UPDATE: Wednesday's vehicle coordinator Alexandru Titus Ipate got back to me on December 21, 2022, to fill me in on what this bike actually is. We were both right and wrong in our guesses, and closer to the truth than I reckoned. Ipate told me that the bike is a heavily modified 1983 BMW R45, a 500cc airhead I didn't even know existed that was built with new riders in mind. The sidecar is, in fact, an IZh hack off a Yupiter, so good eyes, Matt.
Way back in 1938, cartoonist Charles Addams published a one-panel comic in The New Yorker featuring a traveling salesman trying to sell a vacuum cleaner to a powerfully gothy couple in their cobweb and bat-festooned foyer. That simple throwaway gag gave birth to The Addams Family and spawned dozens of movies, television series, cartoons, and video games over the next 84 years.
The first Addams Family comic published in The New Yorker.
The latest entry in Addams Family canon is Wednesday, a new series developed by Netflix. Set to release on November 23, 2022, it focuses on the adventures of Wednesday Addams, the family's eldest child, at a gothtastic boarding school called Nevermore Academy. In August, Netflix dropped the first trailer for the new show, giving us a look at Gomez, Morticia, and Wednesday—played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, Luis Guzman, and Jenna Ortega respectively. On October 8, 2022, Netflix dropped a second trailer which expanded on information dropped in the first trailer and introduced us to Fred Armisen as Uncle Fester. It also, and here's the part that concerns us, introduced us to Uncle Fester's sweet ride—a weird-looking sidecar rig of indeterminate make and model.
Now, I love the Addams Family and I love it in all its incarnations. Well, no, I take it back. The two animated movies that came out 2019 and 2021 are dreadful, and not in a good way. Everything else, though? Rules. Anyway, I love campy, gothy mystery stuff, so when I heard that Netflix was releasing a new horror comedy show centered on Wednesday with a murderer's row (get it?) of great character actors I was in. In like Flynn. I've been soaking up all the info about this show that I can, so I was ready for the new trailer when it dropped. What I wasn't ready for was Fester's sidecar rig, which looks like a Ural but totally isn't. So, since I'm the Senior Sidecar Correspondent around here and I needed to know exactly what Uncle Fester was riding, I took to America's premier media research institution, Twitter Dot Com, to do some sleuthing.
First, let's set a baseline here—Uncle Fester is not riding a Ural. The sidecar is wrong, the front end is wrong, the wheels are wrong, and the tank shape is wrong. He's not riding either of the Ural's cousins—the Dnepr and Chiang Jang—either. While that tells us what it isn't, it doesn't tell us what it is, you know? The weird, Dalmatian-themed paint job wasn't helping, either, since it acted like dazzle camo and hid both the bike's and the sidecar's lines.
It's clearly an air-cooled, carbureted boxer engine as we can see in the first screen capture, but what air-cooled, carbureted boxer engine? Since I didn't recognize the rocker covers and I'd already concluded that it wasn't a Ural, I reckoned it was a BMW of some kind. I set out the facts as I understood them to the Twitterati and here's what we came up with.
An air-cooled, carbureted airhead—but which one?
Jalopnik Staff Writer Kyle Hyatt agreed with me on my initial guess that it was a BMW. Matthew Skwarczek, Research Editor at Car and Driver, suggested that it might be either an R60/7, and R75/7, or an R100/7. We argued back and forth until noted BMW R100 Haver and all-around cool dude James King weighed in.
"That’s a post-1977 Airhead of some sort with the snowflake cast wheels," King said. "It could be an R100/7 but it doesn’t have the goofy plastic gauge cluster pod like the /7 does. It could be an R100S without the actual S fairing. Apparently, some came that way."
The broad shot that helped us further identify this mystery rig.
Okay, so, the bike is very likely a late-70s or 80s-era BMW airhead with snowflake wheels. That narrows it down some, but what's up with that sidecar? It's clearly not a Ural sidecar or any other make I recognized. We initially guessed it might be a one-off, studio-built hack and had tentatively settled on that until Skwarczek broke the case wide open with a last-minute discovery.
"WAIT," he said. "I might've ID'd the sidecar! It looks to me a lot like a custom-painted, mildly-modified version of some of the sidecars offered on IZh bikes."
The picture he posted to back up his statement, a screen grab from a Russian television show called Lesnik. Svoya Zemlya that he scrounged off the Internet Movie Car Database, seemed to seal the deal. Specifically, it looks like a sidecar commonly used on the IZh Yupiter with some accessories from other Russian sidecars (the fender-mounted light and the forward-mounted spotlight).
That's pretty clearly the same sidecar.
Okay, so, it's a (probably) 80s-era BMW airhead with an IZh Yupiter sidecar... or is it? Guesses are great and all, but what we want is hard facts. Personally, I won't rest until I know exactly what this bike is. So, to that end, I pinged Alexandru Titus Ipate, Wednesday's vehicle coordinator, to ask him about it. Sadly, it seems that he hasn't used Twitter since the end of 2021 and I haven't heard back from him. Hopefully I will, though, and we can put this mystery to bed.
What do you think? What BMW is this anyway? If you have any good guesses let us know in the comments.