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Servi-Car Restoration

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 that the majority of original Servi frames have been cut apart to make custom trikes, solo flatheads and WL clone bikes.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car

The Purchase

In 2014, I was searching for another old bike project. I saw an ad on ebay for a Harley 45 motor, with frame and extra parts. The engine case number confirmed 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 in my truck and drove out to pick up the engine, frame, and parts. Included with the purchase was several mismatched wheels, gas and oil tanks, and boxes of assorted motorcycle parts. I was able to sell enough of the unwanted parts to get back what I had initially laid out. And so began my Harley Servi-car restoration.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car parts

Considering it's 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.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car frame

45 Flathead Motor

The Harley-Davidson flathead 45 motor was one of the Motor Company's crowning achievements. Displacing 45 cubic-inches (750cc), the design was so simple, and the engine was so reliable, it stayed in production for 38 years. All original Harley trikes produced from 1932 to 1973 were powered by the 45ci flathead engine.

Harley 45 flathead

Whatever work an old engine may need can only be determined after complete disassembly and inspection. The 45ci flathead motor was gone over top to bottom, including splitting the cases and checking the bottom end.

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After bringing my Servi-car project home, I spent the next several months locating and buying parts. My first purchase was a fresh rebuilt 3-speed w/reverse transmission found on ebay. These are different than big-twin units; the 45 trans has the primary on one side and the drive on the other side. All Servi-cars were foot-clutch/hand-shift. Most were left-side shift, but some (mainly Police models) were right-side-shift.

Servi-car transmission

Servi-car Brakes

I have learned from several old Harley trike riders that original Servi-Car brakes are marginal at best. There are two main reasons for this. First, the front drum is under-sized for a 900lb vehicle, and second, although the rear brakes work well, there is a lot of weight on them.

read Hydraulic Rear Brakes

Several months went by before I found a Servi-car axle with the correct drums, backing plates, and rear wheels. Shortly after that, I came across a Wide-Glide front end on CL. It's not correct for the Servi-car, but it was in good shape and it was a good price. It will also allow me to run a disc brake.

read Wide Glide Front End

Servi-car restoration

Harley 45 Drivetrain

After the engine was rebuilt and back on the frame, it was time to assemble the drivetrain. All 1941-1973 Harley 45 models are the basically the same. Although some Servi riders switch to a bigger-tooth gear, 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 popular, I chose to run a stock primary chain for several reasons. First, belt drives need more 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 forgiving, in that they still work well even with a fair amount of discrepancy in location. They also "curve" to allow for differences between transmissions.

Servi-car Box

From 1932 until 1941, Harley Servi-cars had either a small or large steel cargo box. In 1942, these were replaced with an one intermediate-sized steel box and was fitted on all Harley trikes until 1966. From 1967 to 1973, a fiberglass box was used. The cargo box in the picture had been in storage since the eighties and was completely original when I bought it in 2014.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car cargo box

Agenda for Servi-car Restoration:

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Servi-car restoration

read Servi-Car History