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New Member who built 450 sidecars back in the day

I started reading ur posts from today and it is quite good and I actually liked it but I got 1 question that like in what age did u start building the sidecar and how old are you now?

Hi Nichloas,

Thanks for reading. Many have written me saying the and asking the same thing. I was just a young man of twenty six years old when I started designing my first sweet SL-110 sidecar. I would imagine that for some they have a hard time believing that a young twenty six year old would have the ability and knowledge to not only design a sidecar from scratch but build a small company from nothing but an idea at such a young age. The reader should understand that I was being trained from the time that I was eight years old to become an entrepreneur and manufacturer. It's all that I ever wanted to do. School and the military along with more school got in the way and then I needed to learn different disciplines and working trades. I worked some jobs for no pay just to learn.

Some of you may find this story interesting:

I once worked in a metal casting foundry shoveling dirt so that I could learn how to mold and pour aluminum. I had only been out of the Army a few months and I was visiting with one of my Army buddy's. As we were walking down the street a few block from his house I saw a sign on the door of a foundry looking for foundry help. My buddy and I went in and applied. The pay was $6.50 and hour; in today's world that would be $65.oo an hour. When the foreman handed my buddy and I two shovels Richard said "these hands weren't made to fit around a shovel handle" and said to me "I will see you at home". The funny thing was; Richard dug many a foxhole and filled many a sand bag in the Army but he as a civilian wasn't about to ever be using a shovel again. I took the shovel and after some instruction I went to work. Being a shoveler I was right in the thick of it all and after a few days on the job I was getting the hang of it. I had been on the job for about a week when one day I had my CIB Combat Infantrymen's badge on my sweatshirt. One of the old timers saw it and asked " where did you get your CIB" ? I told him and he then called over three of the other old timers. One by one they introduced themselves and the WW II unit they they fought in when they received their CIB. They took me under their wing and with a few hints on how to do this or that my work go easier; not that it was that hard anyways. I was interested in learning everything that I could and the old gang would rather see me working at anything but in a foundry. They all started working in the foundry when they came home from the war in late 1945 and to them they had been working in the foundry for a lifetime and didn't want to see me ending up doing the same thing. I never explained to them what my intentions were and they never asked.

I wanted to become a molder and learn how ram the sand in the molding process. So I would work as a molder during my lunch brake for no pay. When sand casting you need a mold. Molding sand is rammed into a molding flacks with a top and bottom (cope and drag) with the pattern or model of the part to be made in the center on a flat plate. The pattern (flat plate) has the shape of the part to be cast on this plate with runners for the molten aluminum to flow into the cavity. Casting aluminum or any metal parts is a science into itself. So every day at lunch I would go over to one of the molding stations and practice ramming the sand into the flasks making a sand cast mold. The molders got paid for every mold that they rammed so I was making this guy Stanley money as he was taking lunch and he sure made a big deal about it. In Stan's eyes I had something wrong with me and in my eyes Stanley was a "Big Supid" or "Big Stoop" . So I always referred to Stanley as "Big Stoop". He didn't like it but I was making him money as I learned how to mold during lunch break plus I'm thinking that he knew I would knock him on his butt if he complained. The old timers would have loved that and then they would have backed a brother CIB.

Months went by and I was spending all my time in the foundry even hanging out in the pattern shop on second shift learning how to make patterns. When they had a gassing problem with a casting I was right in the middle of the conversation soaking up every bit of information I could. If there was a shrinking problem or they were trying to prove a new casting I was in the middle of it. An education you could not get in any school. One day Big Stoop didn't show up for work and the foreman is going nuts. He's one molder down and doesn't know what he's going to do. One of the old timers said "put the kid in Stans place". I got the arm pointing to Big Stoops station and I was their in an instant working my tail off. Big Stoop was out for three days and for the next three days I was officially a foundry man. My casting count was higher and the quality of the castings was better than Big Stoop's. On day four Big Stoop shows up and as he makes his way over to his station the foreman hands him a shovel. He was told that " the kids got your job". Big Stoop was fuming and I had a big laugh about it. When the first brake came I went up to the foreman and told him. "Look you don't know anything about me and this is just a stopping off place. You better give Big Stoop back his job. He has a wife and kids and he need this job. I then went around to all the old timers and shook hands with them and told them it was time. They all wished me the best and told me that they would miss me but they were all glad that I was going on to other things. I should mention that although I left the foundry I didn't stop learning about casting metals. I joined the American Foundry Society (AFS) in 1969 and today I'm still a member getting my monthly publication of Metal Casting for the last forty five years. For some reason I have it in the back of my mind that some day I may have to build a small foundry in my shop and cast something for a new project. I had many different jobs in many different disciplines and had my head in a book most of the time when I wasn't working. It wasn't all work and no play. This kind of life style isn't for everyone but I wouldn't have had it any other way.

It seems like I spent most of my time when I was young having to prove that I knew what I knew. I always figured that I would prove it by building what I built and let the so called experts sort it out. When you build a product everyone is looking for a mistake. I've never understood why people will listen to a critic. A person with very little talent and absolutely no ability. That's just like how many people have I known over the decades that will come up with a good idea and will ask people that have never been successful at anything and have failed at everything that they have ever done what they think. I always tell them to look for successful people and ask for their guidance and their thoughts. How many times have I been in the design process and someone will be telling everyone how it won't work. Then when it does work they just go back to the bar and their beer.

