An Entertaining & Informative Vintage Automobile Internet Magazine

The Cycletow – Streamlining Automotive Service in Hollywood, California

  • ct1
  • A 1932 Packard Convertible Coupe and a Harley-Davidson Single with a Cycletow conversion ready for the trip to a service facility

We all know how time consuming it is to get routine maintenance or repairs done on a car and to arrange the details to drop one off and pick it up afterwards. Albert L. Hess knew that if he could come up with an economical way for one man to pick up and deliver a car, it would be feasible for dealerships and garages to contract for its use to save their customers time.

The photos in this post, all date to 1932 and were used for promoting the Cycletow for picking up and delivering cars by Cycletow Service Ltd. in the exclusive Hollywood, California area. Some car dealers and garages may have bought and operated their own units as it appears that did Ziegler Oldsmobile did.

  • ct2
  • “Cycle and Automotive Trade Journal” February, 1931

Hess filed the first of three patent applications for a Towable Cycle on December 11, 1929, which was granted on August 25, 1931. It used a split and hinged beam axle and wheel and suspension assemblies that folded up and back on an angle. Either forgings or castings were used for the axle halves and the coil sprung wheel spindles. This design would have been quite expensive to manufacture and may have been abandoned for that reason.

On February 10, 1930, Hess filed a second patent application for an Auxiliary wheel attachment for cycles. In this new design a fold-down lower A-arm was used on each side along with a single upper link and the wheel assembly. A second lockable and angled folding link served to locate the assembly on either side when lowered for use. This version was easier to fabricate out of mostly standard dimensional steel shapes.

ct6

The photos above and below clearly show the construction of the second version of the Cycletow. The pick up points for the lower A-arm can be seen above in the photo with the wheels in the retracted position. The left-hand photo below shows the attachment folded down, and the machine hitched up to a 1932 Chevrolet Sedan. The right-hand photo below shows a unit at a Ford and Lincoln agency in the Los Angeles area behind a Model “A” Ford Sedan.

ct8     ct9     ct10

The center photo above shows an article that appeared in the Cycle and Automotive Trade Journal, July 1931 issue showing the Cycletow along with its competitors: Indian had come out with its Dispatch-Tow unit, a trike with a covered box; Harley-Davidson had also added the Servi-Car to its product lineup late in 1931; the American Austin was also being used at the time for the same purpose.

ct3      ct4      ct5

The patent drawings above are for the Towable motorcycle, the third and final patent filed for on September 1, 1932, by Albert L. Hess, it was granted on August 38, 1933. An example of it can be seen below outside of a Packard agency.

This version could be used in two different configurations. The center drawing above shows it in the position used when it was being towed with the drive wheel off of the ground. The left-hand drawing above and the photo below show it in the riding mode also including an added toolbox.

ct15

Unable to find any other details about the Cycletow or Cycletow Corp Ltd. other than what is seen here, we would tend to think that the enterprise may have been short-lived. Both H-D and Indian had also entered this same market, at about the same time with the Servi-Car and the Dispatch-Tow.

The motorcycle companies may have captured this market with machines that did the same thing and more, and at a cost that might have been about the same as Albert L. Hess’s invention. Let us know if you can add anything more to the story. The photos are courtesy of the USC Libraries.

6 responses to “The Cycletow – Streamlining Automotive Service in Hollywood, California

  1. Great story, thanks. Reminds me… In the ’70s I worked in a dealership that had a Harley Servi-Car (45 CID three-wheeler with trunk) with a clamp-on tow bar for pickup and delivery. It fadn’t been used for that purpose in years, but it still sat in a back room. It seems they were rather popular at one time, but I believe they were done in by modern car bumper designs and the lack of weather protection.

  2. As advertised in The Scarsdale Inquirer Friday December 19, 1930:

    Packard Presents The Man in White Courtesy Service
    The Packard Westchester Company announces the inauguration of its most recent advance in the interests of the Packard Owner- The Packard Courtesy Service “Cycletow.”

Leave a Reply to tinindian Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *