spent so that an area ten feet by eighteen feet is perfectly level and could be used as a surface plate for precise design work. I decided that the Open Road model would be built on the floor rather than up on a surface table. That way when viewing during the design process it will be sitting on the ground in its natural state.  I started by drawing a grid on the floor using three inch squares with a center line and a datum line that the trike rear end would be aligned with. Taking a 2 D drawing and making it into a 3D sculptor can be fun and at the same time confusing to accomplish. The scale drawings of the body were of the top, rear, and the left and right sides.  I took these drawings and gave the squares on the grid a number or station and a location. These same line designations were transposed full size on the surface plate on the floor. I then took a one inch thick board stock and drew out the same full size grids on three different boards; one for the top and the other two representing the left and right sides.  I then built an arm extension protruding off the trike frame so that the top board could be placed on it parallel to the plane. I did the same for the left and right sides using the axel flange to mount them to measuring off the center line.

 

 

With the grid every three inches I transposed the dissecting points and started the sculporing process building first what’s called the armature. For this project I decided to use wood, foam, and fiberglass for the armature. This allowed me to use auto body filler over the fiberglass for a solid model. I could have used clay but moved to auto body filler more than forty years ago. For me it’s easier to work with and is more permanent than clay.

I have built many different projects for a lot of company’s over the years and one thing a designer has to look out for is not getting paid. Corporations can be worse than armed robbers on the street when it comes to paying. Working for Lehman Trikes was like a breath of fresh air. They set up a payment program and throughout the entire project they paid on time. I learned years ago that you don’t want to wait to get paid when the job is completed and if a company insists I tell them to get someone else to do the job. At that point they have the model and can make you wait for your money for months or even years or forever.

Every Monday morning around eleven O’clock we had our Open Road Project meeting over the phone. I would take pictures of my progress and would email them up to the engineering group and they would in turn have a slide show on the big screen in the meeting room. I think it was more of a learning experience for the entire group as I went over the steps that I used to get to where we were each week. The group would always ask questions about how I did this or that and it was fun explaining the different steps. At times I would explain other ways of doing a step and why I chose the process that I did. Around four weeks into the project Dan flew in two of the engineers to make a change to the frame and they spent a few days with me. Dan left for home and the engineers and I spent more time traveling around the mountains attending one of the local Air Shows than working. I had gotten close to these two and they enjoyed spending time in my shop even learning how to make fiberglass parts; they built a trunk lid for a 427 Cobra even getting their hands dirty. They had fun for a short time but realized quickly that working with their hands and getting dirty wasn’t for them. The funny thing is when on their own time they would get knee deep in the mud when running their dirt bikes. They even spent some time with our Arabian horses. All of us were from different parts of the country and one being from Denmark so our interests and experiences were diverse and that was fun talking about them.

The engineers brought down three or four different taillights to try on the back end of the body. Whatever light that was going to be used had to have a DOT certification on it. The cost of designing a custom light for the project and getting certification for something as simple as a taillight could run into thousands of dollars and sometimes take years.  A DOT approved light was the simplest way to go and they settled on a light that they were already using on another Victory trike. In the end the two taillights on the body were discarded and the original Vision center light was used and the savings were deducted from the overall cost of each unit; more of Dan’s good product development skills. It was funny as we were in the taillight phase of the project. My wife who would come in every day as she was going to or from the barn while working with her horses would check out the project and what progress I was making. When the discussion of a taillight was going on she had it on her mind. One evening when coming in from a night out dining we pulled into the garage and as we walked by our collector cars she stopped at the back of our 1973 Rolls Royce and asked “I wonder how a Rolls taillight would look on the trike”. I started laughing and said “great except for the price”.  We both went into the house laughing with me saying “they probably cost a thousand dollars apiece”.  At the next weeks Monday morning phone meeting they got a good laugh out of it when I told the story.  Then the general manager said “we may have to get your wife to sign a non-disclosure agreement” and the entire group was in stitches. The Monday morning phone meetings were always a good time.

The shape and design of the model came right off Michael’s artist renderings with the exception of the gray areas that I had to design. When the model was completed I removed it from the trike frame and built a fiberglass mold that gave me a copy in revers of every square inch of the model. From the mold I fabricated a fiberglass copy of the model. This became the new model and all changes would be made in fiberglass from here on out. I installed the new fiberglass model on the trike frame and when Dan and the group came in for an inspection we found that the foot rest for the passenger was too far in and had to be moved out one and a half inches on each side. This was something that wasn’t taken into consideration when the artist renderings were being drawn.  We had no base line to work off and sure were charting new territories with a brand new fresh design. When designing automobiles we used full size templates of the driver and passengers and they were used as guides in the development process making it much easier than how we had to do it. Dan still wanted the fifty three inches max on the width and I couldn’t talk him out of it so I cut the fiberglass model and moved in each section one and a half inches. I had to sculptor a new sweep into the body and it was almost like starting over but it had to be done. I learned a good lesson that I shall not soon forget.

  

 

 

 

As the project was progressing Dan and a few of the directors along with Ken Niles came over for a visit to go over some changes that were going to make the project much easier to construct. Originally we planned on fender skirts and Dan thought that we should cut out a wheel opening saving the time and expense. I can’t say that I was disappointed because I knew what we were up against having designed the fender shirts years earlier on my Sweet 55 T Bird. I had spent a little time on the fender shirt locking mechanism and was more than happy to just put it to bed. I drew some lines on the side of the body representing possible wheel openings and the group decided on the line that would look the best.  In the end they saved five hundred dollars on every unit with the different changes that Dan came up with. Ever wonder why people like Dan were in charge of places like the former Kennedy Space center; because they know what they are doing and can take charge of any situation. When I got to a point that wasn’t spelled out in the artist renderings Dan gave me artistic license to design whatever I thought was needed to complete the project.  He knew form experience to let a guy like me do my stuff and in the end it would come out right.

An open road trike needs a large trunk area and this became a problem designing two luggage compartments in the back end of the body. With the wheels and frame extension in place it didn’t leave much room for a trunk on the left or right sides. They also wanted the openings to be large enough for a safety helmet to fit in. There just wasn’t enough room so the change in plan was to just go with the luggage compartment that came on the back of the Vision motorcycle along with the two small luggage areas in the body. The hatch openings along with the hinges had to be designed and that was going to fall onto the R&D fabricator so I fabricated up a set of prototype hatches and outer rear body sections for him to use as a guide to work off. I also had designed many hinges over the years starting with my 55 T Bird back in the late 70’s and even my latest Cobras had custom hinges so I made up a few with different shapes and placed them in the box when I sent up the hatch parts to the R&D department. Weeks past and the model completed and the group came in for a final inspection to write off of the body. It was accepted and no changes needed so I built a mold and fabricated two prototype bodies.  When the open road project was completed I brought everything down to Dan’s Victory dealership and we place all the parts in crates and it was shipped off to the Lehman factory in Spearfish in one of Lehman’s big transporters.  As I was driving back home I started to think about what a great bunch of people they had at Lehman and that I would miss getting up every day with the Open road project on my mind. So with another project completed I would still have to wait almost a year before the finished project would be presented to the public. They still had to take what I gave them and build production molds. In the end they used ninety five percent of what I gave them with just a few slight changes around the rear taillights and hatch openings.  The first 2010 model year Crossbow trikes were presented to the public at the 2009 Sturgis motorcycle rally with mixed reviews. For those that like this kind of design they had rave reviews and others who were less favorable were saying that it looked like a star wars vehicle. Over time the Crossbow has been well received and dubbed as a timeless design with sales numbers that surprised everyone. In fact victory motorcycles limited the number of Victory Vision’s that they would release to Lehman for conversions to the Crossbow so Lehman went out and purchased bikes around the country off showroom floors and converted them to Crossbows. They say that timing is everything in life and who would ever think that we as a nation would have gone with this new “Hope and Change”. Ya, how has that change worked out? For the trike industry and Lehman it couldn’t have been worse. I don’t know the circumstances but I was told that for a time the operation was shut down and the assets sold but that they are up and running and sales are strong.

