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.
Much of the reason for this is that too many Servi-cars have been cannibalized over the years. Parts such as gas tanks, oil tanks, and front ends have been scavenged for Harley Panheads, 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 trike motor with a frame and extra parts. The engine case number (61G-XXXX) revealed it was a 1961 Harley trike, and I got the idea that if I could buy it for the right price, I could build 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. After bringing everything home, I sorted through everything, and was able to sell enough of the unwanted parts to get back what I had initially laid out.
The next step was locating and buying the major parts that were missing. After a bit of hunting, I found a rear axle with wheels, drums, and backing plates. The seller (who was in Florida) was willing to negotiate a little.
Read: Rebuild Servi-car Rear Axle
Considering it's over a half-century old, the Servi-car frame was in great shape. Looks like it was never repaired and all the tabs and mounts were still there.
Read: Servi-Car Frame Identification and Inspection
Harley Flathead 45 Motor
Harley trikes produced from 1932 to 1973 were powered by a 45ci flathead engine. I fabricated a simple engine stand and went over the motor top to bottom, which included splitting the cases and checking the bottom end.
Read: DIY Motorcycle Engine Stand
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-wheeled models, and is really undersized for a 900-pound vehicle. Second, although the rear brakes work well, there is a lot of extra weight on them.
Read: Servi-Car Rear Brakes
Servi-Car Front End
I did not have a front end, which would be the same as found on Big Twins. Trouble was, to find and buy a good used one, I'd be competing with Panhead restorers, who generally have a much higher budget.
As an alternative, I installed a Wide-Glide front end which I found locally. It's not correct for a Servi-car, but it will allow me to run a front disc brake. And because of it's additional length, it gives the trike a less "squatty" look.
Read: Wide Glide Conversion
Harley 45 Drivetrain
Harley 45 transmissions are different than big flathead and big-twin units; they have the output shaft and chains on opposite sides. Servi-car transmissions have a reverse gear, and also use a different kickstart extension and side-cover than 45 solo models.
I found a fresh rebuilt three-speed w/reverse transmission on ebay. Shipping would have been costly, so I took another trip, this time to Virginia (one state away). While I was there, the seller offered me some Harley 45 engine parts, which he was willing to part with for reasonable prices.
All year Servi-cars 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 and follow the same procedures. Some Servi riders switch 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 require 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 "curve" to allow for differences between sprockets.
Servi-car Gas/Oil Tanks
For more than a year, I looked for a set of original Servi-car gas/oil tanks on ebay. I watched and bid on several rusted and 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
Good luck had me 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 took me from North Carolina to Louisiana and back. Once back home, untold hours were spent sanding the inside and outside of the box 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. So for those of us needing an exhaust system, there's not many choices.