Artical and photographs by Ken Huber
Welding by Bob Butek
In the late ‘20’s and early 30’s, the riding toy manufacturers made a small, two wheeled bicycle for the youngest of riders, and in the catalogs these little bikes are referred to as either a ‘park cycle’ or a sidewalk cycle.’
Into the early ‘30’s, the manufacturers decided to jazz things up, by adding a small all-metal motorcycle style ‘sidecar’ to the their little park cycles, as well as a number of tricycle models. Some of the little bikes were also equipped with faux pressed steel gas tanks, gear shift, and two cylinder motor. This model was called ‘Motor Cop with Sidecar.’
I have always wanted to get my hands on one of these for restoration, but I’ve never been able to find one. I’ve only seen them pictured in the old toy catalogs. I think what probably happened is that once the Depression kicked in, these sidecars models were just a little too extra expensive to survive, and so they were dropped from the product line after only a few years.
About 2 years ago, I was at the ‘Junk Bonanza’, and a seller had the remnants of a park cycle. It was all there except for the saddle and the handlebar grips, but it was in deplorable condition. In fact, it was so rusty that it was ‘frozen’. But it was the most complete one that I had ever seen, and the price was right, so I brought it home.
At some point, the light bulb went on, and I realized that I could probably create my own version of ‘Motor Cop with Sidecar’, if I could find a donor sidecar. The donor in this case turned out to be a wicker and steel ‘sulky’ pull toy, dating to the Teens or early ‘20’s, slathered in brown house paint. This was fitting donor, because some of the earliest motorcycle sidecars had wicker bodies. Wicker is light, strong, flexible, and fairly weather resistant.
I needed some special help at two points in the restoration. My friend Bob is a retired welder. He put some heat on the head tube and front fork with a welding torch, so that it would come apart. Robin is an expert metal worker in Faribault, and he made up the two segments needed to fasten the sidecar frame to the bicycle frame. He also made the fender for the sidecar wheel.
Believe it or not, I already had a set of rubber grips and new-old-stock pedals sitting on the shelf, that fit the bike. The little leather saddle with a lot of patina I found at the Hershey antique car show swap meet last year. The cushions I made from plywood, foam rubber, and some vinyl from the upholstery supply warehouse here in town. The ‘headlight’ is a kerosene model that probably started life as a cowl lamp on a horseless carriage, that I dragged home from a swap meet at some forgotten point in time.
That’s my neighbor, Benjamin, getting his little brother, George, home with a small turkey, this morning, just in time for Thanksgiving. George enjoyed the photo shoot so much that he kept climbing back into the side car. And Ben went into the house and came out with a small plastic choo-choo train that he wanted to trade for my Motor Cop with Sidecar. I had to let him down easy!
All for now,