Text and Pictures by Mark Trotta
Not too long ago, Harley-Davidson Servi-cars were easy to find and cheap to buy. Today, if you can find one that hasn't been butchered and actually runs and drives, it'll set you back as much as a vintage Shovelhead.
Part of the reason for this is many Servi-cars have been butchered over the years. Parts such as front ends and gas and oil tanks have been scavenged for Panhead bikes, and frames have been cut apart to make custom trikes or Harley 45 clone bikes.
In 2014, I was searching for a new motorcycle project. I saw an ad on ebay for a Harley 45 motor with a frame and extra parts. The engine case number (61G-XXXX) told me it was a 1961 Harley trike, and I got the idea that if I could buy it for the right price, I could restore a Servi-car from the frame up.
Shortly after winning the bid, I hopped into my truck and drove from North Carolina to Kentucky to pick up the engine, frame, and parts. Included with the purchase was several mismatched wheels, incorrect gas tanks, and boxes of assorted Harley parts. I was able to sell enough of the unwanted parts to get back what I had initially laid out.
After bringing everything home, I started locating and buying parts that were missing. I found a rear axle with wheels, drums, and backing plates on ebay. The seller (who was in Florida) was willing to negotiate a little.
Read: Rebuild Servi-car Rear Axle
Considering it's now a half-century old, the Servi-car frame was in great shape. Looks like it was never repaired and all the tabs and mounts are still there.
Read: Prep and Paint Frame
Harley Flathead 45 Motor
All original Harley trikes produced from 1932 to 1973 were powered by the 45ci flathead engine. I went over the motor top to bottom, including splitting the cases and checking the bottom end.
I welded up a simple Harley Big-Twin/Flathead engine stand.
Read: DIY Motorcycle Engine Stand
Read: Flathead 45 Engine Build
I have heard from several old Harley trike riders that original Servi-Car drum brakes are marginal at best. There are two reasons for this. First, the front drum is shared with two-wheel Big-Twins, and is under-sized for a 900-pound vehicle Second, although the rear brakes work well, there is a lot of weight on them.
Read: Servi-Car Rear Brakes
I found a used Wide-Glide front end on CL. It's not correct for a Servi-car, but it will allow me to run a front disc brake. And because of it's length, it gives the trike a less "squatty" look, which I like.
Read: Wide Glide Front End
Harley 45 Drivetrain
Servi-car transmissions are different than big-twin units; they have the output shaft and chains on opposite sides. Additionally, Servi-car transmissions use a different kickstart extension and side-cover than 45 solo models.
I found a fresh rebuilt 3-speed w/reverse transmission on ebay. Shipping would have been costly so I drove to the next state to pick it up (NC to VA). While I was there, the seller offered me some Harley 45 engine parts, which he was willing to part with for reasonable prices.
All Servi-car models were foot-clutch/hand-shift. Most were left-side shift, but some (mainly Police models) were right-side-shift.
A year passed before the engine was rebuilt and back on the frame, then it was time to assemble the drivetrain. All 1941-1973 Harley 45 models are basically the same. Some Servi riders have switched to a bigger-tooth gear, but I chose to keep the stock 22-tooth motor sprocket.
Read: Servi-car Drivetrain
Chain-drive vs Belt-drive
Although belt-drive conversions are available, I kept the stock primary chain for several reasons. First, belt drives need a very precise alignment. The flanges on belt-drive pulleys are not intended to guide the belt. If alignment is not precise, the belt will use the pulley flanges as guides, which will wear out the belt prematurely. Second, primary chains are much more forgiving - they will still work well even with a fair amount of discrepancy in location. A chain will also "curve" to allow for differences between transmissions.
Servi-car Gas/Oil Tanks
For over a year, I looked for a set of original Servi-car gas/oil tanks on ebay. I watched and bid on several rusted, dented, original Harley tanks, all of which eventually sold for $900 or higher. Finally, I bought an aftermarket set for half the price.
Read: Servi-Car Gas/Oil Tanks
My biggest stroke of luck was finding an original Servi cargo box, which had been in storage for over 30 years. It even had the original wood floor intact.
Picking up the Servi-car box was my longest parts trip (NC to LA). Once back home, it took untold hours to sand the inside and outside down to bare metal before repainting.
Read: Cargo Box and Fenders
"A Servi-car box is never empty."
The Servi-Car electrical system was the last major part of the restoration. Because the trike was missing most of the electrics, there was really no extra expense for me to upgrade from 6-volts to a 12-volts.
Read: Custom-Wire Harley Servi-Car
I saved myself a lot of hassle and installed a Cycle Electric generator/regulator.
Read: Harley Generator - Repair or Replace?
Read: Harley 45 Timer And Ignition
Harley-Davidson did not make a lot of Servi-Cars, and there's not many left out there. That's why there are so few choices for those of us needing an exhaust system.