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California Sidecar torsion suspension servicing

I am the new owner of a California Sidecar Friendship 2 and am attempting to find help with servicing the torsion spring. Is this so simple that no explanation is needed? I have searched the net with no luck. Can anyone direct me to directions for this task? Thanks.

Does the Friendship 2 have a torsion bar that passes under the sidecar with a swing arm to which the axle is attached?  If so, it is similar to the Formula II Motorvation sidecar.  On the Formula II there is no adjustment for stiffer or softer suspension.  If you have an electric lean control actuator you can adjust the height of the sidecar on the go to compensate for the crown of the road, load in the sidecar, wind and other factors which affect steering.  The Formula II torsion bar passes through pipe "bushings" welded to the sidecar frame and Motorvation recommended greasing the bushings, though there are no grease zerks on them.

First, mark the swing arm where it clamps around the torsion unit. I do this with a chisel. This gives you witness marks to align back up to as other wise you have the guess.

Loosen the two pinch bolts holding the swing arm on and pull it out. You will find a set screw under it that goes into the springs to hold them. There is a second set screw under the sidecar frame holding the other end.

These set screws engage the center spring well. the springs on either side of the center one a bit and the outer springs not at all.

Early sidecars the square hole that these springs fit into was open such that if a spring breaks (not uncommon at all) it can work its way out of the hole, then the springs skew, the set screw can no longer hold them and the entire swing arm can come off. Latter units a welding rod was welded over the hole such that if a spring broke, if could not come out. What we do is weld one side of a washer covering the hole. Should you ever need to remove it you bend it back and forth until it breaks.

Early sidecars the unit pivots on bronze bushings, these should be replaced about every 10K or so. We have the bushings. Any good bearing store will as well as they are nothing special. Latter ones were on needle bearings.

If you find broken springs no one makes these any longer. Mark at Florida sidecar products  sells modified VW springs he say's are close enough. No first hand experience with these. When you put it back together pack it all with grease.

I am going to go into some other issues with these older sidecars, I have posted all of this before however it has been a while.

Some of these sidecars came with a cast 8 spoke 16 inch wheel. These wheels fail, they do not take lateral loads. Inspect both ends of the cast spokes both in side and out for cracks. If found discard the wheel. The bummer is that there are no replacement wheels. What California did was to shorten the swing arm such that it can fit in side of a 13 inch wheel then run a 145 13 tire. This tire really does not fit well under the fender but, it is what it is. 145 13 tires can be hard to find. usually has them. Of course if you do this you will also need to move the body on the frame as with the shorter swing arm the wheel will be forward. And of course then you need to set your wheel lead over again. A person could also use a 12 inch trailer wheel. There are many more options for tires and wheels in this size. In either case they ran a stock trailer hub which fits right on the axle. Being a stock hub both the automotive and the cast or wire wheel usually run a 1 inch trailer axle. I have seen one that had a 1 1/8 inch axle. These bearings and seals can be purchased at most any auto parts store.

If you have the automotive wheel and want to add a brake, some thing that California did not offer on these we do have a kit do do so. The caliper ends up being up side down such that you have to remove it and turn it over to blead the brakes. By doing this no fiberglass has to be modified.

These early sidecars had some real safety issues with their mounts. They ran a 5/8 inch ball on the bike with a clamp that was tightened with a 5/16 bolt (1/2 inch wrench) If you have these DO NOT USE THEM they fail! latter ones ran 5/8 inch hiem joints that have a 5/8 bolt and nut (15/16 wrench) The often ran "universal" strap clamps for some of the mounts. Universal clamps if used correctly and only one or two are used they can be fine. However early California clamps did not have 1/4 inch cross bolts and do fail. If you have cross bolts they are fine.

I put about 150K on one of theses sidecars and have had all of these issues one at a time come up. This was in the days before the internet and at the time phoning California sidecars (which is not in California and does not build sidecars) was a waste of time as they had no one with any technical product knowledge. 

Jay G
DMC sidecars

Monday - Thursday 6-4:30


Jay G DMC sidecars 15616 Carbonado South Prairie RD Buckley WA 98321 866-638-1793 Hours Monday - Thursday 6-4:30

Jay, can you explain the term "cross bolt ?"


"Universal" type strap clamps have a "U" shaped part that goes around a block. The block has threads for an eye bolt that pushes on a slipper or also some times called an anvil. As you tighten the eye bolt against the slipper it pulls the "U" shape strap tight. This holds true for the clamps Velorex and many sidecars out of India use. On the lower end "universal" clamps such as the Velorex and sidecars from India what holds the strap to the block are 2 cross bolts. On these type of clamps the load is taken by the bolts such that over time the holes can elongate.

On early California sidecars clamp the strap had the ends bent at about 105 degree's then the blocks had the sides machined at about 15 degree's such that in theory the more you tighten the eye bolt the more it should due to the angle or "ramp" cause the strap to pull closer together. In practice this does not work, if the clamps get even slightly loose or are not tight enough to begin with the can come apart. So what California did and what we do as well as Champion sidecars does is the end of the strap is bent over to 90 degree's then cross bolts are used to hold it on like the clamps on the Velorex and sidecars from India. However un-like these clamps the load is not taken on the cross bolts, it is taken due to the ends being folded over the block. This way we do not need to worry about the bolt holes stretching over time and the clamp getting loose.

So in short, if your clamps do not have two 1/4 X 2 inch cross bolts for the 1.25 inch clamps and two 5/16 X 2.25 for the 1.5 inch clamps then either drill them and add cross bolts or replace them. Do not use them, they will fail.

Jay G
DMC sidecars


Monday - Thursday 6-4:30 GMT-8

Jay G DMC sidecars 15616 Carbonado South Prairie RD Buckley WA 98321 866-638-1793 Hours Monday - Thursday 6-4:30

Jay, this is my Inder clamp. What should I do to it to make it safer?

Uploaded files:
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I know that this was asked of Jay but I can't help myself. 

Please, no offense is intended, we all have to learn.

IF YOU MUST use a clamp, get one that has a "slipper" or "anvil", [same thing two common names] so that the stress is spread out on your frame tube and so that the bolt doesn't deform your tube.  It also presents extra surface area that might improve grip [maybe]. The item you have is the cheapest and worst sort of strap clamp one step up from using a "U" bolt, a hose clamp or an exhaust hanger.  We've actually seen all of those.

While you're at it, if possible situate the eye bolt so that it accepts load as close to straight on as possible.  Mounting it so it's at a right angle to the load makes it much more likely to slip.  It turns the bolt itself into a moment arm.

Here's a version of the right kind of clamp.  There are some that are better [IMHO] but this will give you the idea. . Note the silver colored piece inside the bracket, that's the slipper. It's possible that your clamp once had one but the end of the eye bolt would have ideally been flat in that application.


Al Olme Minneapolis, Minnesota

Thanks, I appreciate it

The Formula II torsion bar goes through pipe "bushings" soldered to the sidecar frame, and Motorvation advised lubricating these despite the lack of grease zerks