Husq­varna 118

Most of us can re­call that mag­i­cal mo­ment when we first saw the bike of our dreams, for me it was an Au­gust day in the early six­ties when I wit­nessed Mike Hail­wood on his howl­ing MV Agusta win the main race at Thrux­ton on the Ital­ian ‘fire en­gine’.

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos Andy West­lake

Lit­tle Swede

How­ever for a young lad from Devon it was one when he at­tended his first mo­tocross meet­ing where he both saw and heard a scream­ing two stroke with the name of Husq­varna on the petrol tank.

Re­splen­dent in its gleam­ing red and sil­ver paint­work on its slim petrol tank and pur­pose­ful high rise si­lencer the teenage Richard Tup­man was hooked and forty five years later he now has six of the Swedish off road­ers all rub­bing han­dle­bars in his South Devon work­shop.

Men­tion the name Husq­varna and most of us will con­jure up a men­tal im­age of the fab­u­lous V twin four stroke raced by Stan­ley Woods in the 1934 TT or if you’re a mo­tocross buff the big lusty sin­gles cam­paigned by Bill Nils­son and Rolf Tib­blin in the early ‘six­ties. How­ever it is the light­weight two strokes with rid­ers like Torsten Hall­man, Bent Aberg and Heikki Mikkola in the sad­dle which dom­i­nated off road events win­ning 14 world Moro­cross ti­tles dur­ing the next two decades that lit the mag­i­cal touch pa­per for Richard Tup­man. With an ever bur­geon­ing col­lec­tion of ‘Husky’s’ which in­cludes a very rare 390cc au­to­matic and a sim­i­lar ca­pac­ity six speed endure, he has re­cently ob­tained a rather hum­ble 118cc two stroke model 24 road bike made in 1948 – cer­tainly not a refugee from the race track but one which of­fered per­sonal trans­port to thou­sands of peo­ple in those harsh, aus­tere post war years. Other than a good clean with an oily rag Richard hasn’t had to do any restora­tion to the lit­tle two stroke since he bought it in 2017.

Based in the town which shares its name Husq­varna wasn’t all about mak­ing mo­tor­cy­cles as the com­pany was formed back in 1689 mak­ing firearms and it wasn’t un­til 1903 that the first two wheeler ap­peared. These were pow­ered by im­ported FN and Moto Reve en­gines but with sales tak­ing off Husq­varna de­cided it was time to man­u­fac­ture their own power units and by 1918 were pro­duc­ing mo­tor­cy­cles made en­tirely in house. Just be­fore the on­set of the sec­ond World War they pro­duced their first two stroke in the form of the 98cc model 301 and at the end of hos­til­i­ties the first model 24 Swartk­varna ap­peared. Sales of the lit­tle bike in the home mar­ket were good and by the be­gin­ning of the 1950s Husq­varna of­fered a range of ten dif­fer­ent two stroke road­sters.

“On leav­ing school I got a job as an ap­pren­tice me­chanic at Teign Val­ley Mo­tor­cy­cles in Torquay,” says Richard, “and through them I at­tended my in­au­gu­ral mo­tocross meet­ing where I spied my first Husq­varna. I de­cided to jour­ney up to DMX Mo­tor­cy­cles at Liver­ton, the lo­cal Husq­varna agents to view their bikes. They had around a dozen or so of the Swedish two strokes lined up in a huge old chicken shed but as the list price of a new Husky was around £1,200 and at that time I was on ap­pren­tice money of £11 a week I had con­tent my­self with a colour brochure, in­ci­den­tally it’s a brochure I’ve still got. I had to wait much later in life be­fore I got my first Husky but in the next forty five years I’ve owned and rid­den many Bri­tish, Euro­pean and Ja­panese bikes but I’m al­ways look­ing for Husq­var­nas to add to my col­lec­tion and when I hap­pened to see the model 24 ad­ver­tised on eBay I put in a bid and won it. I’ve since dis­cov­ered that al­though around 70,000

of the lit­tle two strokes were made in the early to mid-fifties none were ever im­ported to the UK.”