Little did I know at the time when I was designing the Crossbow but I had been sick and the symptoms were about to come out. I had the same thing that hits many men at my age. It didn’t take long and the doctors filled me up with medication that almost killed me and when I felt like I had six months to live I said “enough”. I got off the medication and went the natural route and five years later I’m one hundred percent and the doctors just look at each other, “I wonder what happened, he’s cured”;  Ya, with no help from any of them.

 

I spent most of 2008 working on and around trikes, an experience I shall not soon forget. It was something that I never thought I would have been involved with but it just goes to show that one should never say never because you may have to eat your words.  Working with the Engineers in the “Sanctum Sanctorum” at Lehman allowed me to get a complete understanding about trikes and the industry. At the same time I got to meet some very interesting people and to put one more feather in my design cap if there is such a thing.  I’m still a sidecar guy but trikes are much more than some people may think. Would I own or drive a motorcycle trike over a sidecar? No, in the end I put the trike thing to bed and I don’t see myself going back to them. Today my health is good and I’m back doing what I was meant to do and that’s designing and building motorcycle sidecars. In my life I’ve been involved in a vast number of different projects but always seem to come back to sidecars. The two most exciting life adventures by far was the privileges of serving in the US Army as a Special Forces combat soldier sometimes called a “Green Beret” and the other driving those crazy hydroplanes but it always seems that I come back to sidecars. I’ve sometimes sat and wondered why I always choose sidecars with all the other things one could do.  It’s interesting that I’m in the middle generationally with my Dad and grandfather that rode and drove sidecars in the past to my son and grandson who will follow in the future. Our family plan is to introduce a new sidecar to the market place sometime in 2014 and who knows it may take off and in time possibly my son and grandson will take over where I left off once I’m gone. Little David is slowly being groomed but you never know what direction a young mind will go in. Wouldn’t it be a kick in the pants if he becomes a future trike designer? Some have asked “where have all the sidecars gone” but I submit that they haven’t gone anywhere it’s just that there are more people in the world and not enough sidecar manufacturers. Also another undeniable truth is that some people seem to be drawn to trikes more than sidecars or at least the numbers show that.

Well I hope that some of you enjoyed the story and in doing so learned a few things. I know that I sure did and at the same time I had the opportunity to meet some really great people that were dedicated to designing the best motorcycle trikes that they could produce.

Johnny sweet PE.

Master Modeler, Mechanical Engineer.

 

This is what the end result would look like.

 

 

 

 Every good project starts with an artist rendering.

 

 

 

The old man laying out the grid on the floor around the Vision/ Open Road frame. 

 

 

Going from 2D to 3D can get complicated at times. 

 

 

 I started by building the two outer body sections off the center line of the rear end hubs first.

 

 Wood, foam, fiberglass, and auto body filler were used to make the original model.

 

 Each side was built within a .012" tolerance even though I was given 1/8" to 1/4".

 

 Once the outer body sections were completed it was just a matter of filling in the rest.

 

 

 


 

 It takes a lot of time to get to this point in a project.

 

 

 

 These were the lines that I drew for the wheel opening and the group made the decision on what line to use.

 

 Original lights that were later discarded in favor of no lights with a saving of $500 per unit with all the other changes to the original concept.

Note the crisp body lines; they would later be softened up for production.

 

 The new fiberglass model made from the original mold off the first wood model. Note the cuts in the fiberglass where I had to move the body in to get to the 53" and the foot rest changes.

 

 The finished product first shown in 2009 representing the 2010 Crossbow model. Note that my sharp very distinct lines were softened up for the production model. Myself I would have used the sharp lines but I didn't have the last say on the matter.

 

 

 



Edited by Johnny Sweet 8/21/2017 10:58 PM
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Johnny Sweet
Posted 11/30/2013 11:27 AM (#75109 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: RE: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day



Veteran

Posts: 164
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Location: In South Carolina but grew up in Massachusetts.

 

 

An interesting Summer and Fall with a lot of fun thrown in.

Once again I would like to thank those of you that have sent me the dozens and dozens of emails over the last months and allowed me to share in some of your life’s adventures. It’s been an interesting time and there are seven Sweet sidecars being built or rebuilt around the world. When I say around the world that’s not a stretch. One in South Africa and another in The Outback of Australia that are being built from scratch using my frame and mounting design.  As I’ve mentioned before one of my original Sweet SL-440 rigs has made its way to Prince Edwards Island in Canada and the new owner has been enjoying it as he drives it around the island. Another Sweet SL-220 has found a new home in Vermont and is waiting to be rebuilt. I was lucky enough to be able to help out with mounting hardware and a new body section for the back end. This will be the second unit for this family and I know it will turn out as good as the first Sweet sidecar that they rebuilt it should look better than new. Young Joe from Massachusetts finished his Sweet SL-440 and got to take it out for a few shakedown runs before he put it away for the Winter. He and his fiancé have been driving some of the same roads as my Dad and Mom did when they were dating back in the 1930’s with my Dad’s Indian sidecar rig.  We also received our first email to our new sweet sidecars.com website and it was a real surprise. Rusty a gentleman from my home town when I was building my Sweet sidecars dropped us a line. Rusty was a fellow that I knew and respected because he worked his tail off and always knew how important the customer is  and that they can make or break a business. Rusty like any hard working businessman liked nice things. I would see Rusty out at different professional functions or with other friends of mine but we never hung out together but were at the same places at times. Like anything in life you know the people that matter in a community and that are doing the best they can, Rusty is one of these.  As it turns out thirty five plus years go by and Rusty picks up one of my Sweet SL sidecars. A fellow purchased a BMW motorcycle with one of my Sweet sidecars attached to it. Rusty mentioned that it’s one that we have posed pictures of on our site. The fellow that purchased the BMW didn’t want the sidecar so Rusty picked it up and mounted it on one of his Sportsters. He was excited about it and said that his wife found it easier to drive than a two wheeler and that it ran straight and didn’t pull left or right at all. I’m thinking that Rusty may have wanted one of my sidecars for some time because he mentioned about three of my first sidecars that I built for friends that were people that he knew or were friends with. So it’s been fun hearing about other people’s adventures and at times being able to help out as I live and enjoy my own.

   In some parts of the Southeast especially in my area we had the wettest summer in history but it finished up being one of the most pleasant in modern time. In mid-Summer I put together one of my Sweet Classic Sidecars and drove the wheels off it like a kid with a new toy putting on around eighteen hundred miles. I then wanted to prove a point and took my blue Sweet SL-220 Sidecar body and built one of my new frames for it and installed it on the same motorcycle.  I had been saying for years that my Sweet Sidecars can be removed in three to five minutes and re installed in eight to ten. With two totally different Sweet Sidecars in the shop that fit the same bike I could prove my point and at the same time document it. I started out by attending different motorcycle events in the upstate of South Carolina and as the Summer wore on I spreading out to North Carolina. Most events are Harley related but not all and my Sweet Classic Sidecar has always been very well received. I found it funny that the old time riders that are getting up there in age like me could appreciate a sidecar but the yuppie late thirty, forty something’s don’t give it a second look.  Not that I care if anyone takes a look but I just found it interesting. My Sweet SL-220 is a totally different deal. The Harley people won’t give it a second look unless they started out driving a Honda Magna and they then will comment on how they liked the Honda and drove theirs in some cases over one hundred thousand miles. Each sidecar will bring a smile to the faces of different people but it more or less matters as to what group they are with or in. It’s an interesting example of the “human condition” and how it relates to two different sidecar models.

