• Dirt Track and Hill Climb

    By Kenneth Olausson

    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.

    Dirt track and hill climb racing were popular sports during the 1920s – a trend that continued during the 1930s. With their newly able engineer Folke Mannerstedt as chief designer, a fresh strategy was introduced that gained both sales and publicity. Not only would Husqvarna take part in Grand Prix events in the future, but they should also market all-round machines to the public race fans. This resulted in privateers being able to achieve a competitive bike for a relatively modest price. These machines were attractively priced by the factory in order to make some profit, which would help enhance covering the expensive costs in the race-budget. But in the end, their racing activities were a way of promoting sales of the ordinary Husqvarna street motorcycles.

    Man’s interest in striving for speed and comparing his efforts to those of his competitors is an old quality. You gather some riders, find a suitable venue and then go for a fight. The fastest man is the hero of the day. Grand Prix racing was rare and expensive in those days, but the interest in motorcycle racing in all forms became great in Sweden. My father, Tore Olausson, had an eye for bikes at an early age and started to race as a teenager. In the yearly result sheets of 1929, Tore was the eighth best rider in the country. Gunnar Kalén, the winning big star from Malmö, would later be Husqvarna's leading light during the early parts of the 30s and had 19 victories while Tore counted six wins, two second places and three third positions after his successful year. Being proud, Tore looked for more and around 1933, to the delight of his mother Bothilda, he bought a 350cc Husqvarna Dirt Track model.

    The Husqvarna “Special Racer” was developed with a British 491cc JAP engine and came in 1930. A year later, Mannerstedt had improved this 4-stroke power source, which now had the Husky logo on the side-cover and a displacement of 497cc and came equipped with a steering-damper. From having a performance of around 10 HP, Mannerstedt trebled the output to an impressive 33 HP at 6,000 rpm and this new machine had a weight of approximately 150 kg. The 350cc was easier to market, as the factory already had a homemade pie of this volume. When mister Mannerstedt had done his magic work, the newcomer was launched at 1,500 kronor – a fair price that most race-riders could afford. This small beast received the nickname “Poor man’s racer” although it was a competitive bike. It now had a sprint engine, developed from the earlier Husqvarna model 30TV from 1930 and the output ran at 25 HP at 6,500 rpm. Between 1930 and 1932, some 50 units were sold of these two whirlwind wonders.

    Then, there was a second generation of machines, which were improved by being lighter and faster. Parts made of aluminium and magnesium saved weight and new front forks as well as better frames made the DT models flexible racers. Both expert and novice riders cherished these new machines, which were launched in 1933 for the 350cc and 500cc classes. Our colour photos show a potent top-valve 350DT with aluminium cylinder-head, shorter wheelbase and a steeper front fork angle. “This four-speed engine runs on methanol and is more or less a unique machine today as there are few left of the top-valve 350DT from 1933”, says owner Ove Johansson at the MC-Collection museum.

    All in all, research showed that Husqvarna merely churned out some 25 units plus a few extra engines of the 350DT and 500DT models. So, the contribution to the factory business was meagre, to say the least. As the Huskvarna-based factory decided to abandon racing in 1935, Mannerstedt decided to leave Husqvarna and moved to Stockholm. Together with engineer and friend Gunnar Hagström, they made a third generation of this single-cylinder engine. It was now called SRM for Swedish Racing Motor and after extensive development after World War II, the final products were ready for sale in 1948. The new 350DT and 500DT models were based on the bigger cylinder capacity but could also be delivered as a 350 racer. About 30 units were delivered in 1948 after ace rider Eje Sandin participated in the Solvalla 1000-metre competition in style. This Stockholm event was held in the autumn of 1947 and became the inaugural race for SRM. A few years later, Gunnar Hagström produced another five units, that were now labelled HRM for Hagström Racing Motor. After 1951, the project died, only to reappear later on – again with the Husqvarna logo on the petrol tank. But that is another story.

    So, how about my father’s Husqvarna achievements then? Well, the greatest victory of his career was at the “Lyckåsbacken” on a slippery track where rain fell before the 2 o’clock start. Tore ousted the competition, won his class and set the fastest time of the day at 32.9 seconds. The win on this 575-metre hill climb track gave him a handshake and an impressive trophy given by the baroness Piper at the Lyckås castle near Ystad.

    Happiness was a Husqvarna machine in the golden Good Old Days!