To celebrate their 105th anniversary, British manufacturer Watsonian Squire released a new sidecar called the Flight. It’s designed for modern motorbikes and has plenty of space to stretch your legs. The company are famous for their sidecars, which have never quite gone out of fashion. To coincide with Watsonian’s anniversary, we’re taking a look at how the company got started and how it’s managed to stay relevant for so long.
Company founder, T.F Watson built a folding sidecar that could be wheeled through a narrow space. He took his idea and turned it into a business called the Patent Collapsible Sidecar Company in 1912. The early models were built with wickerwood bodies and they were eventually replaced by ash frames with plywood or steel panels.
Watsonian’s success was down to their ability to adapt. For example, during WW1 they sold sidecar ambulances. In 1930, the business was changed to the Watsonian Sidecar Company. In the same year the factory was destroyed by a fire and in 1931 the company moved to a new location in Greet. In the years after the Great Depression, Watsonian introduced luxury sidecars when the market had recovered.
Watsonian became an early supplier to the Swallow Sidecar Company, acquiring the rights to the Swallow Sidecar name in 1956. Then, the company started manufacturing sidecar bodies in glass-reinforced plastic.
The motorcycle boom of the ‘50s proved to be lucrative and Watsonian won four world sidecar championships with racer Eric Oliver. By the 1960s, the company had diversified, with sidecars accounting for 20% of the output.
Merging with Squire
In 1973, Squire arrived with a brand new sports sidecar. It was designed to match the latest generation of Japanese superbikes. Meanwhile, Watsonian had branched out, using their knowledge of glass-reinforced plastic to design roofs for Land Rover.
The contract with Land Rover ended in 1984, which forced Watsonian to scale back production. They also moved to a factory based in Blockley. Recognising an opportunity, Watsonian merged with Squire Sidecars in 1988 to form Watsonian Squire. The new company became the biggest and most enduring sidecar manufacturer in Britain.
Be sure to read our history of the sidecar blog to truly understand what made them so popular.