   Does a sidecar attract attention? You bet it does and the interest seems to be genuine.  I’m not telling any of you that drive a sidecar rig anything new but most every place that I stop at as I’m out driving the roads people will come over for a look or wave as I’m driving by. When I stop to get gas the sidecar seems to become a focal point for good conversation with people from all walks of life. I don’t advertise but rather wait for someone to ask about the sidecar. The conversations can take different directions depending on who’s doing the asking. It can be a casual comment like “I like your sidecar, or I haven’t seen a sidecar in a long time”. I just say that “it’s a lot of fun” and leave it at that. I had one situation where a young guy no more that nineteen years old walked up to me and said “ I haven’t seen a sidecar in a long time”.  I thought that was funny but only said one more time, “it’s a lot of fun”.  I couldn’t help but think how long “is a long time” to a nineteen year older. Then others will ask “where did you get the sidecar” and when I answer that “I built it” the conversation always changes and sometimes can get interesting. The conversation can go in a few different directions depending on the person; if the person asking is a fellow that works with his hands the questions can be many and sometimes very technical. The more skilled asking about the sidecar will look over the mounts and rods and comment about me using tubing for the rods. I always come back with a short story on how the rods are made from solid one inch “Hot Rolled” steel and not tubing. I then explain about how the sidecar is mounted. It’s interesting how many out there are qualified welders and a conversation on how I bend the rods and stress relieve them or how the rods are welded to the brackets under the frame. Then the body and paint guys will look over the fiberglass body.  Some that have worked with fiberglass will comment on how it always itches and how they will never work with it again. The more skilled will ask how I came up with the body style of the SL-220 and how they have never seen anything like that before. I do a short dissertation on how I’m one of those old designers that started out sculpturing fifty years ago and moved into fiberglass composites later on. The thing that surprised me the most is when they ask about the upholstery. They will except that I built the sidecar without question but when I say that I stitched up the upholstery they almost always look at me like I’m telling a “fib”. I then tell the story about how when I was in the process of building my first sidecar over forty years ago and went to a school friend that was just starting out with his upholstery shop. He told me that he could stitch up an upholstery for me and when I asked “how much” he told me around three hundred dollars. At the time the first sidecars were going to sell for four hundred dollars or four thousand in today’s money so three hundred dollars was way too much. So I went into Boston and purchased a brand new Konsew machine. I then went to the library and spent the afternoon reading about how to stitch upholstery. So by teaching myself how to stitch and over four hundred and fifty upholstery’s later this is what I end up with. That little story always gets a laugh and they always seem to take a second look at the upholstery commenting that “it looks good”. By this time the conversation will move to cars and “Hot Rods” and what cars they have built. A lot of car guys out there and it’s always fun talking about the set up. A car guy can understand it and when I go over the sidecar wheel lead, tow in and bike camber they get it the first time and then re-look at the sidecar and how it sits next to the motorcycle checking out the set up and almost always comment on the bike camber. The conversation sometimes moves to race cars and setting them up. We have a lot of dirt track racers in the South and they understand setting stuff up. When asked if I have a business card I pull one out of the pocket on the side of the upholstery.  But today’s world is different and most people walking around today have a hand held device and if they are asking questions and I notice that they are carrying one I tell them to do a Goggle  images “Sweet SL sidecars”. As we are standing there a full page comes up and at the top of the page is one picture of me in my younger years in front of three of my sidecars. It’s funny about the human condition; if you’re on the internet and they see a picture of you, you somehow become legitimate or official or something like that. I’ll never understand it. They then save the page and mention that they will be getting in touch with me. It seems to be the same thing in that the “Good Old Boy’s” are interested in the Sweet Classic for their older Big Harley. It’s funny because I don’t want to build any sidecars for the big Harley s but they still keep coming in my direction. Sometimes it’s difficult to figure life out and what may come your way.

 

I still belong to a few professional groups and we old retired guys meet once a month for lunch. It’s always fun seeing some of the old timers that I worked with years ago. Some will ask if I still have my Ferrari and when I say” no my Ferrari days are over “they then ask if I still have the Jags. I then tell them that I’m driving a motorcycle with a sidecar these days. After the first luncheon that I took a sidecar to the entire group had to file out to see this so called “sidecar”. The first sidecar that they saw was the black Sweet Classic and they thought it was something “different, interesting, cool and neat” were the comments. I even had to give out a few rides around the parking lot. The next month I had the blue Sweet SL-220 and when they saw it they just shook their heads smiling as one said “Sweet you’re always building something different”. So every month they ask “what am I driving today”.

  There was a time at these luncheons that all we talked about were new ideas and business when most still had the Entrepreneurial spirit and “The American dream” was still alive and well but it’s funny but since 2008 when this new “Hope and Change “took over with the “Left’s” social reconstruction of our country all conversations relating to business and new start up’s have stopped. The only thing any of them will say is “things sure don’t look good out their”.  At a luncheon in September I mentioned that I was tooling up with some new fresh ideas and improvements on my old design and have considered bringing my Sweet Sidecars back to the market place. I just thought that I would throw it out there and see what their response would be. I figured that I would never get another chance to throw out an idea like this in front of a crowd with such diverse credentials. Thinking back some of these gentlemen ran some of the largest corporations in the country at one time and had thousands and thousands of employees working under them.  After being bombarded with questions from all sides for about fifteen minutes and answering all of them like a kid taking an oral exam.  I must have passed because they all had positive things to say about my new proposed venture. One thing about this group is they will say it like it is and not pull any punches. I was somewhat humbled when former business men of this stature gave me nothing but positive feedback and nothing but encouragement with my new project.  So as I headed back home after our monthly luncheon I had a new found excitement about my son and I’s new project bringing back our Sweet sidecars. It’s been a few months and a few more luncheons and each time I get grilled as to what’s the latest on my sidecar project. I will admit that it’s fun having an entire group behind you wishing you only the best in my next adventure. 

   I drive one of my sidecar rigs almost every day and being so close to the mountains I can be up in the hills in around twelve minutes from my equestrian farm. One of my neighbors who also grew up in Massachusetts and is a “motorcycle nut” hangs out with a group and whenever they are headed out will always invite me to come along. Our little gaggle of motorcycles with one sidecar had gotten to be one of the weekly regulars at some of the stop offs along some of these mountain roads this last Summer and Fall.  It was funny when I first started riding with this group. They had the impression that I wouldn’t be able to keep up because after all,” I had a sidecar”. After the first outing one fellow from Europe named John was so impressed that he wanted a sidecar for his second bike just to run around town with. He didn’t realize that I built sidecars and had a shop full of them.  He went looking on Craig’s List and found a complete rig for the price of just a used sidecar but he was too late and someone else bought it up. It was funny to see it on this site with the new owner asking questions.  So for this Winter we put a deal together and next season there will be two of us with sidecars out running the mountain roads together with the other two wheelers.

 

Well thanks for reading and as I make more progress on my new Sweet 16 sidecar I will post pictures and show the steps and design processes along the way.

 

Johnny Sweet,

Sweet Sidecars.

 My new Sweet SL-220 sidecar built from a new mold. The chances of me building many SL-220 sidecars is slim to none but for me after building hundreds of sidecars the SL-220 was always my favorite. As I drive it down the road in my mind it takes me back to forty plus years ago when was just starting out on this grand adventure and I haven't had this much fun in years.

