On a murky autumn day in 1980, a Swedish photographer made a highly unusual discovery. Getting rid of his waste in a nearby recycling area, Ludde De Geer found a huge batch of photos in the form of old glass-negatives. It took him 25 years and some new technology to save his ‘catch of the year’. Among the shots was an epic Christmas show Husqvarna photograph from 1934…
He joined Husqvarna in the early 1930s having made a name in two-wheel sport. Gunnar Barthelsson had a special talent for broad-sliding and won some of his greatest victories on gravel.
Previously, Gunnar had ridden for the Belgian FN brand, but in the beginning of the 1930s, he connected with Husqvarna where in 1931 he took an overwhelming second place after the triumphant Ivar Skeppstedt. They met in the final at the famous horserace track Solvalla in Stockholm. Gunnar was a mere five seconds behind the winner in the five-kilometre race on gravel. Both riders had an outstanding riding-style going around the long, high-speed corners with their machines sliding sideways to the great delight of the 15,000-spectator crowd.
And in the 1932 Klevaliden hill climb, Gunnar set a record of 40.66 sec, breaking the old Klevaliden record of 52.4 seconds. This everlasting record equalled an average of 90 km/h!
The epidemic moped flue in the 1950s resulted in big sales volumes for Husqvarna. By 1954, the Swedes had sold 25,000 units. Mind you, the first batch of the Novolette was a mere transporter and did not appeal to youngsters. Hence, the marketing folks came up with the idea to flirt with the up-and-coming generation to boost turnover. And what better way was there than appealing to those representing the future? Manufactured in red and silver, this frightful beast had the ability to do 30 km/h. That was the law, and it gave every young man - no, there weren't any females owning this wonder machine - an incentive to circumvent the rules and tune the power source into oblivion. Meaning the "Blöjpilen" would do speeds up to 40 km/h, occasionally 45 km/h.
After 1960 things looked gloomy for Husqvarna. The R&D department was in idle mode and the factory had given up hope and interest on their motorcycle division. The street-Huskys didn't sell as the best days of the Silver Arrow were gone. No new products lay in the pipeline and the market was under the weather for the Swedes. It was time to ride out a tropical storm.
Here are some famous words from four-time world champion Torsten Hallman, where he gives some interesting insight into the Swedish factory, which almost came close to stopping motorcycle production at the end of the 1961 season. But Hallman, and fate, did not want to change the history of this successful brand.
Swede Hans Hansson is an important name in the Husqvarna history books with a 51-year career. Not only was he a gifted motocross rider, but he also won the famous “Novemberkåsan” five times and the national enduro title on nine occasions between 1962 and 1979. Hans was also employed by the factory in Huskvarna, where he did development work, testing new technology.
Race fans with a technical flair seldom miss the chance to tune motorcycles. When Husqvarna’s 175cc Dream Machine was launched in 1953, engineer Birger Berggren set his sights on building a TT racing replica – with a 250cc power source. Here is the unique story of a rare 4-stroke.
When the weapons factory presented the 281 model, it was powered by a 175cc 2-stroke engine, giving a performance of 7.5 horsepower at 5,000 rpm. This motorcycle represented a new era for Husqvarna, selling street machines on a large scale. After the war, good transportation was in great need, but most people could still not afford a car. They relied on economic two-wheelers, so the nationwide market for the new motorcycle was immense.
The movie “On Any Sunday” is carefree. It is a motorcycle documentary, but mostly contains dramatic scenes. Shadows of the Devil make appearances when actors do wheelies as easy as any of us eat breakfast. Divine Husqvarna ambassadors like Steve McQueen and Malcolm Smith show ambition that go along with a free spirit.
After the 1960 season things looked gloomy for the Husqvarna Motorcycle division. The company had won the 500cc world championship, but in the quarter-litre class the situation was different. No research and development were done to the smaller power plants and no factory sponsoring was available for keen 250cc riders who wanted to conquer the world. As the “Silverpilen” street Huskys did not sell any longer there were low-key factors as well as new hope for ace rider Torsten Hallman. He seemed to be stepping up the ladder in the European championship.
