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24th April 2006

A Classic Business

For some people, mucking around with motorcycles develops into much more than a hobby. Does that sounds tempting to you...?

Wouldn't it be great if… you could turn your personal fascination into a fully-fledged business? That's what Rose and Jim d'Arcy thought, back in the mid-1980s, when Charnwood Classic Restorations began trading.

'It started from a hobby' explains Rose, 'and a love of motorcycles and sidecars. We initially started bead-blasting and polishing but with our involvement in sidecars that side soon grew and established the business in restoration and sales of new and used sidecars, and later the manufacture of our own models.'

Jim and Rose

Like many family-based businesses, Rose and Jim are at the core of Charnwood Classics, but they've had quite a bit of help along the way.

'We started out with just the two of us doing all aspects of the job. As the business grew so did our staff, and now we have five full and part time staff members as well as ourselves - this means we can offer full workshop facilities and upholstery on site.

'The business expanded when we took on the Royal Enfield dealership for our area and at present we have sold more Royal Enfields than any other Enfield dealer apart from Haywards -- and certainly more sidecars than any other dealer.'

You want it, they've got it...

'We have moulds and patterns for seven GRP models and four coachbuilt sidecars; we have left and right hand moulds for GRP models including the mould for the UK's 'best ever' sidecar; the Charnwood Royal. More outfits and combinations have been built by Jim (or with his guidance) in the last 21 years than by any other sidecar dealers.'

Charnwood have had Europe's largest stock of new and used sidecars, ranging from vintage through to present day, sports through to saloon. If you visit the showroom then you'll normally find a good display of new and used models to suit all tastes, from the fast sports rider to the family needing three or four seats.

They offer a full fitting service and can modify your bike as required - from fitting leading link forks and 14-inch or 15-inch wheels to supplying hoods, tonneaus, mudguards, handles, catches, lights, wheels, tyres, sub frames, brakes, chassis, suspension and so on. Charnwood also stock spares for Watsonian, Squire, Wasp, Headingham, Gemini, EML and EZS sidecars.

The there's the restoration side of things - Charnwood have 25 years of experience in the painstaking business of restoring sidecars and ' we pride ourselves on the quality of our work.' So they'll undertake the complete restoration or any repairs to all models - or if you want to have the satisfaction of doing the job yourself then they'll source the parts (seats, hoods, interior trim, windscreen. panels, alloy moulding, chassis parts, wheels, catches, fasteners, etc) and offer helpful advice.

Random Sidecar Stuff on

All of which makes it sound as if Charnwood are entirely dedicated to three-wheelers, but that isn't so. The Royal Enfield side of the business is thriving, and their smart showroom normally has 20 or so used classics on display. Some of these old bikes are fitted with sidecars, many but are solos -- ranging from a BSA B31 to a Kawasaki Z1300. Callers are welcome to drop in five days a week, and if you have trouble getting along during normal hours then the showroom can stay open for you on a Friday night by arrangement. That's the kind of personal attention which makes a business like this a so popular with its regular customers.

However, after two decades of hard work, Rose and Jim would like to take life a little easier in the future and they've made the difficult decision to retire from the business. 'We intend to have a much earned rest and take some time doing the things we keep putting off, getting out on the outfit and touring the UK and Europe, doing some charity work and generally making time for ourselves.' And indeed, after 21 years, Rose and Jim probably deserve a couple of months in the sun!

So it's with some sadness that they've offered the whole Charnwood business, based in the heart of England at Coalville in Leicestershire, for sale. 'It will be very hard giving it up as it is a very good business and we will miss the staff and the customers,' admits Rose, and the couple are keen to ensure that there's a smooth handover to another enthusiastic owner, someone else who'd like to develop their fascination with classic motorcycles into a fulfilling and rewarding profession.

'We would like to sell the business as a going concern so we can ensure that our past and present customers are still cared for. We are however prepared to split the sidecar and Enfield sides of the business - we're aware that not everybody would be interested in the sidecar side. We would be able to help the new owner, if required, with any information especially on the sidecars, either on handover or in the future.'

In the meanwhile, of course, it's business as usual at Charnwood. Rose and Jim and the staff are still hard at work keeping customers happy and on the road - and the business will stay trading as usual while a new owner is found.

So. Have you been thinking of giving up the 9 to 5 and exchanging it for running your own operation? It's not something to be taken lightly, because running a business is never a walk in the park, but it can be hugely satisfying. And think of all those old bikes you'd get to play with, and all those interesting people you'd meet!

'We have had 21 very happy years,' say Rose and Jim. 'We've met some wonderful people and made many friends.'

So while Rose and Jim ride off into the sunset, a new owner will be taking up the reins at Charnwood Classic Restorations. Fancy a new challenge, anyone?

For more information about Charnwood Classic Restorations, or to contact Rose or Jim, see or call 01530 832357.


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