Motorworld’s newspaper №62

The history of Husqvarna is often compared to BSA (a British company). Both of them were founded as weapons companies. Both of them started the manufacturing of bicycles in the latter half of the 19-th century. Both of them equipped a bicycle with an engine at the beginning of the 20th century. After, they became the major manufacturers of motorcycles in their own countries.

And another common denominator: both of them were founded for war with Russia. The British Small Arms company was founded in Birmingham to arm the task force in Crimea in the middle of the 19-th century. The Royal Weapons Company founded in 1689 in Huskvarna city had been supplying muskets to the Army of Karl XII.

But weapons are season articles. No war no gain. For this reason, Husqvarna Vapenfabrik AB, which got this name after conversion in 1867, descended to manufacturing of peacetime articles. Today we can easily find this marque on chain saws, lawn-mowers, cultivators and of course motorcycles. Despite the fact that Husqvarna bikes are now being manufactured in Austria…

Motorcycle made in 1904, 1,25 hp

But let’s get back to good times when Swedish stuff was produced in Sweden. The very first Husqvarna bike was built in 1903. In fact, it was just a bicycle with a little one-cylinder motor suspended under the frame. The motor’s brand was FN (a Belgian weapons company). The big break came several years later when Husqvarna manufactured a bike having a 500 cc V-twin engine made by Moto-Reve (a Swiss company). Interestingly, Russian bikes manufactured by the Duks company were equipped with Moto-Reve’s engines.

Although neither Sweden nor Switzerland didn’t participate in the World War I, the delivery of engines across Europe was close to the edge. This prompted the company to design its own powertrain. An engine designed by the Swedes has borrowed something from Moto-Reve, something from Harley-Davidson and a lot of from Indian, which was the most advanced engine of those days. A 500 cc double-cylinder flathead V-engine with capacity of 11 h.p. had cast-iron cylinders with nonremovable cylinder heads, a magneto ignition system and a segregated oil lubrication system. The machine had a chain drive, a hand shifted three-speed gearbox and a foot-operated clutch which was typical for American bikes of those days (now such a configuration is called suicide clutch, suicide shifter or jockey shifter). It should be noted that sever climate conditions of the North Europe and Russia facilitated engineers to take & copy the American designs (not European) and American margins of safety & capacity. Even Volvo has some signs of an American influence.

The manufacturing of own designed V-twin bikes started in 1919. For the next 10 years, these machines formed the basis of Husqvarna’s lineup. At this, the design of engine, chassis and electric components continued to be refined; the engine capacity increased to 15 h.p., but the displacement remained the same (550 cc).

In the late 1920s, the company management decided to widen the lineup of two-wheeled motor vehicles. The catalogue of 1930 listed nine models but only one (550 cc double-cylinder) was equipped with an engine designed by Husqvarna. All other having displacement from 175 to 500 cc were equipped with one-cylinder engines designed by British companies. Gradually, imported engines were replaced by own ones. A 500 cc one-cylinder engine designed by the Swedes in 1930s was so good that machines equipped with this engine had been winning motocross competitions until the early 1960s.

By 1933, the Husqvarna lineup got a new flagship – model 120. The new model had double-cylinder V-engine and retained the main features of a 550 cc model: it was a flathead engine with a 50° angle between cast-iron cylinders. The displacement was increased to 990 cc which resulted in 26 h.p. at 3,500 rpm. All engine systems were also upgraded. Lubrication system (dry sump) got a finned oil tank installed before the crankcase. The crankcase and a big silencer were finned too. Igniting was implemented using a 30 W magdyno by Bosch.

Torque transmission was implemented via a chain going to the hand shifted three-speed gearbox. An engine was installed onto the steel pipe frame, which had a rigid rear suspension. The front fork is parallelogram fork with a spring inside the housing. The dashboard was installed on the petrol tank. The bike was distinguishable by excellent finishing and high quality assembling. It must be said that such an attitude to products manufactured is typical for a weapons company. The machine could be completed with a sidecar for a passenger or cargo. There was a modification – model 130 with brake and change-gear levers swapped.

Back then, Husqvarna was known only to the Swedes. In order to gain international recognition, the company started designing a special racing motorcycle with a 500 cc displacement. This is the bike on which Gunnar Källén became a European champion. But, it hadn’t any effect on export growth (Husqvarna made it to the international market by 1960s). So, in 1936, the company management made a fateful decision: to continue manufacturing only machines that are most demanded in Sweden that are bikes equipped with two-stroke low-displacement engines. This was the end of a Swedish V-twin.

Manufacturer Husqvarna Vapenfabriks AB, Husqvarna, Sweden
Years of manufacture 1932-1936
Quantity produced, units N/A
Price 1950 Swedish kronor
Today’s value N/A
Type V-twin, 4-stroke
Engine capacity, cc 990
Bore and stroke, mm 79 х 101
Engine rating 26 hp at 3500 rpm
Sparking Bosch
Carburetor 1 unit
Battery 6 V
Clutch Single-plate, dry
Transmission 3-speed
Frame type Steel tubular
Front suspension Telescopic
Rear suspension Telescopic
Brakes Drum type
Wheel size 4,00 х 19
Length, mm
2 210
Width, mm
Height, mm
    1 025
Wheelbase, mm
1 495
Ground clearance, mm
Seat height, mm
Mass, kg
Gas tank size, l
Maximum speed, km/h
Range, km N/A