THE COMMERCIAL SIDECAR• DEMONSTRATION.
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How the Machines Fared on Their 760-miles Journey ; the General Impression Created ; an Excellent Piece of Propaganda.
BECAUSE it lacked most of the elements of the ordinary trial, riders in the Commercial Sidecar Demonstration organized by the Auto-Cycle Union recently imagined they were in for a thoroughly dull time. Not so, however— quite the contrary, in fact. The object of the demonstration was an attempt by British motorcycle manufacturers to show that the American 20 h.p. delivery van is not the last word in cheap transport, and that they have a vehicle to offer in the sidecar combination which, whilst it may appear unconventional, is 'cheaper at first cost, more economical to run, equally efficient, and every bit as reliable as its four-wheeled rival.
The demonstration started and finished in Birmingham, traversing some 695 miles of country in between. The total number of entries was 19, in addition to which there were three official sidecar outfits and a pilot car with timekeeper in front. When it is remembered that the procession included two fire-engines, an ice-cream soda fountain, two milk floats complete with churns, a billposter's outfit with telescopic ladder, a taxicab and every type of box body that one can think of, it will be realized that the convoy made a most imposing sight as it travelled through the country. Everywhere it went it was greeted with the utmost enthusiasm.
How the Public Saw the Show.
People would first see the pilot car travelling slowly through the streets ; close upon its heels followed one of the A.-C.U. official sidecars and then a flaming red motorcycle with a fireengine attached instead of the usual trim sidecar body. It was impossible to hear the various remarks, but if looks could speak, everybody was asking, " Good heavens above ! What's this?" By the time the last official sidecar had passed the entire available population was on the footpath watching the show.
Stops were made in about forty towns for periods varying from 15 minutes to two hours, and in practically every case enormous crowds collected and surged round the various "exhibits," asking questions, comparing prices and generally taking the maximum of interest. A large number of orders were actually placed during the tour, and there can be no doubt that the demonstration was an unqualified success. Local business men turned up in force at every stopping-place and obviously profited by the lesson that MILS proffered them.
As a piece of propaganda it was the finest thing that has ever been done, and the A.-C.U. is to be congratulated on the wonderful organization it showed, whilst the Manufacturers' Union must also receive full marks for sponsoring a new departure which might have turned out a failure. As it happened the success obtained fully justified the experiment, and there is no doubt it will be repeated next year on a larger scale and over a more extended period.
It was not fully appreciated by many of those interested that every sidecar carried the equivalent load for which it was designed. In most cases the load was considerably in excess of this. For inatance, each of the three little O.K. outfits, with 2.92 h.p. engine, carried a hundredweight and a half of -ballast ; the total laden weight of each complete combination being in the neighbourhood of five hundredweight and a half. Yet these little fellows completed the full distance of the course and averaged their 20 m.p.h. throughout. As the total cost of any one of them, equipped with body to order, is only £50, it will be seen that the tradesman is being offered rapid and efficient transport at a price hitherto unheard of.
A Gross Weight of 12-cwt.
The heaviest machine -was the twoseater taxi, which with driver and two passengers scaled over 12 cwt. With a 9.86 h.p. B.S.A. engine this conveyance fairly romped round the course, taking all the hills with power in hand and being capable of g good 45 m.p.h. when required. The second heaviest was a Watsonian van with interchangeable body ; this weighed 101 cwt., the actual load carried being 41 cwt. of dead-weight. Considering that the engine—a Norton —was only 4 h.p. and that it ran throughout without the faintest sign of trouble, it is a real feather in the cap of the motorcycle trade as a whole that it can produce such a wonderfully efficient machine at such a low cost.
One of the features of the demonstration was the singular freedom from trouble. Of the 19 competing outfits, the total repairs were for one burnt clutch, one broken throttle wire and one puncture—a wonderful record of reliability. Petrol consumption was good, the best being one gallon per 95 miles by the 2.50 h.p.. Montgomery with a total weight of 61 ewt. The average was somewhere in the region of one gallon per 65 miles, although some of the medium weights were doing nearly 70. Oil consumption was low, averaging about three-quarters of a gallon for tae 760 miles run (this being the full total, including the distances not counted" in the route). It must be remembered that these figures of consumption do not mean purely straight-away long-distance touring, belt include a large amount of bottom-gear work during the time the convoy paraded the various towns.
One aspect of the demonstration was distinctly amusing. The A.-C.U. always has some difficulty in securing absolutely genuine stock machines for its annual stock motorcycle trial, most manufacturers being anxious to do a little titivating if possible. Yet on the Commercial Sidecar Demonstration, where there were no regulations against running an engine in and putting it :in good order.beforehand, practically eery driver turned up with a brand-new machine in exactly the same condition as it would be sold to the public. This was an excellent thing from the point of view of the demonstration, but the manufacturers who had entered will have cut the ground from under their feet if in some future motorcycle trial they ask to be allowed to tune up the selected machine before it is put into the competition.