   The new aluminum wheel I think looks good on the SL-220; they never had such a good looking wheels back in the day. I've put almost two thousand miles on this sidecar and out of the shop till now not one adjustment has had to be made. Soon this frame and bike will be going to Florida where a new "Carbon Fiber" body awaits it. It will be the first Sweet carbon fiber body that my son Eric is in the process of building. The body will be yellow with black with the carbon fiber showing through on the hood, side indent, and fender edge. It will also have one of our trademarked whale tails that will be accented in carbon fiber. It will emulate pretty much what my son built when he was in High School back twenty five years ago. The upholstery will also be in a carbon fiber look alike material that I've been working with. Under the blue seat is a carbon fiber seat done in black. I have the blue cover installed with snaps under the seat and the color can be changed in a matter of minutes so that when I change sidecars the seat matches the sidecar color. I'm looking at detailing the welting on the new carbon fiber sidecar with upholstery with a yellow carbon fiber for an added ascent. My son will be driving with my grandson David just like my son Eric and I did when he was young and my Dad and I did sixty plus years ago. Not forgetting my Grandfather and my Dad back in the mid 1930's with my Grandfather sitting in the sidecar with his wheelchair strapped on the back of the sidecar.  

  photo 003_zps01245be1.jpg

 

 

 

 



Edited by Johnny Sweet 2/5/2015 12:22 PM
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Wolfhound
Posted 12/2/2013 7:05 AM (#75126 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: Re: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day


Veteran

Posts: 227
10010025
Location: Ball Ground, GA.
Mr. Sweet, as usual you have written another chapter or two for that book that you will publish one of these days. When you do let me know and I will be the first to buy a copy.
Also, thank you for taking the time to PM me about my 'going to take for ever to restore but having fun' Honda CB400a bike. I may never ride it but it will either get my Cozy
sidecar or a trike conversion done. I prefer the sidecar. Keep on writing and riding.!!!!
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K9-Handler
Posted 12/2/2013 4:33 PM (#75135 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: Re: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day


Member

Posts: 7
0
Location: Western CT
As of yesterday I am the new owner of a Sweet SL! Haven't picked it up yet, but it's officially mine.
I'll be sending along an email to the Guru of SL-ness shortly.
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Wolfhound
Posted 12/2/2013 6:23 PM (#75136 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: Re: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day


Veteran

Posts: 227
10010025
Location: Ball Ground, GA.
You lucky dog!!! Congratulations.
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Johnny Sweet
Posted 12/31/2013 11:59 PM (#75501 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: RE: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day



Veteran

Posts: 164
1002525
Location: In South Carolina but grew up in Massachusetts.

 

 

Are we having fun yet, you bet we are.

A year is about to end and a new one is upon us. After a hiatus from sidecars of twenty five years I’m back out on the road and really didn’t realize just what I had been missing. 2013 has had its up’s and downs and as we move on to 2014 the future looks good when it comes to sidecars in the upstate of South Carolina. I’ve decided to go back into the business of building a limited number of my custom Sweet Sidecars. This new project is turning into more fun than I ever imagined. The basic concept is the same as I started with over forty years ago but this time I come to the table with a lifetime of experience and a full library of information and knowledge. In reality it makes it a lot easier. In my area of the South sidecars are almost nonexistent and I intend on changing that just like I did forty years ago in the greater Boston area.  I’ve only been on the road for six months and have made quite a few new friends all because of the sidecars. By building two different models of my Sweet sidecar and spending most good days out on the road I have a good idea of just what model today’s public will be interested in. I would have wished that it was anyone of my Sweet SL models but here in the South it’s not. Those that are interested drive Harley’s and prefer a more vintage look like the Liberty.  So that’s what I will make available. I’m still in the design and development stages of my new Sweet 16 model but with all that my friends and I are working on the Sweet 16 won’t be finished for some time to come.  One by one old friends have shown an interest in my sidecars and as I write this we have six different Sweet sidecar rigs in different stages of completion. We have also received information about three other sidecars (non Sweet of course) that have been tucked away in garages.  With some luck we may be able to talk the owners into once again taking them out and driving them. One of the biggest surprises came in a phone call last week from a friend that I’ve known for over twenty years.  He’s an early Harley Davidson collector and has eleven Harley Davidson 45’s. He just this year ordered and received one of those Goolding metal reproduction sidecars manufactured out of Poland. He was thinking of me remembering when I was building my Sweet Liberty Sidecars for the “good old boys” and I gave him one of my fiberglass bodies so that he could fabricate a frame and build a sidecar for himself. He asked to be included in our little sidecar gaggle when we start riding when the weather warms up. Discussions of a sidecar group or club have been talked about but in the end we may do as the local BMW motorcycle group is doing. No club meetings, not club dues, no politics just a bunch of people meeting with no agenda at a prescribed restaurant once a week on the weekends just for the enjoyment of riding. After breakfast they assemble and head out on the road with no firm plan just riding for the shear enjoyment. A group of six to ten sidecars should attract some attention and who knows along the way possible some new people may get interested in a sidecar. Back forty years ago I grew the sidecar numbers in New England from a handful to hundreds in just a few short years. If we could have twenty five new units out on the road in two years I would consider that a success. I’ve learned over time with lots of experience that you don’t promote the sidecars when you’re out driving them but wait until someone shows an interest and then be as polite and informative as you possible can.  First impression’s always stick and if you are approached by a new prospective customer and act like a fool you not only loose a new client but they also are the lesser for it because if they are turned off by the new experience they never get to see or enjoy what a great adventure being part of sidecars can really be. This is just my opinion and treating people in this manner has worked for me my entire life. On rare occasions you will meet the moron that just does not like sidecars and can’t help himself and has to tell you but I never give them the time of day. I truly believe that in this time in history  there are a lot of people out there just yearning for something different and new and a sidecar sure will make someone different; if that’s what they are looking for.

    The new group of guys that are interested in my sidecars are friends that I’ve known for years. It’s funny that we all did the Hot Rod or airplane thing and at this time in our lives it’s moved to sidecar of all things.  All of them are bike guys and have done the custom and hot bike thing and with age the sidecars seem to be in order. All of us are looking forward to the upcoming year and the many trips up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.

   As the year ends it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that we lost one of the good ones this past year. The late great designer Richard “Dick” Lyon passed away last Fall and he will truly be missed. Dick was instrumental in our collaboration of the designing of the original SL-110 sidecar body over forty years ago. The SL stands for “Sweet-Lyon” and without Dick I’m convinced that the design would never have been what we ended up with. When I took the SL-110 and modified it into the SL-220 I had Dick come over and run his hands over the surface to make sure that I “had it”. A phrase used by designers when the final model is completed and ready for production. Dick anointed the SL-220 and I was grateful for that. We stayed friend for a lifetime and with Dick’s passing it’s just another reminder that “nothing is forever”.  Rest in peace my friend “you did good” as some say.

  I would like to take this time to thank all of you that take the time to write to me and allow me to share in part in your lives even if it is through the written word. Believe me I’m truly humbled by that.

  Well my little group and I wish everyone that reads this thread a Happy New Year and let’s hope that it will be a safe, healthy and prospers New Year.