Italian manufacturer Pirelli had their tyre treads marked on bodies of female models as a symbol in their famous 1980s calendars. In the 30s, Husqvarna used its racing success to market their products in advertising. The copy and pictures appealed to people's inspiration and was street smart for increasing sales.
In all of Husqvarna’s history, probably one of the most important developments is the Silver Arrow, Silverpilen. This 175 cc 2-stroke, three-speed machine paved the way for the company's future success. The Silver Arrow was the basis for a victorious path on track. Husqvarna won 13 individual world championship titles in motocross and many enduro victories from this lightweight machine. The hit started in 1955 when the classic bike was born...
We head back in Husqvarna history to their important Silver Arrow model, which was released in 1955. It was a 175 cc ‘lightweight’ motorcycle with a 2-stroke engine and a three-speed gearbox. This model was manufactured until 1965 and there were 11,300 units made. Here, we take a look on how this ‘Silverpilen’ bike paved the way for the factory's future success in which the Silver Arrow played an important role putting Husqvarna on the world stage.
Late in his splendid career Sylvain Geboers switched to Husqvarna, hoping for success. The Belgian had never made it to the top of the podium, forced to be content with runner-up positions as country-man Joel Robert beat him to the finish line. After two second places and three third spots in the 250cc world championship, Geboers set out to try his luck with Husqvarna in 1975. Here's how it happened.
The two phantoms Gustaf Göthe and David Senning each captured a gold medal in the 1922 ISDT in Switzerland. Consequently, in the following year, Sweden hosted the International Six Days Trial. It was run out of the capital city Stockholm for 1,863 kilometres before returning to the finish line. Being there, the local Husqvarna team captured victory, winning the International Trophy.
But let's start in 1922 when the ISDT was organized by Switzerland. Three Husqvarna riders from Sweden took part in this event, where the competitors had to manage the steep hills of the Alps. It not only strained the engines of the workhorses going uphill, but also put severe pressure on the brakes going down the slopes. And most riders were not used to such obstacles, which of course influenced their performance. Conquering the dwindling passes in the Alps, many a rider got stuck with problems and had to abandon the race. The Husqvarna riders had the disadvantage of the weight of their machines, which caused them to ride with care. The engines tended to overheat as they were used to the limit. In the end the Swedish Husky team came home third in the result sheets - after England and Switzerland.
Every Swedish race fan looked forward to each Friday when a new issue of the country's one and only weekly motoring magazine was published. What had happened during the past weekend was properly reported by journalists and photographers of the time. Husqvarna could count themselves as one of the major advertising clients during the beginning of the 30s when the factory had tremendous success in motorcycle events.
Born back in 1882, Swede Erik Hyginus Rud became famous for two things – an early interest for photography and as someone who bought his first real motorcycle at the age of 31 years. With his two-speed Husqvarna Moto-Rève, Hyginus rode around the western parts of Sweden on his Model 65 and immortalised everything from weddings to birthdays with his camera.
There was a small cottage, or croft, in the vicinity of Fredsberg in the western part of Sweden. It’s here where Erik Hyginus Rud was born, back in the noble year of 1882, and it was here that he grew up under spartan circumstances. From his father, he soon learned the trade of shoemaker, but just as an avocation to the daily work that had to be accomplished near home at the cottage. However, with only one cow and a small, stony piece of land it was not enough to make ends meet in the average week. Poverty was unfortunately an influential part of this young man’s everyday life, which did not suit Erik Hyginus at all. It was duly noted that he was a gifted youngster with many talents, such as being an avid reader.
Consequently, poor circumstances did not stop Erik H-R from having an appetite for life, or big dreams. Anything that was connected to technical matters for the future was swallowed up by this enthusiastic eccentric. He was addicted to developments that made life easier and that had a technical background. At the age of twenty, Erik was seen handling his initial high-wheel ‘velocipede’ and five years later he had installed an engine, making this an innovative vehicle.
Having spent eight years of pioneering work since their inception in 1903, Husqvarna were ready to take the next step. By 1911, their products developed into being more and more sophisticated, thereby satisfying a starving market. People were hungry for novelties and new design. They also demanded a higher quality to get their money's worth. Speed was suddenly in fashion for everyone.
