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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-car frames have been cut apart to make custom trikes, solo flatheads and WL clone bikes.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car restoration

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 (61G-XXXX) 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 into my truck and drove out 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. And so began my Harley Servi-car restoration.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car parts

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

The Harley-Davidson flathead 45 motor was one of the Motor Company's most durable designs. Displacing 45 cubic-inches (750cc), the engine was so simple and 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

read Flathead 45 Engine Build

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.

After bringing my Servi-car project home, I spent 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. Servi-car transmissions use a different kickstart extension and side-cover than 45 solo models.

Servi-car transmission

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

motorcycle covers for your classic bike

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Several more months went by before I found a Servi-car rear axle with the correct drums and backing plates.

read Rebuild Rear Axle

Servi-Car Brakes

I have heard 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 Servi-Car Rear Brakes

A short while later, I came across a used Wide-Glide front end on CL. It's not correct for a Servi-car, but it was in good shape and it was a good price. It will also allow me to run a front 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. Some Servi riders have switched 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 popular, I decided to run 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 nearly 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.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car Gas/Oil tanks

read Servi-Car Gas/Oil Tanks

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.

Harley-Davidson Servi-car cargo box

The Servi cargo box in the picture above had been in storage since the eighties and was completely original when I bought it in 2014.

read Cargo Box and Fenders

Harley-Davidson Servi-car project

Servi-car Electrical System

I decided to upgrade from 6-volt to a 12-volt system. The big expense was the Cycle-Electric generator.

Servi-car restoration

read Servi-Car History