Thanks for reading,

Johnny Sweet

Sweet Sidecars

 
 photo 037_zps4f8c33b3.jpg



  photo 031_zps605423b7.jpg

 Test driving a new rig.

  photo JohnnyonaHarleywithsidecarDec2013_zpsd60cfac4.jpg

 New/old frame the simplest of design. It's totally adjustable and can be mounted and set up and running in one hours time.

  photo 024_zps3e577260.jpg



Edited by Johnny Sweet 1/1/2014 12:02 AM
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Wolfhound
Posted 1/1/2014 7:25 AM (#75503 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: Re: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day


Veteran

Posts: 227
10010025
Location: Ball Ground, GA.
Another chapter for the book, Mr. Sweet. Beautiful side cars and that frame is a winner. Your business philosophy always a winner no matter what you are doing and is the only correct way to deal with people
in general.Happy New Year to you and may the new year bring you success.
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Johnny Sweet
Posted 2/1/2015 8:55 PM (#82563 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: RE: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day



Veteran

Posts: 164
1002525
Location: In South Carolina but grew up in Massachusetts.

 

 

SWEET SIDECARS ARE BACK IN PRODUCTION:

 

It's been some time since I've posted and once again I would like to thank 

all of my many followers that are so kind as to write and in some cases phone me. I’ve receive almost one hundred emails

 over the last year asking me to “please post about what’s going on in my life and what’s the latest with my

Sweet Sidecars”.

 

Around a year and a half ago I was with a friend that at one time was the head of the Kennedy Space Center.

We were talking about retirement and he said something that made me think for a minute. My thinking about

 retirement was once you retire your done and out of the free market place. Dan on the other hand told me

that “he had retired six times and was back in it with both feet”. I reflected on Dan’s statement and it turned

around my thinking. Over the next months I decided to re join the market place and bring my Sweet Sidecars

back into production but in limited numbers. What happened next has been interesting.    

    

 

 A year ago I was thinking that I would be quite pleased if by the end of 2015 not 2014 I could have twenty

five new Sweet sidecars out on the road. It's been less than a year and I just finished up the twenty fourth

Sweet sidecar and I’m  working on number twenty fiveI’m a year ahead of my projections. I never thought

 that the market or the interest would be so positive and some day's I have to almost pinch myself. I started the

 year 2014 with a plan to build three Sweet sidecars for a motorcycle show. The show was in March, 2014 in

Charlotte, North Carolina. My friend John and I ended up building two new Sweet Classic sidecars  installing

 them on Sportsters. We also built a Sweet Classic specifically for the show with no rods or brackets figuring

 that they; that's those interested would figure it out. Well, they didn't and we ended up spending more time

explaining what the show sidecar was all about. You would think that someone with my experience would

 know better but it just goes to show you that best laid plans can and go astray. They thought that I was selling

 just the body. It was funny because many at the show would pass through one hall where John's two

Sweet Classic sidecars were ithe bike show. Then walk into the manufacturers area and see the  display

sidecar and not figure it out. In the end, we learned a few things, but we did have some interest and I sold a

few sidecars

 

 

    

 My friend John had a great show entering both his Sweet Sidecars against many of your big hog factory built

 rigs. The show in Charlotte is one of your better shows because they let the people make the choices as to

what bikes win. Many of the other shows be it cars or bikes will have the entrants pay an absorbent entry fee

so that the trophies are paid for and then the show promoters will hand them out to their friends. This was a

peoples choice bike show and as luck would have it John won not only first place but second with his other

 sidecar. To say that the hog guys were upset would be an understatement. All I did was stand back in the

crowd and smile as I listened to all the griping. It was the first time that John had ever won a trophy and he

surely was excited not only winning one but two. The promoters liked his Sweet sidecars and asked John to

bring them back in the Fall for the next show. As it turned out we were just to busy doing other things to

attend the Fall show. Possibly this Spring we will make another appearance.

 

 The show is over and the crowd has gone as John stops for a quick picture.

  photo JohnandhisnewSweetsidecars_zpsa878eb80.jpg

 

Once the Charlotte show was over we went back to the shop and the orders started to come in. We met some

 great people and had a good time building and teaching the new owners how to drive their new

Sweet sidecar rigs. Along the way something very surprising happened. I figured that at this time in history

 the only interest would be with my Sweet Classic sidecar. But once some prospective customers saw my

Sweet SL-220 and 440 sidecars they were not only interested but they wanted one. I had some SL models in

stock and the  interest in them surprised me. At times I’ve thought that I’m to close to this sidecar stuff can’t

 see it like someone that’s new to sidecars. Envisions it A good example is when I’m out on the road with

one of my sweet SL-220 sidecars and stop for gas or a snack. People come up to me all the time and ask

 “how I like the sidecar”. The answers always the same as I reply, “I’m sure having a lot of fun with it”.

They then ask “where I got it” and when I mention that “I build them“ the conversation always gets

interesting. The average person in this day and age doesn't know anyone that manufactures something.

They go to a store or dealership and never think about how the product got their. When they meet someone

 that actually builds something they always have interesting questions. I always get a lot of enjoyment out of

 talking with these people. I know that they will never want or consider a sidecar but the interaction with

them is always enjoyable. Especially when I describe the manufacturing process in simple terms that they

can understand. The smile on their face is always great to see. Then if they at one time in their life worked

on a line producing something. They will explain just what they did and a one minute conversation will last

for five minutes. In the end a new friend is made with sidecars being shown in a good light. When I mention

that I sculpted the original sidecar design over forty years ago they're always quite surprised

 

 

 An interesting little side note: I had a thirty, forty something tell me not to build my sidecars with the wing

on the back because they would never sell. So when I started driving the roads and showing one of my

Sweet SL-220 units with the whale tail it seemed that the comments about the little wing were always

positive. Some that wanted an SL-220 or 440 would ask if they could get it with the little wing and we even

 had one lady that called it a whale tail. It always reminded me of an add that I saw on TV about a guy

selling a green AMC Gremlin. Who would want a green Gremlin in this day and age? Then it shows some

young guy in his bedroom on his computer all excited as he hits the buy button. The room is all green with

everything in it green. Go figure; with three hundred million people there is a buyer for almost everything.

It’s just finding the buyer. So even though my little whale tail isn’t for everyone I still have people interested

 in it. 

 

 Over the Summer months I spent a lot of time out on the road and it didn’t take long to meet and become

 friends with other military brothers. One thing about us military veterans is that we befriend and respect any

 veteran but their is an unwritten pecking order that’s never talked about. Many times Marines will hang with

 Marines and Navy with Navy and that’s the way it should be. Then their are us Army Combat vets that hold

 the “Combat Infantrymen badge”. It’s something that’s never talked about but we holders of the “CIB” do

 hang out together and will find each other in a crowd. We are friends to all but the bond between the

 CIB brotherhood is a bond that few understand. This last Summer I met and spent time with many new

 CIB brothers that without my sidecar I may have never met. Most are from my generation but more and

more are from the Iraq War. Many of these young vets need help just like many from my generation did

 over forty five years ago when we came home. Seeing one generation of CIB brothers reach out to the

 next generation is comforting to say the least. 

So when I was asked by a young CIB brother if I would build a sidecar for both he and his “Service Dog”

I jumped at the chance. Mike was with the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Division and did his time in hell as an

 11 B. If you the reader are wondering what an 11 B is all about “look it up”. During his deployment Mike

at one point spent four days in a fox hole that started out shoulder deep and after firing 20,000 rounds was

knee deep with spent rounds under his boots. This is probably something that the protected will never

 understand but it’s the way it was for Mike. It’s interesting in that the rest of our great nation were home

 complaining because the cable TV went out or that they were out of Chicken Mc Nuggets. It is what it is

but for Mike his world was changed forever. 

 

When Mike asked if I would build him a sidecar it was not only an honor and a privilege but it became a

 “Labor of Love” from one CIB brother to another.  

