USCA Sidecar Forum

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Hi. I'm new to List and sidecars, not bikes. Sidecar bug has bit...bad I have a Guzzi Ambassador(my first motorcycle was an El Dorado) on the way that will probably wind up as the platform for a rig. My main interests have been air cooled BMWs. I'm a competent weekend wrench as long as I have decent instructions in front of me. I'll be poking around before I start asking questions that are already answered. I'm a complete newby with about 5 minutes of saddle time on a rig. In the meantime, if there are any Guzzi rig owners that want to set me straight before I jump in with both feet, I'm all ears.

Harrison Cole
'78 R100RS
'81 R80G/S PD
'98 900SSCR
'70 Ambassador
other Vespas and BMWs

Check with Ron Braithwaite . you can find his site home page @ wetleather.

My first sidecar rig as a Moto Guzzi Ambassador, with a Spirit Eagle sidecar.

The Ambassador makes a good sidecar puller, except its down on power, and geared too tall. The result is that you have to work it hard in traffic. The original exhaust valves have very thin heads that tend to burn, and the valve stems tend to collect burned carbon--that encourages them to stick open slightly. So, put all this together, and you can see that frequent valve work might be in order. My solution was to install Fiat Spyder exhaust valves with the center of the valve tops ground down to remove a little weight.

Over time, I installed big bore cylinders to jack it up to 900cc. Then I bought a seized Eldorado motor, and put all the pieces together: the "stroked" 850 crank with the big bore cylinders and the "Fiat valved" heads with added stem seals. OK, I had the crank balanced, and the 850 rods drilled for squirt holes like the 750 rods.

I also located a Moto Guzzi sidecar lower triple clamp, and after modifying the upper clamp assembly, I had sidecar trail that worked very well. Much better than a telescopic BMW front end, I might add.

I've seen an Eldorado with a Ural attached. It looked very "period". Nice rig.


I have a 1970 Ambassador/velorex 562 rig(on frame restoration).
I have incorporated a 5 speed trans, a deep splined clutch, Iam increasing the displacement to 850cc. I'll look into the valve changes PMdave made.
I may change the gearing( moto guzzi actually made models intended for sidecars only in them days) too.
Moto Guzzi made a top link plate and a bottom yoke part that reduces trail for sidecar riding, but they may be for the eldo model only.
Buy the Moto Guzzi tips Volume # 1 BOOK. There are alot of TIPS for ambos and eldos to make them better for sidecars. Plus other great ideas to make the bike better overall.
I love this Vintage rig! The tin and overall look is Classic.
I get tons of attention and people walk past $20,ooo Harleys to look at my
hack all the time!! It will have its limitations on the road, so keep that in mind if its your only bike or sidecar.
I would also recommend that you don't try make it a part time solo and part
time sidecar bike. One or the other.
Good luck!!!

Thanks for the info...this is good stuff. I intend to devote the Ambo to 100% rig service. I'll trust the set up to a professional. The grunt engine work I'll do myself, jobbing out headwork etc, to the real smart fellows(I'm dealing with a dropped valve on a G/S at the moment). Sometime soon, I'll be offering up a Ducati in trade for a nice chair. I'm going to be shooting for one of those repro Steibs, until someone convinces me a Ural is better...I AM listening. I just started a half-a$$ed web page

Anyway, I'm listening and learning.

Harrison Cole
AMA, ABC, BMWMOA, VCOA, blah, blah

One thing I'd like you to understand before you do all this work.
The moto guzzi ambo is not as desirable as the eldorado on resale!
Do this project with the intent to hold the bike for a while so you get your $$$$$$ worth or you may be dissapointed.
You can get a good idea of what I mean by following ebay sales.
I did my guzzi sidecar with the intent to hold on to it and it's fun to ride around town.
I've seen some ambos done over and then have to be sold at a discounted price.
Ambos are fun to own but do not compare to the eldos(esp. the 74-75 police
models with disc brakes).
On the flip side if you can do a good part of the wrenching yourself replacement parts are reasonably priced on ebay. You have multiple bikes to ride so its probably a non issue.

One more thing to add;
I've devoted my bike to sidecar only duty as you plan to do and the Avon block tires are working nicely.
Just in case you have not picked out tires yet.
maybe PMdave has some thoughts on this subject.

I really appreciate the constructive criticisms...seriously. Here are my thoughts. My first bike was an Eldo, so I understand exactly what you are saying. Eldo prices have increased so much that I'm almost priced out of the market...for my tastes. I wanted a loop frame. I wanted electronic ignition, and I wanted dual discs up front. I do not need a huge motor, as this will mostly be a commuter in an urban environment. I'm close to getting the main issues covered. Harper's has an ignition(I haven't heard enough feedbackto be completely sold on these ignitions yet), and I'm confident I can use a front BMW /6 wheel in conjunction with a leading link front end...this will be a custom job. Anyway, that's where I'm at.


Which leading link are you planning to use?

My plan is to check with Unit, etc first to see if any of these guys will work with me on the idea of grafting an Ambo top half to a '81-'84 BMW(looking for the easier to work with Brembo calipers, while still using a spoked rim) bottom half. If something like that doesn't work, I've been talking with some machinists to make the appropriate adaptors.
This was all part of my budgeting plan...I bought a cheaper Ambo that I can upgrade as needed, but that allows me to spend some decent money on the front end. If I'm going down the wrong road here, please chime in.