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Watsonian-Squire, History

T.F.Watson, a builder with a penchant for inventions, designed a folding sidecar to enable access through the side passages of terraced houses and in 1912 he established the Watsonian Folding Sidecar Co. at Balsall Heath in Birmingham. Since then the company has continued to produce great British sidecars, surviving two world wars, economic boom and bust and a major factory fire in 1930.

From 1946-1959 was a boom time, with production reaching 200 units per week at the company's huge factory in Greet, Birmingham. Eric Oliver won the world sidecar championship for Watsonian sidecars in 1949, 1950, 1951 and 1954 and by 1955 there were 139,000 sidecar outfits on Britain's roads, half of which were built by Watsonian.

However, by the early 1960's the advent of affordable small cars, like the Mini, marked the beginning of the end for sidecars as cheap family transport. In 1958 Watsonian devoted 90% of production to sidecars, but by 1965 this figure had fallen to 20%, with the majority of work turning to glass fibre bodywork for the automotive industry.

Meanwhile, in 1973, Squire sidecars appeared, producing sports models for the new generation of high performance multi-cylinder Japanese superbikes and appealing to a new customer base of leisure riders. Watsonian relocated to Blockley in the Cotswolds in 1984 and four years later Watsonian merged with the young Squire sidecar company, creating a dynamic new business manufacturing classic and contemporary sidecars as well as record-breaking motorcycle luggage trailers.

UK sidecar ownership increased by 25% during 1993-2003 (from 5,288 – 7,044; source RAC) as leisure riders sought to involve all the family in their pastime and demand has been steady since then. From 1999-2012 Watsonian Squire distributed Royal Enfield motorcycles in the UK, successfully re-establishing the brand and selling thousands of new motorcycles through a nationwide dealer network. The company also developed several UK variants, such as the Trials, Clubman and Fury. In 2012 Watsonian decided to focus on its core business of sidecar and trailer manufacture, resigning the importership, although the business continues to sell and service Royal Enfield motorcycles.

 

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