Classic Motorcycle Build

Servi-Car Restoration

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.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car restoration

Much of the reason for this is that too 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.

The Purchase

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.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car parts

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.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car axle rebuild

Read: Rebuild Servi-car Rear Axle

Servi-car Frame

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-Davidson Servi-car frame

Harley Flathead 45 Motor

Harley trikes produced from 1932 to 1973 were powered by a 45ci flathead engine. I welded up a simple Harley Big-Twin/Flathead engine stand and went over the motor top to bottom, which included splitting the cases and checking the bottom end.

motorcycle engine build

Read: DIY Motorcycle Engine Stand

DIY motorcycle engine stand

Read: Flathead 45 Engine Build

Servi-Car Brakes

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

Wide Glide conversion

I found a used Wide-Glide front end 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 length, it gives the trike a less "squatty" look, which I like.

Read: Wide Glide Front End

Servi-car build

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.

Servi-car transmission

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.

Servi-car models were foot-clutch/hand-shift. Most were left-side shift, but some (mainly Police models) were right-side-shift.

Servi-car shifter

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.

Servi-car restoration

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.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car Gas/Oil tanks

Read: Servi-Car Gas/Oil Tanks

Servi-car Box

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.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car cargo box

Picking up the Servi-car box was my longest trip (North Carolina to Louisana). Once back home, it took untold hours to sand the inside and outside down to bare metal before repainting.

Read: Cargo Box and Fenders

Harley-Davidson Servi-car restoration

"A Servi-car box is never empty."

Harley-Davidson Servi-car cargo box

Electrical System

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.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car restoration

Read: Custom-Wire Harley Servi-Car

I saved myself a lot of hassle and installed a Cycle Electric generator/regulator.

Servi-car restoration

Read: Harley Generator - Repair or Replace?

Harley 45 igntion timer

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.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car exhaust

Read: Servi-Car Exhaust And Why Getting Parts Is So Frustrating

Harley 45 oil pump repair

Read: Harley 45 Scavenger Oil Pump Repair