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Sidecar Review - Posted 2nd November 2016
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Martello Sidecars, Part One

Martello sidecars were manufactured in Kent during the 1980s and '90s but the story starts much earlier, with a sidecar named Moby Dick. Steven Lancaster has written the Martello history, and this is the opening chapter...

Some time around 1963, a chap called Clifford Day decides to return to sidecars by designing and building his own glassfibre sidecar suitable for his wife and three children. A newspaper article from 1966 or so acknowledges the high level of workmanship present in design and manufacture.

Martello Sidecars, Part One Click to embiggen picture

By 1975, Cliff was developing the ‘Moby Dick’ design using contacts at the Brabham F1 team and his own experience. Friends recall Cliff stating that general design cues were taken from the Marcos 1800 and Wessex sidecar, with some of the 12-part mould set being taken from sculptured clay former. Apparently, Cliff was not adverse to using living room wallpaper to create moulds!

Martello Sidecars, Part One One of the 12 moulds: the iconic rear quarter

Martello Sidecars, Part One The ‘Moby Dick’ moulds in 2016

Martello Sidecars, Part One Moby Dick itself in 1978: the original design with soft top

Martello Sidecars, Part One By 1984 the sidecar had grown an extensive collection of rally badges and stickers

Martello Sidecars, Part One >Another shot from the mid-1980s. Moby’s builder, Cliff Day, is seen on the right in the white pullover

At the start of the 1980s, Moby Dick was seen at the London sidecar rally. After a conversation with Len Turner, Cliff agreed to release his moulds set as the core element for further design and development by Martello Plastics in Folkestone. An initial group of Len, Les Bray, Dave Clark and Malcolm Reynolds discussed possible modifications to Cliff’s original design, with a view to setting up a limited manufacturing run for Martello Plastics to gauge the suitability, demand and commercial aspects of sidecar production.

Cliff went on to develop other sidecar projects before ill health restricted his activities. Tracing what happened to Moby Dick after Cliff’s death hasn’t been easy. When RoyJ brought a different sidecar project from Cliff’s family after his death, Moby Dick was not at the home. He understood it was sold along with the moulds to somewhere near Bristol.

In 2015, one JimD reported that, so far as he knew, there is only one Moby Dick. Jim owned it for a period and believed that its main problem was that it was too heavy, particularly at the nose, causing it to dip on right handers. He said that whenever Cliff Day had any resin left over from making panniers, etc, he would just pour it into Moby Dick’s boot! The passenger ‘lid’ did alter over the years which probably gave us the impression that there were more than one.

DaveJ also owned Moby Dick, from 1999 to the early 2000s. He bought the sidecar loose from somewhere near Bristol, and fitted it to a BMW R100 before selling on the outfit to somewhere in South London.

Martello Sidecars, Part One Moby Dick alongside DaveJ’s own Martello

A post on the advrider forum in 2015 revealed that the user ‘bought an old sidecar in March 2011. I’m still learning her history, but here is what I know so far. Originally built by Cliff Day and used and enjoyed by him, winning prizes at rallies. I’m not sure of the exact circumstances but Martello Plastics produced a small number of sidecars, Single Adult and Child/Adult versions. When I bought her, she looked like this…’

Martello Sidecars, Part One
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Martello Sidecars, Part One Moby Dick, c2014. These pictures show the sidecar headlight as per its original design, in a recessed section fitted into and half raised on the front edge of the sidecar body

‘Moby Dick and I parted company last year (2014). I wanted a lighter outfit so I separated the two and put the sidecar and moulds on eBay. I got chatting to the eventual new owner (KimH) and came to an agreement before the auction ended but it was more important to me that she went to someone who would appreciate the history and sentimental value. Kim knew Keith Walsh of Hedingham sidecars and was going to get him to do a bit of fibreglass work and perhaps a new chassis.’

KimH then confirmed that he had indeed purchased Moby Dick. Before he bought it (but after the photos) the sidecar body was modified to remove the headlight and to cover up the front recess with a plate. The soft top roof was also replaced with a Martello canopy before Kim took delivery. Kim purchased Moby Dick in late 2013 and he kept it for six months or so while he sourced and eventually found a Martello shell.

Martello Sidecars, Part One

Martello Sidecars, Part One Moby Dick as it appeared in 2014 with the modified front end

Martello Sidecars, Part One Moby Dick outside during Kim’s ownership in 2014

Kim passed the sidecar and moulds onto RonD in late 2014, and Ron confirms that he’s the current owner of both the sidecar and the original moulds. Ron knew Cliff Day in the early years and hence he purchased ‘Moby Dick’ and the moulds to keep them safe for the future while he decides what to do with them.

In late 2015 the moulds were passed onto Clive Cheers, to look into the possibility of building a new version… son of Moby Dick!


Next time: how Martello started building sidecars

Photos and research: Steven Lancaster

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