Husqvarna sales were a mere 53 units during 1911. In the same year, the collaboration with Motosacoche came to an abrupt end. Simultaneously, the weapons factory increased their business with Moto-Rève. Production turned out a twin-cylinder 298cc V-engine – the Model 65 – which delivered two horsepower performance at the beginning but was tuned to 2.5-3hp during subsequent developments. This model lasted four years before an update was released.
A 10-year Husqvarna career started in 1965 when Uno Palm made his debut in the junior national championship in Sweden. Palm had a 250cc Husqvarna, a brand he cherished with a passion until his two-wheel professional years ended in 1978. By that time Uno Palm had entered the 250cc world championship in nine seasons with his best performance coming in 1972 where he scored fifth place in the final standings. Uno Palm raced for almost 20 years before leaving the MX expert stage.
As a young kid, my father Tore was not really into school or education. Instead, he dreamt of famous riders and had early passionate thoughts of becoming a motorcycle man. He was a fan of Husqvarna and his active racing period lasted half a decade. My father began competing by the end of the 20s, continuing through the early 30s – in Husqvarna's initial big-time era in racing.
After the great Saxtorp Grand Prix in August 1934, the racers went to the island of Gotland to participate in a Tourist Trophy event. It was a venue full of life - both on and off the track - where the representatives of Husqvarna vibrated with confidence after their success in the big C-class at their previous Saxtorp adventure. Now, the circus was open to new battles, with the Swedish arms factory being held as a favourite. But let's start this amazing story from the beginning...
The people in Gotland had enjoyed a busy summer with many tourists. This popular island is still an attractive travel destination for both foreigners and Swedes who want to relax and enjoy the sun in the city of Visby. Therefore, in the 30s, there was no big fuss about a motorcycle race among the local inhabitants - it was said to be an interesting break from the daily work in the ‘City of Roses’.
An advertisement in the summer of 1951 had the following headlines, ‘Prolong your spare time with a Husqvarna – make the most of your evenings, weekends and vacation!’ Twelve years before, in 1939, the newly developed ‘Angel-Wing’ 118cc machine had been presented to the public. It would soon appeal to the masses and give many a rider some adventurous travel experiences.
In Husqvarna's Golden Era of motocross, Bror Jaurén was the primary person responsible for handling the factory's tactics in their quest for success. Working as competition manager for the racing department, Jaurén’s leadership led to 14 motocross world championship titles from six different riders during his 33 years at Husqvarna. I met him in the late 70s.
The press release announced a novelty made by Husqvarna in Huskvarna. This happened back in 1939 and the machine was the newly developed ‘Angel-Wing’. This 118cc bike would appeal to the masses after it replaced the popular predecessor of 98cc – the small bicycle with a bolt-on power source was now an outdated model. The introduction of the Angel Wing could not have come at a worse time however. The second world war was around the corner and during the coming six years the factory only churned out a couple of 100 of these new motorcycles. However, in the postwar period things changed dramatically…
So, the roots of this newcomer came from the 98cc machine and was initially nicknamed the ‘Angel-Wing’. Actually, the small 98cc-powerpack was a pre-evolution of the 118cc engine that was included in the new Husqvarna Model 20. It was a product from the factory’s Research & Development department. Gone were the days of the resemblance to a bicycle. Now, it featured a three-speed gearbox, a kick-starter and footpegs. The main reason for its introduction was the new motorcycle legislation – as of 1939, at 16 years of age, you could ride a lightweight bike that did not weigh more than 75 kilos. The vehicle had to be registered and as a rider, you had to have a valid license. Those were the criteria introduced before the war. It should also be mentioned that there was a Model 21, which had a speed limit of 40 km/h and was regarded as the baby brother of the Model 20.
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…
When motorcycling was young, people took part in ‘reliability tests’ in order to prove themselves. A little over a hundred years ago, the International Six Days Trial was born. Husqvarna joined the games in 1922 and were successful at their first international event. In the 1950s, the Six-Days evolved into the Olympics of motorcycling. Here's when and how Husqvarna joined the movement of adventures.