 Mike with his service dog Annie who took right to Mikes new Sweet SL-440 sidecar.

  photo 032_zps7b437ddf.jpg

 

Mikes new Sweet sidecar when it was painted honoring those missing in action and with the CIB badge on the whale tail.

  photo sidecarmike2_zps35d6328e.jpg

 

 

I travel with friends driving one rig with a Sweet Classic sidecar and the other with a Sweet SL-220. 

Just up the street from my shop is the Cherokee Scenic Trail and at the local four way stop intersection is a

 gas, restaurant and service area. At almost any time during the warm season there can be any number of

motorcycles coming and going. As we hung out over the Summer our sidecars were seen by hundreds of

 people. At first both John and I were surprised at the interest and response to the sidecars. We soon figured

 that we needed some business cards to pass out. Vista Print has the best deals. We have gotten use to the

attention the sidecars bring. It doesn't matter where we go the interest and attention is always the same.

 It's something people never get to see and the differences in the two models make it interesting. The Harley

 people both woman and men will look over John’s Sweet Classic sidecar and not give the SL-220 a second

 look. Then you will have a guy or gal that drives a Harley that will walk over and start asking questions

about the the SL-220. Some have said “I have two other bikes one a BMW and the other a Honda”. So not

 all the Harley people snub the SL-220. In fact as the year has passed I’ve found that many motorcycle riders

 have as many as four different bikes. So the interest in all my model sidecars come from people with many

 different brands of motorcycles. This was not the case forty years ago. 

 

  photo 001_zps792ea83d.jpg

 

Some of you may like this little story. At times the study of human nature can be interesting. One Saturday

 morning John and I pulled into the service area and the parking lot was full of bikes. We split up and parked

in front of the store but on opposite ends of the parking lot. A big mouth guy walks up and had some

 comment about my little red rocket being a crotch rocket or some such thing, that is the SL-220. I’m so

 thick skinned that stuff like that just rolls off. He was all Harley with all the crap, tats, piercings, and full

 leathers. Not that I think that’s a bad thing it’s just an identifier. He then walked to the other end of the

 parking lot running his mouth the entire time and then he saw John’s Sweet Classic sidecar on his Sportster.

 He asked who owned it and John walked up and introduced himself in his European Polish accent .

The guy went nuts and wanted to know where John got the sidecar. John told the guy that “we build em”.

The guy was all excited and wanted to know how he could get one and how much. So John told the guy to

follow him and they walked back across the parking lot in my direction. I was talking to some fellow bikers

Vets that I have gotten to know over the past months as we hung out at the corner. As they were walking in

 our direction I mentioned to my fellow Vets about the guy having a “Big Mouth” and what he had said.

 As John walked up he introduced the guy to me and said “that’s Johnny, he’s the designer and builder”.

At that time my Vet friends in the group chimed in and the guy didn’t know what to say. He knew that I had

 heard his comment because he was purposely trying to be insulting. That one in a thousand just can’t seem

 to help them self's; they are what they are. I was polite to the guy but told him “I don’t think sidecars are

 for you” and left it at that. Moral of the story follow one of the Golden Rules. One should not treat others

 in ways like one would not like to be treated. He was then ignored by everyone and got the point and walked

 away. “No sidecar for you ”! In another time in history when all us young former combat soldiers were just

 back home we looked at guys like him and just figured that we will allow you to live another day.

Funny how some things never change; the one in a thousand will always pop their ugly head up.

 

 

 

My Little Red rocket:

I decided to do something a little different on the side. We have a former BMW 1100 racing bike and figured

 why not install one of my Sweet SL-220 sidecars with the whale tail on the back. I looked over the bike and

 figured it would need a sub frame under it to mount the lower rods . Like all my sidecars the way I set them

 up is different. My set up allows me to remove the sidecar in three to five minutes and re install it in five to

 ten. The advantage is that there is never any need for  any adjustment when remounting the sidecar.

The "Little Red Rocket" as we call it was built in a matter of just a few day’s. As we were assembling it the

 idea of attaching Ferrari badges on it came about. I’ve always liked the Ferrari’s and in the mid1990’s my

wife and I had a Testarossa. So the Ferrari sidecar theme was born. It’s been great fun interacting with

people when they ask “is that a Ferrari” or “I didn’t know they made a Ferrari motorcycle”. We always tell

 them the same thing, “It’s not a Ferrari motorcycle but a BMW. So the little red rocket with the Ferrari badge

s makes it to a lot of the different places including a few bike shows. I pull it right in the middle of all the

Harleys and It’s always a fun time because you never know what the response will be. It’s funny but it’s always positive. Plus I’m an old vet and the bond that we vets have is a brotherhood that the protected will never understand. Fun is always being had by all.

 

The old man with his Little Red Rocket and a Buell with a SL-220 sidecar on the side.

  photo Johnny2sl220BuellBMW1_zpsd28cc037.jpg

 

 

 

My new sidecar customers are more astute than one would think.

 

When word got out that I started building my old/new Sweet sidecars once again I started getting calls and

 visits from people that had been following me for years on the sidecar forum. and through word of mouth.

 I didn’t know this at first and thought it interesting that they knew so much about my sidecars and how they

 are built. Many of the twenty plus new customers have been driving sidecar rigs for years and a few have

had as many as five other sidecars. So when they decided on having me build them a new Sweet sidecar I

did have to ask; “why me? Some of the answers were interesting to say the least. 

  

As in the past going back decades my customers are looking for a sidecar that they can easily remove in a

 short time and re install it without it being a big production. Most will only drive their sidecar rig a few

thousands miles a year. If anything the sidecar rig is something different; a status symbol if you will.

 Others need a sidecar because they can no longer hold their bike up and others need a sidecar for their pet

dog. So as you can see the needs are different but the end result is always the same. Customers are looking

for a product that’s well designed and within their price range. Not everyone is looking for all the frills, bells

 and whistles. There looking for a sidecar that’s bare bones and that’s what I build. 

 

This is a copy of just one of the emails that I have received from customers.

 

Johnny,

                I can't tell you how happy I am with the rig! You were right, it cruises at 75 mph

 on I-95 and I can steer it with one finger. I'm running 50 lbs of sand in a duffel bag on the

floor. With that, I haven't had the wheel lift. It gets a little light on exit ramps, but

completely predictable. This is my 7th rig and I've driven 2 others, without a doubt the best rig

 I've ever had. It poured Monday so i drove the truck to work, every other day this week I've

taken the hack. I just love it. I put a Ural nose rack (I had it in the garage) on the trunk.

 I have a bag with my rain suit and bike cover on it. Just for show more than anything.

 I plan on taking the dog out in it this weekend. Thanks again for everything, I'll keep you

 posted and send pictures of its adventures. Dave

 

 Dave's new Sweet Classic sidecar mounted on his duel sport BMW.

  photo sidecarnumber19libertyBMWGS_zpsac19d988.jpg

 

 

What’s up for 2015: 

I’m projecting that the same thing will happen regarding my Sweet sidecars as happened back in the 1970’s

 now that the words out that a guy is building sidecars in the South. Building sidecar seems to be more fun

 the second time around. Not that it wasn’t a great time the first time around but I’m an old man now and

 consider every day is a gift. At the moment I have ten individuals planning on having a Sweet Sidecar built

next season. Again that remains to be seen. I’ve been asked about a new body design from two different

 gentleman for their new modern day Indian Classic motorcycles; so that’s a possibility. Designing and

 modeling a new product takes time and energy and in the end the Indian sidecar market would most likely

 be very limited. In the end I like what I’m building and may just stay with what I have. 

