• Trouble-Free Travel

    By Kenneth Olausson

    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.

    Stories of this multi-purpose machine are plentiful, some more outrageous than others. How about the young couple who in the beginning of the 50s set off from Sweden for a long European trip including the countries of Germany, Holland, Belgium and finally to cosmopolitan Paris in France? They were travelling with 35 kilograms of luggage on the rear rack. Middle-school teacher Karl Sundberg and his wife recalled their long trip.

    “We never encountered any problems with the machinery, nor did we have any spectacular incidents that could have slowed us down. During the entire journey, all I had to do was clean the spark plug from time to time. We had a wonderful experience and never regretted having made this 4,000-kilometre voyage.”

    From the beginning this 118cc Model 20 had become the average-salary persons dream. Most people had to work hard and dig deep into their pockets in order to be able to afford this small, but efficient luxury motorcycle. In the post-war period, the ‘Angel-Wing’ became a dominating factor on the fast-growing bike market. By 1946, Husqvarna had tooled up and introduced Model 24 of the 118cc bike. It was a three-horsepower machine and cost 960 Swedish kronor at a time when most people were making around 75 kronor a week. Husqvarna manufactured some 30,000 units of this model, now named the ‘Black-Mill’ (Svart-Qvarnan in Swedish), as it had been developed according to modern standards and in 1950 the Model 27 entered the market, again with a top speed of 75 km/h.

    The Black-Mill was also seen in icy regions like Antarctica and under preposterous sunburn in the middle of Africa. Swede Göte Widelund had only done 100 kilometres on his motorcycle when he started riding south towards Europe in 1951. This man from Stockholm intended to go all the way to northern Africa on his 120 Husky. He packed 75 kilos of luggage in his rucksack and on a reinforced rear rack, hoping that the strength of his wheels would take him all the way. Widelund wanted to test man and machine against nature’s elements. And what a way to do it for a bike rookie! He started his 8,000-kilometre trip encountering snow and icy roads when riding through his home country and also through Denmark. Conditions were more stable in northern Europe, where he met a friendly landscape. Widelund came to see winter again when passing the Alps and crossing some high-altitude passes in Switzerland.

    In sunny Spain, temperatures were enjoyable and despite serpentine road-ways, he managed to make good time through this vast country. Having passed the Mediterranean Sea by boat, he then crossed hot North-African roads on the way to Morocco.

    “My machine went like a clock and never once missed a beat nor let me down during my long trip. Actually, it was quite a nice feeling of accomplishment once I arrived in Casablanca.”

    So, finally, Göte could put the Tabasco bottle on the table and enjoy his extraordinary efforts with a spicy salsa meal, seasoned by a real dose of chili sauce. Caramba!

    A local postman, Valter Heinsjö of Anderstorp attracted attention after he recorded 113,568 gear changes upon his 26 months of duty in 1952. At the time the brand had some 600 dealers and every fourth biker in the land rode a Husqvarna.

    “The daily distance was on gravel roads in the woods and measured 15.2 kilometres, which took an hour to cover. I never had any issues with my bike during more than two years of working and the Husqvarna did not see a garage, nor did it give me any headache at all. It was a reliable machine all the way.”

    In 1954, we had gone from Model 24 to Model 30. In an advertisement, four versions of the 120cc were announced, the most expensive being the ‘30 Sport’. The catalogue now offered a red version, properly named the ‘Red-Mill’ and there was also an exciting ‘Blue-Mill’ outfit available. Model 32 was introduced in 1957 as the ‘32 Sport’, giving an output of six horsepower. It would prove to be the final version and in 1959, production was terminated. Calculations prove that close to 100,000 units were produced over two decades.

    In racing, this little creature found its way around many a track across Sweden, although it did not have the capacity to win big events. Top athlete Gunder Hägg liked to ride his Husqvarna – often without head protection. A photo of him on his 120 wearing trivial clothing, made headlines in the Swedish press. Seeing Gunder Hägg’s face and his riding style tells everything about having fun on a motorcycle.

    Speedway star ‘Varg-Olle’ Nygren was more than once involved in marketing of the 120-machine. In various magazines, you could read about broad-sliding Nygren and his favourite bike, of course being his 120. Once, he was promoting a lottery, while the next time, he tested the very same machine in one of the biggest motoring magazines in the country. “Varg-Olle” was quite famous in Sweden and his words on motorcycling were influential to most people.

    Finally, there was the fish dealer Nils Lindh from Alingsas, who had bought his 120cc back in 1947. Nils Lindh used his little machine commuting for his daily fish trading. Seven years later he praised his bike for never letting him down even once.

    “I used it regularly in all kinds of weather. Sometimes the motorcycle was heavily loaded and the roads could be merciless in our region here in western Sweden, but my Husqvarna was always up to the job.”