• 1921-30: Roaring Decadence

    By Kenneth Olausson

    Peace upon the world changed everything. Good Old Times had arrived, and people were drinking and dancing. The beginning of the 20s was a decade full of joy and laughter. On the streets you could see motorcycles and other vehicles moving freely. Husqvarna had just introduced their first in-house manufactured two-wheel machine, driven by a nice 550cc V-engine. But the most popular motorcycles were the affordable 250cc bikes, which sold like hot cakes…

    The background actually came from the war when it was decided that Sweden, as far as possible, should fabricate its own products. Deliveries from abroad could be a drain as raw materials were scarce in these days. So, everybody looked after their barns in order to stash and fill them up with adequate goods. Here is some more background to the evolution of Husqvarna's first own motorcycle. Engineer Gustaf Göthe was partly responsible for R&D, research and developments…

    “Riding comfort was a neglected factor in the beginning of the 20th century,” said Gustaf Göthe. “One of my missions included improving the riding characteristics of our motorcycles. Above all, we wanted a well-balanced bike that was neither too heavy nor too weak. It had to be strong for the roads that were not in the best shape in those days. The engine was supposed to be strong and elastic, dependable and free from vibrations. We considered that a gearbox with three speeds would do the job.

    “I made my first mistake by neglecting the importance of the wheel-base, which I had made too long. The machine wormed like a snake, so I had to do something about that. You know, a motorcycle can never grow longer than at its birth. But it can for sure turn shorter if you meet a car head on, or flatter if you should put it under a train at a crossing.

    “Developing a new power source turned out to be more of a challenge. Importing machinery from England was difficult after the war as goods were scarce at that moment. But I went over there and bought an AJS and some other bikes, with which I started experimenting heavily. My work was delayed as there was no test bench available at the factory. Instead I had to go to the nearby Klevaliden ascent, where machine tests could be performed in a hill climb. It was the second-best thing to do and worked well, save the fact that I could not carry out any brake trials here. This was a result of times in crises but would improve with the years. My initial two-cylinder model 150 resulted in a V-engine with the capacity of 550cc. It had solid cooling fins, side-valves and an Amac carburettor for maximum performance. The only parts that I was not allowed to change were the front forks as they were plentiful in our warehouse…”

    After the model 150 came the improved 160, which was put on the market in 1921. This version went through the mill during three seasons and was followed by model 170 two years later. Now, we are writing about the year of 1923 and Husqvarna's bikes are becoming more and more popular with each passing year. The 180 came in 1926 and next in line was the 190, which was launched in 1929. We are still talking about the motorcycle with the twin-cylinder 550cc V-engine at hand, but it was improved with each new version during this successful decade.

    Husqvarna also produced a sturdy 1000cc machine, which was presented to the market in 1921. Nicknamed “the Camel” by the factory employees, this sturdy machine was mainly meant for carrying passengers in its popular sidecar version. It was powered by a twin-cylinder V-engine with a capacity of 994cc and had model 500 as a benchmark from the start. One can easily hear rowdy pub people in the crowd, discuss this animal offspring, referring to the desert beast. Anyway, it was manufactured for three consecutive years before the 600 arrived in 1923 and then the 610 came into production by 1926. All in all, the one-litre power-camel existed in its initial layout until the end of 1928, when it would be abandoned by the factory.

    In the need for speed, Husqvarna also realised that there was a market for smaller bikes, which were affordable for most customers. In 1927 they presented the model 20, which soon became the 25. This outfit consisted of a 175cc side-valve JAP engine. It was nicknamed "the Kitten" and went through the factory until 1931 when it had turned into model 30 with a JAP side-valve 245cc power source. The 30 model was introduced already in 1929, being then manufactured for the coming six years. The 30 inherited the nickname of “Kitten” from its predecessor and was also equipped with the 250 JAP. The 30 had a performance of 7.5 horsepower at best. The cylinder, together with the cylinder head, was cast in one piece as this method was simpler and more economic for Husqvarna at the time. With a ride height of 64 cm the brochure promised customers a comfortable riding position on the machine’s Terry-saddle.

    In 1930 there was also a 490cc JAP-engined machine available and even a 496cc Sturmey-Archer motor was being introduced. Looking at the sales figures from Husqvarna, it was clear that motorcycling had caught many people's eye in the roaring 20s. According to factory statistics, the Swedes sold approximately 7,500 units in the decade from 1921 to 1930. Unfortunately, these motorcycle figures were not matched in the coming years. During the 30s and through the Second World War production declined severely for obvious reasons.