 

A few more pictures of some of the different Sweet sidecar that I've recently built.

 

  photo 003_zpsa24df520.jpg

 

 

 Another Sweet SL-220 mounted on a BMW in blue.


  photo sidecarnumber20_zps300d1b1c.jpg

 

  photo 023_zps89b35e43.jpg

 

 Dad purchased a Sweet SL-220 sidecar for his daughter so I let Dad drive the Little Red Rocket as his daughter learned how to drive her new sidecar.

 

  photo 007_zpsb60cb6de.jpg

 

 

New 2014 out of the box Honda with a new Sweet SL-220 sidecar.

 

  photo 019_zpsdae745ec.jpg

 

New Sweet Hot Rod Sidecar.

 

  photo 011_zps545f5e3b.jpg

 

  photo 005_zps4949fa2a.jpg

 

  photo 009_zps3388a2fd.jpg

 

 

 

Thanks for reading,

Johnny Sweet

Sweet Sidecars

 

 

 



Edited by Johnny Sweet 2/4/2015 9:20 AM
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superfragl
Posted 2/1/2015 9:26 PM (#82564 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: Re: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day


Member

Posts: 9
0
Location: Western MASS
Johnny,
Very glad to hear from you again!!
I always enjoy your posts.
Roman
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Johnny Sweet
Posted 2/1/2015 10:05 PM (#82567 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: RE: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day



Veteran

Posts: 164
1002525
Location: In South Carolina but grew up in Massachusetts.

 

 

HOT ROD SIDECAR:

I received an email from a fellow from Charlotte North Carolina asking if I could build him a custom sidecar

 for his Victory motorcycle. He sent along a picture of a sidecar rig that some guy in Europe had built. I told

him that I had never seen a sidecar like that before but knew where the body came from. It was a scaled down

version of a 1933 Ford Hot Rod roadster. They installed these Hot Rod bodies on Go Karts back in the 1970’s

\and 80’s. I also mentioned that I had a friend that had one of those little Hot Rod fiberglass bodies. He then

 asked how much I would charge. As we talked about his new project he told me that he wanted the sidecar

 mounted on the left side. I told him that I only built one sidecar rig with the sidecar on the left and that it was

 a different design. I told him that I wouldn’t build him a sidecar and mount it on the left side of the motorcycle.

  He was putting his passengers in harms way. He informed me that he wouldn’t compromise and wanted the

sidecar mounted on the left. He was told “good luck with that and that I wouldn’t be building it for him”.

The idea of a Hot Rod sidecar was planted in my mind and I decided to run with it. I picked up the

 little hot rod body and made a few changes to it like rolling the rear pan just like we did with the real cars

 back in the day. I then made a mold so that I could build an unlimited number of bodies if needed.

 We built a prototype and installed it on one of our Sportsters. Right out of the box it has been a big hit

everywhere it’s been driven. I have a few customers lined up for the Hot Rod sidecar this Spring but will

only consider mounting the Hot Rod sidecar on an American made bike. It’s a Hot Rod thing.

 

  photo 012_zpsdc9aa44d.jpg

  photo 011_zps545f5e3b.jpg

  photo 014_zps52c75159.jpg

  photo 016_zpsa2250d89.jpg

 

 

YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE LIFE WILL TAKE YOU.

My good friend Mike gave me the original Hot Rod body and when we stopped by his shop for a visit with three

different sidecars including the Hot Rod sidecar I was told that he wanted one. Mike is staring in a reality show

 that they have been filming for the last eight months. I’ve known Mike and his entire family for over twenty

 five years. Southern “Good Old Boy’s” not red necks, “Red Necks” are the worst but good old boy’s are the

salt of the earth. Some Northerners have a hard time figuring that out when they move South but that’s their

 problem. Mike and his groups new show is called Back Road Outlaws” that will come out in mid 2015 with

 three cable channels bidding for the rights. The show is similar to many of the reality shows that they have

today. The guys are “car guys” and the show is based around drag racing, mud running and car shows.

 They build cars and race em with all the conflicts thrown in for good measure. At the moment one hundred

episode are scheduled for filming. As I write this they have  nine episodes completed and in the can.

The merchandising schedule is in the design process and all of the pieces should fall into place by mid year

2015. The plan is to have me install one of my Sweet Hot Rod sidecars on an American made motorcycle.

 It will be featured with “Big Block Mike” driving it with his actress girlfriend riding in the sidecar.

His reality girlfriend looks like Dazy Duke and should look great riding in the sidecar. Will all this come to be?

 If it doesn’t then millions will have been lost. If the Back Road Outlaws reality show ever catches on then

possibly it could boost the popularity for sidecars like nothing before it. I remember when I was a teenager back

 in the 1950’s and they had a show called “77 Sunset Strip”. Norm Grabowski’s T Bucket Hot Rod was featured

 in it and hot rods were never the same again. To this day thousands of T Buckets have been built and it traces

 itself back to that show and Norms little T Bucket. I look at it like this. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

 Only time will tell if it all comes together and the public world wide takes to it. Look at some of the nutty stuff

 that’s on the TV and one only has to wonder. Check out Back Road Outlaws on U Tube.

 

  photo 001_zps4494e4de.jpg

  photo 003_zpsbf2f1eb3.jpg

 

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Johnny Sweet
Posted 2/2/2015 9:03 AM (#82574 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: RE: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day



Veteran

Posts: 164
1002525
Location: In South Carolina but grew up in Massachusetts.

 

 The little Red Rocket up on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

  photo 024_zps10e33363.jpg

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Wolfhound
Posted 2/2/2015 10:27 AM (#82577 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: Re: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day


Veteran

Posts: 227
10010025
Location: Ball Ground, GA.
Good to see you back and back to making sidecars. Mr. Sweet, your designs set the standard for others to follow. I particularly liked the 'hot rod' and the 'whale tail'.
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Johnny Sweet
Posted 2/2/2015 8:46 PM (#82585 - in reply to #82577)
Subject: Re: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day



Veteran

Posts: 164
1002525
Location: In South Carolina but grew up in Massachusetts.

Wolfhound - 2/2/2015 10:27 AM Good to see you back and back to making sidecars. Mr. Sweet, your designs set the standard for others to follow. I particularly liked the 'hot rod' and the 'whale tail'.

Thanks so much for the kind words. I'm not sure if my sidecar design should be a standard for others to go by. Things like that are very subjective and everyone has an opinion as to how a sidecar should be designed. Many fine company's are spread out around the country and each has their own distinctive design. Designing and setting up a sidecar is not very difacult if your trained in a few different disciplines. In my opinion the most important aspect of sidecar manufacturing is the frame and where the mounting brackets will attach to the motorcycle. The set up as to where the sidecar wheel should be positioned along with the "tow in" and "motorcycle camber" are pretty much a standard throughout the sidecar industry. When they are not the results are sometimes disastrous. Remember your only dealing with three wheels and the two motorcycle wheels are a fixed unit of measure for each model and brand. When one sets out to become a designer or builder of sidecars the frame and mounting brackets become very important in the total design. When it comes to the mounting rods my design is totally different than anything else on the market.  I've been asked a number of times if I would post pictures of how I build the mounting brackets, frame and rods. With the design being different it's still very simple to fabricate. I have the use of a complete machine shop and never use it. If a guy has fabricating skills and is a very good welder he could build a frame complete mounted to a bike for under a few hundred dollars or even less. You can't use one of those table top mig welders with the flux core. If a guy is a good welder with good equipment it's possible to build my frame. Look at Roman; he did it in a matter of a few days. I fabricate the mounting brackets and weld up a frame in just a few hours with simple hand tools, a drill press, and a cutting torch. The torch is to bend the one inch "Hot Rolled" round rods. I build the frame first and mount it to the bike before I fabricate the swing arm with the wheel and shock. It's the simplest way to do it and when it's time to set up the wheel it's set up right out of the box and ready for the road without any further adjustment needed. I've read about people tweaking their sidecar rigs for weeks and I still "don't get it". How about setting it up the correct way the first time and forgetting about it so that they can go riding. In the last year I walked eight different guys through the building process with nothing more than emails and pictures without any problems. One as far away as South Africa.

