1946-1960: MODERN TIMES

Kenneth Olausson

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.

In the legendary "Black-Mill" Husqvarna produced a 118 cc engine with model identification 24. The single-cylinder, 2-stroke power unit had a three-speed gearbox. The song from the exhaust pipe was well recognized from the loud knocking sound that arose from the piston bolt. It had been launched in 1939, but the war soon stopped production, so it took a few years until the cogs started turning again.

Husqvarna sales started racing after the war. In 1946 they already delivered more than two thousand vehicles and the following year it was up to five thousand. Even though the margins for each unit were slim, the light-weight machines positively contributed to the profits to the factory's financial status. From model 24 to model 30, there were 70,000 happy owners. In a Husqvarna advertisement it was announced that four versions of the 120 cc were available, the most expensive 30 Sport costing 1,618 Swedish Kronor (approx. 320 US dollars). And the catalogue now offered a red version, properly named the Red-Mill. In the end the engine capacity increased to 125 cc and there was also a Blue-Mill outfit. The last model 32 was introduced in 1957 as model 32 Sport, giving an output of 6 HP. It has been calculated that close to 100,000 units were sold from 1939 to 1959.

The next progress came with Husqvarna's "Dream Machine" that was presented in 1952. Model 281 was colourful and had a little carry-over from the Black and Red-Mill models. "Drömbagen" - in Swedish - had a new 175 cc engine, designed by Olle Edlund. He developed a reliable 2-stroke power source, which turned out to be unbreakable - lifelong. The power package had a performance of 7.5 HP at 5,000 rpm. This motorcycle offered young people an affordable transport alternative and the bike was successful from the start. The Dream Machine weighed 100 kgs, capable of running at a top speed of around 100 km/h. Sales started in the spring of 1953 and the bike cost approximately 2,000 Kronor (around 400 US dollars). The production lasted over six years, during which time Husqvarna managed to wring out more than 6,000 units. There were actually two models of the Dream Machine – the Tourist model and a Sports version, with dual exhaust and more power. Both were supplied with a three-speed gearbox.

But the Dream Machine never sold to expectations and a new bike was introduced in 1955, stealing the name "Silver Arrow" from Mercedes' successful racing cars. This machine was probably the most important development in the Husqvarna history. The newcomer had the right styling and tempted many young people to buy a motorcycle in the 1950s. The model reference consisted of the three figures 282, which later had the extra tag of an "E" on refined export versions. It was equipped with a 3-speed 175 cc 2-stroke engine. According to the Swedish law, the new machine should have a total weight just under 75 kilos, which was the official formality for using a "Light-weight Machine". Then the bike became legal for 16-year-olds, teenagers with a riding license. Let's look at the technical facts of this little wonder. Maximum power from the engine was a "stunning" 9 HP at 6,000 rpm. The cylinder was 60 mm in bore diameter and the stroke was 61.5 mm giving exactly 173.8 cc. A German Bing twin port carburettor was incorporated in the engine design. This beast was capable of doing over 100 km/h, which was a very good performance in the middle of the 1950s.

According to standards the light-weight tubular frame was a simple but elegant stamped-steel product where the engine is part of the build-up and helped in making the bike stable. The "rubber band" suspension was acceptable at the time, which only gave little riding comfort. But demands were not so advanced in these days. Streamlining was an ingredient of the styling concept and Husqvarna wanted no less. Both the front forks with leading and rubber-links and the headlamp suited well into this up-to-date design. The 1955 price of a Silver Arrow was 1,890 Kronor (around 375 US dollars).

After some years on the market, it became clear that the existing 175 cc power plant needed development in a complement version. Increasing the capacity to 200 cc the "Golden Arrow" had 15 HP under continuous load while the machine was only 10 kilos heavier than its predecessor. This made a subtle advantage on the market, but the bike - made between 1957 and 1959 - was never well accepted as it weighed more than 75 kilos. Consequently, only 1,250 units were produced before Husqvarna skipped the model.

But overall, the Silver Arrow was a tremendous success for the Swedish motorcycle industry. Husqvarna established an international name, although exports were limited. In a decade and a half after WWII the sales figures were around 80,000 machines. And after half a century, Husqvarna had sold some 110,000 units in total. But the big-time era would arrive in the sixties when the Swedish name became a global best seller.