The bike was be­ing sold on be­half of the late John Richard­son by his son Rob and later I spoke to Rob who told me how he ob­tained the model 24 in the mid-seven­ties. “My dad was a great lover of all things to do with mo­tor­cy­cles and along with fel­low Craw­ley club mem­ber Brian Leask took part in many as­pects of lo­cal sport. He was very friendly with Brian – who for many years was the Husq­varna im­porter in the UK – and of­ten used to pop into his shop for a chat. One day – just be­fore Brian was clos­ing up and mov­ing to New Zealand – dad spot­ted an old light­weight mo­tor­cy­cle lined up to go in the scrap bin. It tran­spired that some years ear­lier a Swedish teenager had been tour­ing on it in the UK when it had suf­fered a se­ri­ous break­down and with no spares avail­able he had left it with Brian Leask who had sold him an­other, more mod­ern ma­chine to com­plete his jour­ney on. Dad de­cided it was an ideal ma­chine to re­store so with Brian’s bless­ing it was loaded into his van and taken back home. Af­ter lan­guish­ing in the Leask out­build­ing for many years it was in­cred­i­bly rough and there were sev­eral parts- like the rear mud­guard, tool­box, Bake­lite pump, ig­ni­tion and cen­tre stand – miss­ing but dad was not one to let this daunt him and thanks to Husky en­thu­si­asts in Swe­den and auto-jum­bles he man­aged to ob­tain them all. I re­call he re­built the en­gine with a new pis­ton but had to make the oil seals from leather and felt, and it took many hours work­ing out how the girder front forks went back to­gether. It took him sev­eral years be­fore it was up and run­ning again but in his late years he’d been forced to hang up his hel­met and rid­ing gear so his joy was in get­ting the lit­tle bike work­ing and back on the road again. Sadly dad died in 2017 but he was a great be­liever that bikes were for ‘rid­ing not hid­ing’ and he would be over­joyed that the lit­tle Husq­varna had gone to such an en­thu­si­as­tic new owner in Richard Tup­man.”

The last time I rode a Husq­varna it was a six speed 390cc en­duro and as I quickly found out the 118cc model 24 is a very dif­fer­ent beast to the com­pe­ti­tion sin­gle. Start­ing from cold just re­quired some flood­ing of the small Amal car­bu­ret­tor and clo­sure of the air re­stric­tor fol­lowed by a prod on the for­ward mounted kick starter to bring the lit­tle en­gine burst­ing into life. The ex­haust note through the long black painted si­lencer was not un­like that of an early BSA Ban­tam and like the bike from Small Heath, the Husq­varna has a three speed gear­box but with a hand op­er­at­ing lever mounted on the right side of the petrol tank. With first gear en­gaged – the clutch is ex­tremely light – a de­cent amount of throt­tle had rider and ma­chine on the move but it took a while to get use to bal­anc­ing the revs be­fore eas­ing in the clutch lever and chang­ing gear. The 118cc two stroke is re­ported at turn­ing out around 3BHP which on the flat gives a top speed of around 35mph, but the lit­tle en­gine is sur­pris­ingly torquey. With a curb weight of only 70kg (154lbs) the model 24 is cer­tainly a light­weight but even for a big rider it’s sur­pris­ingly spa­cious and all of the con­trols fell eas­ily to hand, the sin­gle sad­dle is well padded – there’s no sus­pen­sion on the rear – and the four inch brakes are prob­a­bly best de­scribed as ‘ad­e­quate’.

Un­like the young Swedish en­thu­si­ast who brought the bike to the UK on a lengthy tour fifty years ago Richard’s out­ings will be lim­ited to trips to the lo­cal bike nights on the South Devon sea front where you can guar­an­tee the lit­tle Husq­varna will at­tract plenty of at­ten­tion. It’s prob­a­bly the only ex­am­ple in the UK and is a lit­tle gem of Swedish engineerin­g.

Pressed steel girder forks.

ABOVE 118cc en­gine pumps out a lusty 3.5 horse­power. TOP CEN­TRE No dual seats here. TOP RIGHT Ban­tam-like si­lencer. ABOVE CEN­TRE Tiny brakes have lit­tle weight to pull up. BE­LOW RIGHT Owner Richard Tup­man en­joy­ing the Model 24.

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