When I turned twenty seven I built my first Sweet SL-110 sidecar. My good friend and co body designer the late Dick Lyon was ten years my senior. We were young back then and had no idea how it was going to shake out. Today I'm seventy years old and I'm having the time of my life. With a lifetime full of designing all kinds of neat things today I'm retire
d and back building my Sweet sidecars for a select few. Every sidecar is hand built and custom designed to fit each customers needs. Last year I was building one unit every ten days but have cut my production to one per month. I can built a complete sidecar in twenty six working hours. The design is very simple and I have reduced the number of parts in the frame from thirty four to twenty two on some units. We have a small group of sidecar nuts in my area and we try to go out every good day above 60 degrees and ride even if it's just up to the local corner and back to the shop. These are all new sidecar owners just in the last year and a half. My earlier projections were to build twenty five new sidecars in two years. I did that in the first year. As long as my health holds out and I still have the passion I hope to build many more in the years to come, but you never know.

Thanks for reading and asking.

Johnny Sweet PE.

A great story!!! At 79 I am semi retired but still working for a few of my old time clients and riding my hack as well as my trike. Never quit doing the things you love to do!!

that is actually a great story and it is making me inspired a lot

Mr Johnny Sweet you are truly amazing!!!! it turns out that I have had one of your sidecars sitting in my barn for almost 5 years -an SL-440 I'm nearly certain. I have wondered many times about how I was going to install it, and to what kind of bike. I mainly ride Harley's these days, but I'm one of those that likes nearly all makes and models. I believe that I am about to make an extended "loan" of my rig to my cousin with a physically challenged son. I cannot wait to see it attached to his Road King. After reading these stories I'll never sell it for sure!!! P.s., my rig has the original upholstery, the chrome hubcap, original windshield and is in fantastic shape ALL THE WAY DOWN IN THE TEXAS PANHANDLE!!! I will post pics soon. I had no idea that I had such a special sidecar just sitting in the barn.

opie79 - 7/16/2015 10:05 PM Mr Johnny Sweet you are truly amazing!!!! it turns out that I have had one of your sidecars sitting in my barn for almost 5 years -an SL-440 I'm nearly certain. I have wondered many times about how I was going to install it, and to what kind of bike. I mainly ride Harley's these days, but I'm one of those that likes nearly all makes and models. I believe that I am about to make an extended "loan" of my rig to my cousin with a physically challenged son. I cannot wait to see it attached to his Road King. After reading these stories I'll never sell it for sure!!! P.s., my rig has the original upholstery, the chrome hubcap, original windshield and is in fantastic shape ALL THE WAY DOWN IN THE TEXAS PANHANDLE!!! I will post pics soon. I had no idea that I had such a special sidecar just sitting in the barn.

Hi Kite,
This was a pleasant surprised. Thanks for the kind words. This must be exciting with your Sweet SL-440 sidecar being "loaned" for a good cause. I do have a few concerns about my old sidecar and the steps needed to mount it on your cousins Road King. The shock would have to be around forty years old and I would think it must have dried out. Also you will need a fabricator/ welder with lots of experience. Using a bench top 110 volt mig welder would be a "NO, NO" for a project like this. If you don't mind I would like to walk your installer through the fabricating installation steps. I did this eight times last year with different gentleman around the world with great success every time. They didn't have one of my sidecars like you do but built their sidecars from scratch using my time proven method. As I write this I have a Road King in the shop that I'm installing one of my Sweet Classic sidecars on. One of my Sweet SL-440 sidecars mounted on a newer Road King should look good. All of the SL models that were installed on Harley's back in the day where 74 and 80 inch bikes and these were the older Harley's many being the AMF models. I'm finding that the newer Road Kings are great partner for any of my Sweet designed sidecars.
Please take this in the spirit that it's given. At this time I would like to offer my assistance in helping with the installation of your Sweet SL-440 to your cousin's Road King, even if it's only by way of emails, pictures and phone calls. My sweet sidecars are totally different than anything else that's out their. The process that I use to set them up to a motorcycle takes some precision but it's not "rocket science" as one fellow once said. I can help with the mounting brackets that attach to the bike because I fabricated tooling fixtures not to long ago knowing that the Road King was going to be a very popular bike for my Sweet Sidecars. I would like to offer a set for your project at no cost to you. Again please except these in the spirit that they are offered. If you feel uncomfortable with this and feel that you should pay something may I suggest an alternative. You could give to a local charity in your area, an organization like a food bank. I would prefer that the offering be made anonymously.
Your Sweet SL-440 sidecar comes in at around 160 pounds and is plenty strong enough but is about 60 pounds light for this set up. It's not a problem because ballast can be added and the balance can be figured out if you follow my instructions. If you would like my help please email me at jsweet450@yahoo.com and we can discuss just what's involved in performing this task.
This project that your about to undertake is going to change a lot of lives in many different ways, and I'm betting they will be all good. Welcome to the world of Sidecars.
Respectfully Yours,
Johnny Sweet PE.
Sweet Sidecars
You may email me at jsweet450@yahoo.com

Thanks for all the great information and more importantly for you service to our country. It truly is the " the Land of the free because of the brave"! Welcome to the Carolinas! You picked a great place to live. Enjoy!

As usual, Mr. Sweet is a perfect gentleman and willing to help anyone who asks. He is definitely 'Old School' and he knows what he is talking about.

Hi Johnny: I have enjoyed reading all the great info that you have posted here on the forum. I have enjoyed talking to you and the e-mails from you. I am looking forward to you building a Sweet Classic Sidecar for my 07 Yamaha Road Star Midnight Silverado 1700. It is a pleasure to be able to talk and see a real crafts mans work. Chuck Hudson,Fl.

Hello Johnny,

I noticed in one of your pictures you have one of your sidecars on a KLR650. Have you designed any sidecars that are for dual sport use, with the emphasis on dirt, not pavement?

De Oppresso Liber

Tom