Well thanks again for the kind words.

Johnny Sweet PE.

Sweet Sidecars 

jsweet450@yahoo.com

 

   A sidecar frame set up doesn't get any simpler than this.

  photo 003_zps31d43316.jpg

 

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Wolfhound
Posted 2/2/2015 9:04 PM (#82586 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: Re: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day


Veteran

Posts: 227
10010025
Location: Ball Ground, GA.
I agree with your opening statements. However you have a gift and are a true artisan. I have no doubt that any one with skills could copy your designs but they could not put your 'signature' on the end product. I predict that your sidecars will be classics long after we are all gone. You have my philosophy: Never Retire.
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Peter Pan
Posted 2/3/2015 7:43 AM (#82590 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: Re: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day



Expert

Posts: 1904
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Location: San Isidro de Heredia, Costa Rica
Don Johnny,
¡Saco el sombrero ante Usted!
I pull my hat in front of You!

What cannot get adjusted, cannot get misadjusted.
What is not on it cannot break.
Beef, where beef is needed.
I love your clear frame design. Simple and straight forward.

Most important the person who sets up the rig has to know what he does...reading your history over the last years with all back feed comments it makes it obvious, You talk out of experience and know exactly what you do.
Do it, not talking, that is your way to be.
Thank you for the living example to follow.
God bless you and may he be always on your side.
Sven
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Johnny Sweet
Posted 2/3/2015 4:39 PM (#82598 - in reply to #57452)
Subject: RE: New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day



Veteran

Posts: 164
1002525
Location: In South Carolina but grew up in Massachusetts.

 

 Building sidecars in the twenty first century:

My thinking over the last year has been that if a strong sidecar market does exists then there is room around the country for more manufacturers. I didn't always think this way and at one time thought that possibly sidecars were dead. Boy was I ever wrong! I just have a passion for the Entrepreneurial spirit and want to see anyone that has the same spirit thrive. This last year has proved to me that a need for sidecars does exists. Like anything in life it will take time to reach those that are either looking for a sidecar or have been thinking about one. In the end they may never be reached because of poor marketing and they may never know the fun that they can have with a sidecar. And yes I do understand that many are totally against sidecars. Ill be honest with you. I spend no time with these types. I did have one customer that had a best friend that just hated sidecars. The friend spent most of his time trying to talk his buddy out of purchasing my Sweet sidecar. The thing is without the sidecar the customer couldn't ride. He needs the sidecar to hold up the bike. Many individuals that are getting up in age need some kind of help holding the bike up or their done riding. It's funny but when Ric got his new Sweet Sidecar his buddy that was totally against sidecars  is now one of their biggest supporters; go figure. Situations like Ric's are one of the reasons why the trike industry became so popular. Some people need that third wheel. Isn't it interesting since the economy went South that the trike market almost priced themselves out. The value of money and who has it will always dictate how well a market will do.Trikes are being sold but nothing like in the past.  To get a feel for how the public looks at sidecars I had to go out on the road and spend a lot of time with my friends riding our sidecar rigs and stopping wherever motorcycle people were gathered. Almost always a crowd will surround us asking questions. My approach is simple, I only interact when asked. My thinking is that no need to push sidecar onto anyone that's not interested in them. Now the distance between someone interested in purchasing a sidecar or just curios  can be miles apart. But I will be honest with you; I don't mind being an ambassador for sidecars, if anything it's a lot of fun and you meet the most interesting people. At the motorcycle shows and events that we attend I almost always visit with the show producers and get a gate number. Almost always they will give it up. If I sell two sidecars at a show and the gate was two thousand people well that's one in a thousand.  These numbers have been consistent for this past year. Is this a window into the true sidecar market? That's really hard to say. 

 

Advertising on Craigs List:

I had customers and sales but my friend John thought that an add on Craigs List for sidecars might work. He and another friend put an add togehter and posted it. Three days went by and I figured that it was a waist of time. Then after three days the phone started to ring and every day after that for around ten days I received calls from prospective customers. I sold and built some sidecars and made a few new friends. Once the add dropped down and out of sight the calls stopped and that's to be expected; out of site out of mind..  A month or so had past and I was busy building sidecars and figured why not give it another try. I constructed what I thought was a good well thought out add with a dozen pictures and posted it. Within five minutes the phone rang. At first I thought that it was someone else but soon realized that people are looking all the time and timing is everything. In my opinion if one wants to generate interest in their product; in this case sidecars then Craigs List does work. Or at least it does for me and it's free. The thing with Craigs List is that there is now way of knowing how many people look at the add and no way of analyzing the numbers.

 

We have finally moved into the computer age with our Sweet Sidecars: 

My son Eric who's a World Class Composites Engineer built his first sidecar when he was just a kid. He also stopped riding motorcycles and sidecars for over twenty years. It's been some long exciting years for Eric and at this time in history he's at the top of his game. With years of engineering experience behind him in both the automotive and aviation industries he now today running a composites company in Florida.  With me bringing back our Sweet Sidecars Eric wanted in and has taken it one more step into the future. He built the first Carbon Fiber Sweet SL-220 Sidecar body. Like any good design the SL-220  tailors it self nicely to the carbon fiber materials. So when he brought home his first new Sweet sidecar in over twenty five years his three and a half year old son David went nuts. David calls his new Sweet Sidecar "His Rocket". I never said a word to anyone but I had been thinking about sculpturing a half size Sweet SL-220 body for David so that it could be mounted to one of those small electric motorcycles for kids. That way David would have his own little Sweet SL-220 sidecar rig. What  happened next surprised me. Eric took his carbon fiber body and had it digitized and the file placed on his computer. The next step is to have a piece of foam cut with one of those CNC machines using the CAD file from the digitized SL-220 body. When I mentioned to Eric that I was thinking about sculpturing a half size SL-220 body for my grandson David he said "great idea but we will just use the CAD  file and make it half scale. Then CNC a body in foam". I couldn't help think for a second about all that the late Dick Lyon and I went through to get the original SL shape and in an instant in the twenty first century it can be done with the push of a few computer keys. What a world we live in. I guess in reality I am an old dinosaur but I don't mind because this new age stuff is really exciting. The days of modeling by hand are almost a thing of the past.

 

 Seeing my SL-220 sidecar body in CAD on the computer screen for the first time was interesting to say the least.

  photo sidecarscan2sl220_zpsbb5e3f95.jpg

 

 The digitizing process.

  photo sidecarscansl220_zps573efdf8.jpg

 I'm not sure if other sidecar company's have gone to this technology but it sure would make it easy when designing a new body shape.

 

 

My grandson David standing for the first time in "His Rocket". Later the sidecar was finished with his car seat bolted in place and off they went.

Some of you may notice the space between the sidecar body and the bike. It looks a little wide  doesn't it? It is, the sidecar was set up that way so that two suitcases that hold archery bows could be transported between the sidecar and the bike. The extra width will work fine providing that the set up is correct.

  photo sidecardavidsfirstride_zps6abe6d07.jpg

 

Again thanks for reading,

Johnny Sweet PE. 

 

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