See what re­ally hap­pens at Wat­so­nian Squire side­cars

This small team of ex­perts have been build­ing weird and won­der­ful out­fits for over 100 years


Think of a road-go­ing side­car out­fit and the pic­ture you con­jur up will al­most cer­tainly be of a Wat­so­ni­anSquire, Bri­tain’s old­est and most fa­mous side­car firm. Wat­so­nian were founded in Birm­ing­ham in 1912 with the firm’s pop­u­lar­ity peak­ing in the 1950s (just be­fore the ar­rival of small, af­ford­able fam­ily cars such as the Mini) when a mo­tor­cy­cle and side­car was of­ten the main form of trans­port for work­ing fam­i­lies. Dur­ing the 1960s and ’70s, with the growth of cheap cars and mo­tor­cy­cle fash­ion swing­ing to­wards Ja­panese su­per­bikes, side­car pop­u­lar­ity waned. Wat­so­nian moved to their present lo­ca­tion in 1982 be­fore merg­ing with Squire, the UK’s other ma­jor side­car brand, in 1986. To­day they’re lo­cated in the same, slightly quaint, Nis­sen hut in­dus­trial unit along­side a va­ri­ety of other small en­gi­neer­ing busi­nesses in rolling park­land in the heart of the Cotswolds.

The small team of eight is headed by Ben Matthews and builds a range of six side­cars with vir­tu­ally all the build tak­ing place on-site.

And, with the con­tin­u­ing pop­u­lar­ity of retro ma­chines such as Tri­umph’s Bon­neville (Wat­so­nian’s most pop­u­lar fit­ment) and grow­ing ex­ports, the firm are very much back on the up. Wat­so­nian cur­rently pro­duce 70-80 side­cars a year with 40% of those headed over­seas. “We’re very busy,” says Matthews. “The mar­ket’s come back to us as well with ret­ros like the Bon­nie.” Six mod­els are cur­rently of­fered, from the three-strong GP fam­ily (com­pris­ing ba­sic Manx, GP, with bucket seat and boot, and the 200mm wider GP700) to the more mod­ern Monza plus the teardrop­shaped Me­teor, which has been in­spired by the drop tanks of a WW2 Mosquito air­craft. Prices start at

around £4000, with the fit­ting kit and labour about £1000 more. All are made to or­der, and there’s a three to four month turn­around time. And if you fancy one (com­mon rea­sons in­clude be­com­ing less steady on two wheels or want­ing more car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity, or to ride as a fam­ily), Wat­so­nian also en­sure your tran­si­tion to three wheels will be as smooth as pos­si­ble. “Rid­ing with a side­car is very dif­fer­ent at first,” says Matthews. “So we don’t let any­one go un­til they’re ready. For­tu­nately, we’ve got plenty of space here in the park to train new own­ers!”

Ev­ery­thing is made in the UK and all the as­sem­bly takes place in Wat­so­nian’s Nis­sen hut

US mus­cle meets Bri­tish ec­cen­tric­ity

Ben Matthews heads a ded­i­cated team of eight at Wat­so­nian’s HQ deep in the Cost­wolds Quite pos­si­bly the coolest Du­cati Scram­bler around

The firm has an un­bro­ken his­tory go­ing back to 1912

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