After his 1969 world title, Bengt Aberg was convinced he would conquer the world again. He was Husqvarna-mounted and both physically and mentally ready, ahead of this gruelling season. 1970 turned out to be a strange one as Aberg's main rival was his neighbour Arne Kring who also had a contract with the weapons factory in Huskvarna. Fasten your seat belt folks – here we go with the bashful Swedes!
As the United States embraced the Husqvarna movement in the 60s, development and volumes played a major role at the Swedish factory. Now, the Motorcycle Olympics went from the International Six Days Trial to racing on most any surface. Enduro and desert riding changed motorcycling and paved the way for future Husqvarna success. On home grounds, the brand won almost all "reliability" races at hand…
Between 1959 and 1966 Husqvarna had conquered four MX championships in the 250cc class. Torsten Hallman had three world titles and Rolf Tibblin one European victory when plans for the 1967 season began. On top of that, the Swedish brand had recently been introduced to the USA, where people fancied both style and quality from the Viking country. So, everything looked promising and Husqvarna decided to double their racing budget, with clever money, for the coming season…
In the early 50s, Husqvarna decided to produce folklore machines. New legislation opened up for cheap mopeds that at first were no more than bicycles equipped with an engine. The popularity of this new way of transportation grew quickly. It resulted in whirlwinds, such as the Novolette, the Roulette and the Corona, all Avantgarde pilgrim models…
After a 20-year absence, Husqvarna introduced their 4-stroke big-bore beast. In 1983, it tried establishing the brand as a top player on the bike market. Not only was a new engine presented, but the Swedes also gave up the red/chrome tanks in favour of new all-white machines. However, MX competition from Japan was fierce and Husqvarna did not have the financial resources to keep up with their opponents. Instead, the company looked towards enduro.
Between 1969 and 1970 the Swedes doubled both production and sales over a period of only one year. There were two main reasons for this success – the growing American market and a surge in demand for offroad and desert machines, which represented a huge market. By now, Husqvarna had won their first Baja 1000 and Mint 400 races and, after two motocross world titles by Bengt Aberg, the brand name was highly respected in Europe and all over the globe.
Gunnar Kalén’s career of eleven years was cut short when he met his destiny in Germany in 1934, but the successful Swede had won great victories during his time racing, beating many records. His reputation was elevated from the "Novemberkasan" enduro where Gunnar won for five consecutive years from 1926 to 1930. Later, in the snow of 1933, he topped it off with a sixth victory, riding his factory Husqvarna.
Gunnar Kalén was a great gentleman of motorsports. His first employer Axel Löfström had him riding Saroléa from 1927 to 1930 and said, “he was an ideal sportsman and so, he became one of our most popular riders in his time". People described his behaviour as “modest, calm and safe”. Besides the TT, road racing in our time, the Novemberkasan was a favourite with the master.
Scrapping their 98cc light-weight machine during the war, Husqvarna took up production again in 1946. A year after WWII came to an end there was a giant need for inexpensive transportation. Therefore, it was decided to start manufacturing a 120 cc machine where footpegs replaced pedals. This economic bike soon developed into being every man's vehicle in Sweden.
By the end of the 1920s, Husqvarna intensified their racing efforts. They hired ace engineer Folke Mannerstedt, who developed magnificent machines. There were the ultimate factory bikes, but then there were also motorcycles for sale to the average racing fan, for dirt track and hill climb. My father was one of them and bought a Husky 350DT in the early 1930s. Here is his story.
In the late 1950s, world class riders competed for the European 250cc Motocross Championship. Husqvarna produced 10 factory machines, which were handed out to the six best Swedish riders. They raced against top names from Great Britain, Czechoslovakia and Germany. It was a 13-round series during a four-month chase for this desirable title.
After the 1960 season things heated up. Rolf Tibblin finished fourth in the 500cc championship and came fifth in the following year. Having trained harder than ever, he had high hopes for 1962. Straddling his Husqvarna, Tibblin's main opponents came from Sweden, which certainly made the title chase interesting.