Sidecar?

A cucinero before he was a pedicab driver, Mang Angel decided to become a pedicab driver.

At the time, everyone was having their car tarps done somewhere else. He thought that maybe he could do one himself—so he did.

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“Sidecar?” the usual question is thrown at me from a pedicab driver looking for a customer. I walk up to him but not to get a ride.

Kuya, where do you get these done? The pedicabs tarps and the designs on them?”

His reply is the disappointing answer of about 3 places in Manila that I don’t exactly frequent and I wonder how I’m gonna fit getting to them into my schedule. I ask again to clarify, somehow hoping for a different answer. Suddenly another driver interjects, saying that there’s a pedicab cover-maker nearby.

Hallelujah! I exclaim to myself and walk in the direction that was given me. When I finally find Mang Angel, he’s sitting in his sidecar, waiting in line for a customer. Hesitantly, he answers my questions, but only after asking to see my school ID to verify whether this was really for a school project. I dont blame him—I dont imagine pedicab drivers get asked more than how much a ride is, much less how they make their sidecars.

02 Mang Angel leaves his pedicab in the que for customers.

Materials

Manong Angel said he bought his parts from Sharp Canvas & Upholstery Supply, in Buendia (Gil Puyat Avenue)

  • Maruyama Tarpoulin is often used for the bulk of the covering; while
  • charol and
  • “KFC” are used for lining, and designs.
  • Grade-16 transparent plastic, and
  • vinyl D-12 (more common in motorized sidecars; it looks like pleather) is used for other parts.
  • Plastic tupol is used to wrap the metal skeleton so that it’s not exposed; and
  • snaps”,
  • chair nails,
  • and shoe tax are used to pin the tarp onto the skeleton.
  • Rugby is used for placing designs before stitching while
  • nylon is used for the actual stitching

Tools

  • Hammer for the pins;
  • scissors for cutting material; and a
  • sewing machine for stitching

03 The Sewing Machine Mang Angel uses for his tarps.

How long does it take to finish a whole car?

“It takes me about 2 days.”

How long has he been doing it?

“3 years. I was a cucinero before he was a pedicab driver and when I began, everyone was having their cars done somewhere else. I thought that maybe I could do one myself, so I did.”

…What makes doing pedicabs more difficult is that you have to stitch things together. With jeeps you just use paint…”

“My first few cars weren’t that great but once I got the hang of it, orders from others started to come in. My selling point is that I make the tarps for around Php 2,500.00 per cart, that’s about Php100.00+ cheaper than the same service from other more well-known makers or bigger shops.”

04 Mang Angel at his sewing machine.

What would you say sets sidecar cover-making apart from lets say, jeepney lettering?

”Well, jeeps are harder to do. There’s so much to paint and design. Then again, what makes doing pedicabs more difficult is that you have to stitch things together. With jeeps you just use paint, so it’s faster in that sense and in a way easier.”

07 Detail from one of Mang Angel’s newer carts.
06 An example of less than sterling tarp stitching (not Angel’s work).

A Look at the Letters

Because of the stitching, almost all typography looks like that seen on varsity jackets except often with an interesting twist: where a rectangular finishing of a letter would suffice, triangular forms are sometimes substituted. This achieves the same visual density on letter endings while making stitching easier as well (a diagonal line instead of a right angle is stitched). Whether done for convenience or for aesthetic value, this ending style along with angular bumps on select areas, is what sets it apart from the “varsity jacket” look.

05 A handsome name is displayed in the popular style of pedicab lettering

logos and symbols stitched on to the carts can be quite random and obscure. They are also often commercial spoofs and imitations: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, crosses, praying hands, fraternity logos: you name it.

08 A Chicago Bulls logo adorns a cart by Mang Angel.

Click here for more pedicab lettering pictures.

OTHER ARTICLES

The Man with The Silver Fingers

An interview with a Manong Silverio, a road-side signage painter

Sidecar?

Who makes the designs on pedicabs?

The Sorbetes Cart

A look at the cool lettering on ice cream carts

Letters for Hire

Some insight to the world of taxi lettering.