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Velorex 560 Sidecar
Original article from March 2003. Updated June 2005.
The Jawa Velorex 560 is cute, and seeing a nice one will make you smile. Its cool bubble shape, and metal trim define this lightweight fiberglass sidecar. The frame is a durable weldment of square tubing, with a separate full skirt fiberglass fender, pivoting up and to the rear for tire repair. The seat flips forward to provide access for storage, and there is a tall windshield, a metal bar footrest in the nose, and a grab bar for the passenger to hold. The 560 was last made in 1974, and was replaced by the Velorex 562.
Velorex 560 sidecars are found more commonly in Europe mounted to the small Jawa motorcycles of up to 500 cc for which they were designed. In North America, the 560 is a fair match for mid-sized motorcycles, and a perfect visual twin for a BMW /2. Some 560 frames were adapted for the ball and collet mounting schemes on the old Beemers.
Phil Wilson, who owned the pristine 560 / BMW R60/2 pictured in this article, wrote "The Velorex 560 styling is spot on. It's flowing lines perfectly match the R60", and he considered it "the best vintage alternative to an original Stieb. I also think it looks better."
Now you might get lucky, but these sidecars are not common, and any 560 for sale may not be in great condition due to age and neglect. If you find one with the original metal trim, including the Jawa nameplate on the nose, and a body in fairly good shape on its original frame (even without a seat), it can be considered a good find. I have a 1974 560/01, in rough shape, found in a field, dinged up and faded from its former cuteness. I have spent a bit of time cleaning up the frame and sorting out the body attachments. I didn't even know it had an identification tag on the frame. That is how dirty the frame was. I do love the thing, it has a future, and all the exterior metal trim is there.
If you decide to get one of these old tubs, here are a few things to keep in mind.
The fiberglass body and fender are fairly thin shells, which means they can crack easily, so an inspection should be made for damage especially at the body attachment points, at the seat lock location, on the nose, and on the fender at its pivot hinge point. Plan on doing a bit of fiberglass repair work. The original fiberglass work is not of high quality, although it is fabricated from fiberglass cloth, not mere glass fiber.
You should rotate the fender back (like you were going to change your wheel) and inspect the inside of the fender. The wire harness for the front light runs inside the fender in a passageway fabricated from a single layer of fiberglass. If the wheel ever ran in bad conditions (mud, gravel, or sand) the fiberglass might be all worn away leaving the wires exposed. If not worn away, an additional layer of fiberglass can be added. In any case, the inside of the fender may be raw fiberglass. Consider treating it with some durable paint.
Any original nuts and bolts should be replaced. My experience, through owning three Velorex sidecars, is the hardware is of low quality, and corrodes quickly.
The 560 frame includes a single piece suspension assembly, incorporating the swingarm, shock absorber and 15 mm wheel axle. This assembly bolts in four places to a small flat plate on the frame. The bolts should be regularly inspected for tightness. There is not a very much clearance between the suspension assembly and the full skirt fender, so if these bolts loosen up, the suspension assembly can move about, and the fender can be damaged. If the bolts are original, or corroded, they should be replaced.
The wheel and all drum brake parts interchange with those of the newer Velorex 562 (or rather, they do on my 560 and 562) but there are no interchangeable parts between the frames, as the 562 frame is made of round tubing. As with any older sidecar frame, you will need to adapt a mounting scheme for your particular motorcycle.
Passengers have a chore getting in and out of a 560. The sidecar body is narrower than a 562, and the ride can be harsh. The original rubber block isolation mounts may be deteriorated and new body attachments may need to be sorted out. Passengers will probably not be comfortable in a 560 for anything other than short trips.
I do plan on fixing up my own 560, but it will go on the 562 frame currently attached to my 1982 Yamaha Seca 650, so the bodies can swap. I am now figuring out how to attach the 560 fender to the 562 frame, with a bolted connection scheme for wheel removal or tire repair. And I will eventually add a couple layers of fiberglass to the entire inside of the body and fender, for strength and added weight. But when completed, it will still be a cute bubble, and it will still have the original metal trim.
What should you pay for one of these old boats? Since mid 2002, I know of one 560, never mounted and complete that went for a bit under 2000 dollars, whereas I got mine for free. A few hundred dollars for a solid body, frame, undamaged fender, and complete metal trim might be considered a fair price for what was originally an inexpensive sidecar, so patience may be the key while waiting for one of these cute tubs to come up for sale.
I am under no delusion that this relatively rare old boat is some sort of collector item, rather, just a relatively rare lightweight sidecar body that happens to look really cool. The chance of seeing another 560 in real life is small. Someone might make a mold to duplicate the body itself, but no one will bother to remanufacture the metal trim or make a nameplate as cool looking as on the nose of the Velorex 560.
If you want to search for examples of the Velorex 560 on the Internet, a good place to start is www.projectjawa.com.
Note: Despite my original intentions, I ended up selling the "red blob" to a local San Antonio BMW owner during the spring of 2005. It is now attached to an R27.