Servi-Car Exhaust (and why getting parts is so frustrating)
Text and Pictures by Mark Trotta
One of the most time-consuming tasks of restoring an old motorcycle is finding quality parts at a decent price. And it's frustrating when a company advertises the part you need, but doesn't really have it.
Harley 45 Exhaust
After finishing the Harley 45 engine build, I needed an exhaust system for my 1961 Servi-car. I was looking for one that wasn't a Chinese copy. The only U.S. made exhaust I could find advertised were Harley 45 drag pipes made by Paughco.
Having no luck finding any other U.S. made exhaust, I decided to buy a set of 45 drag pipes and install them as a temporary measure. I didn't foresee any problems, as a Google search showed several different companies offering them for sale.
I went to J&P Cycle's website, navigated to the drag pipes and clicked, "Buy Now". They were out of stock. So I went directly to the manufacturer's website (Paughco). The pipes were also out of stock with no expected arrival date.
Companies Will Advertise Parts They Don't Have
This situation is not uncommon. Companies will advertise a part, but really don't have them. They want you to click the "contact me when this part arrives" button and then wait patiently. What they're counting on is enough requests to justify the cost of putting the part into production.
I went back to the seller's website and clicked the "contact me when this part arrives" button. And then I waited.
Three months later, after no response, I tried emailing the manufacturer directly. Their reply was, "These pipes will be back in production in a few months."
Another several months go by, and I get an email from the seller saying my parts were in stock. I called on the phone to order them and was told, "There was some sort of mistake, these parts aren't available. I don't know why we emailed you."
Six months later, still no word on availability. I sent another email to the manufacturer, and got the same response as before; the pipes will be back in production in a few months.
One Year Later
Early in 2019, a Google search of "Servi-Car Exhaust" still brought up the same seller and manufacturer that didn't have the parts last year, although they're on top of the search page. They're coming up first, but they still don't have the parts.
So I scrolled a little further down, and saw a motorcycle parts company I had not heard of before that advertises American-made motorcycle parts.
Gas Box Motorcycle Parts
Based in the State of Ohio, Gas Box manufactures and sells custom bike parts, including vintage and hard-to-find motorcycle exhaust systems. After a few emails back and forth with the owner, he confirmed that both front and rear Servi-car exhaust sections were in stock and ready to ship. I ordered the exhaust, and within days they were at my doorstep.
- rear muffler assembly - replaces original Harley #65220-51
- rear cylinder pipe - replaces original Harley #65490-41
- front to rear pipe - replaces original Harley #65456-51
Chrome vs Raw Steel
The Gas Box parts are reproductions of 1951-1973 Harley-Davidson Servi-car exhaust. They are offered in two qualities, raw steel or chrome. As we all know, chrome holds in heat, so steel exhaust is the better choice for your engine.
Before you paint the pipes, fit them to the bike first. These are not "bolt on" parts. They'll need some twisting and turning to get the front and rear cylinder pipes to line up properly. After I got them to fit together, I took the pipes off, cleaned them thoroughly, and sprayed them with black engine paint.
Servi-Car Exhaust Mounting Kit
The Gas Box Servi-car rear section included one clamp only, and they do not offer any other clamps or hangers. I bought an exhaust hanger clamp and bracket kit from 45 Restoration in New York, who sell 45 Solo and Servi-car parts. Their clamp kit part # is 65200-51, and fits 1950-1973 Servi-Cars. These brackets and clamps come parkerized, so there is no need to paint them unless you want to.
No matter how much I extended, twisted, and turned the front and rear exhaust sections, I could not get the rear hanger to line up. It was short by two inches, so I had to make an additional bracket to make up the difference.
Included in the exhaust mounting kit was the vertical bracket for the front of the muffler section. This is the piece that originally bolts to the back of the battery box. Since I'm not using a battery box (my battery is in the cargo box) I had to fabricate an outer clamp to make this hanger work.
Overall Fit And Finish
The price of the Gas Box replica exhaust was not much more than the Chinese knock offs, so naturally I was skeptical of the quality. But as you can see in the picture below, the welds and fitment are very good. All parts are proudly made in the U.S.A.
Overall, I'm satisfied with the Gas Box Servi-car exhaust. The quality is good, and the shipping was two days to me (Ohio to North Carolina). Although the fitting was awkward, it wasn't a major deal to correct.
Summer 2019 Update
I was just on J and P's website looking for some Ironhead Sportster parts, and out of curiosity, checked on the drag pipes. It's been over a year now, and they're still on back-order.
Hopefully my experiences getting parts will help other classic bike enthusiasts from a headache or two. It is always to your benefit to spend time shopping around, emailing companies, reading forums, and googling reviews before ordering parts. You'll be saving yourself time, money, and grief.