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Harley-Davidson Servi-Car: Forest Cadillac Service Rig

The Harley-Davidson Servi-Cycle, powered by a 45 c.i. V-twin engine was introduced in 1932 as the company’s new entry into the commercial market. It was aimed for use by businesses as a quick and economical means for deliveries and soon found favor in the automotive trades.

Harley-Davidson quickly added an accessory tow bar and bumper clamp for the machine as can be seen in the enlargeable image (below). A worker would drive the rig to a customers home or place of business to pick up a car scheduled for service or repair work. The tow bar for the Servi-Car was quickly attached to the bumper of the automobile and the vehicle was then driven back to the shop. After service work was completed the order was reversed, and afterward, the rider could pick up another vehicle or return to the garage.

“Motor” magazine Volume 98, published in 1952 contains an advertisement placed by Harley-Davidson that includes an endorsement by Clem Wernhoff, Service Manager at Forest Cadillac for the Servi-Car. The Dealership was located at 7033 Forsyth Boulevard in Clayton, Missouri, a suburb of Saint Louis.

View earlier articles about the H-D Servi-Car here on The Old Motor. Share with us anything you find of interest or can add to about the image courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri.

27 responses to “Harley-Davidson Servi-Car: Forest Cadillac Service Rig

  1. Seeing the painted-over, amended business name on the back of the Servi-Cycle makes me wonder. Was that dealer originally Forest Nash-Cadillac, or Forest Olds-Cadillac? I suppose Buick or Ford could’ve been possibilities as well.

    • Good question. On Pinterest, I found a shot of the dealership from a few years earlier (judging from the cars). It had the signage that the current neon sign replaced. And back then, it was still just Forest Cadillac.

    • Forest appears to have juggled Cadillac and Oldsmobile franchises throughout its existence. In November 1946 the firm advertised as Forest Cadillac-Olds. At some point during the war, Cadillac was dropped and it became Forest Oldsmobile. In January 1947, the dealership relocated to this address and became Forest Olds-Cadillac (which is what would have been painted on the Servi-Cycle pictured here). In 1951, Oldsmobile was dropped and the dealership became Forest Cadillac. It’s difficult to tell for sure, but it appears that the license plates in this photo are dated 1953. In April 1958 the dealership was sold and it became Evans Oldsmobile.

    • In the late 40’s the tail lights were integrated into the rear fender, a design first used in 1940. The separate tail light was used in the 30’s. It was square from ’35-’39. The one in the picture looks just like the one on my dad’s first car, a 1937 Chevy 2 door sedan.

  2. To the right of the ’49 BUICK is a 1951 FORD Custom Deluxe Victoria Hardtop Coupé, which almost looks like a Custom Deluxe Convertible.

  3. Interesting to see two Fords (a ’50 wagon and a ’51 convertible) in the used car lineup at a Cadillac dealership. Not many people jumped that gap.

    • Auction buys. Dealers did alot of that then as they do now. One would think those used cars would be top-shelf Olds or Buick models being a GM dealer, but perhaps they broadened their purchases to appeal to more buyers.

  4. This is probably an HD WL 45, used for later Servi-cars. Low compression flat head engines putting out about 21 HP I think. Super reliable and able to run on low octane fuel, the WL also was used in a modified version for the WLA Army bike. Although designed for use as noted above, with several variations in the rear box and combinations or lack of tow/push bars, they soon became popular for a variety of uses including for our beloved ‘meter maids’ of yore! The engine was also used in AMA Class C racing where 750cc flatheads could compete against 500cc OHV bikes, and they performed quite respectably. HD’s longest run of motor.

  5. In the early ’50’s my dad worked for Gulf Oil at one of their company owned stations. They made good use of a Harley servi-car for pickup and delivery, as well as road service calls. Still a small fry I was impressed when one day after a road call he stopped by the house with it.

    At some later date he related a tale about one of his work buddies delivering a customer’s car. Heading North on US rte #1 from Haverford rd (Phila) the fellow was traveling down hill toward Morris creek when the servi-car passed by him. The trike eventually found the curb then mounted the sidewalk and came to rest as the road goes upgrade. After a more careful hook-up was done, the mission was accomplished, and all was well. Equipment in those times could withstand some rough treatment. (For the last 20 some years the site has been a McDonalds)

  6. Hmm, not many commenting on the H-D. I grew up in Milwaukee, and the police used these extensively for traffic control and parking. I remember, they were white, but during the riots of 1967, they were all painted black. That was a tense time. The towing one behind a car was before my time.

  7. Reading the first sentence caused a question to come to mind: did Harley ever refer to the vehicle as a Servi-Cycle? As far as I’m aware, that name was unused until Simplex sold their first Servi-Cycle in 1935, but I’ll readily admit there’s a lot I don’t know about that era of motorcycles.

    • Harley-Davidson always referred to it as the Servi-Car. Steve K is correct; The Servi-Cycle was a 2 stroke machine built in New Orleans by Simplex, and is considered a ‘powercycle’; and perhaps a bit more high end than a moped, or Whizzer. Indian’s equivalent was called the Dispatch-Tow and was introduced in 1933.

  8. Later models had the storage compartment made of fiberglass in the rear but gained hydraulic forks in the front over the ancient spring forks.
    Theres always a trade-off.

  9. Two of the biggest fallacies in the automobile business then and now: “”Our service department loses money” and “You can get a better deal if there is no trade.”

  10. I worked for Master Service Stations in Salem OR. from 1950 until I got drafted in late 52. We had a Harley 3 wheeler and it worked well but later model bumpers were not compatible with the hook up so it was sold.

  11. I wonder if any of the customers balked at having a device clamped on to the massive chrome bumper of their beloved Caddy.

  12. I grew up in a small town in western Kentucky and the police force had several of these through the years. They were used for patrol duty as well as by the meter maid (only needed the one!). The father of one of my grade school buddies was a sergeant on the police force and he would take us for rides, we would stand on the rear bumper and hold on. I’m sure he never really went very fast with kids aboard but it was a great feeling to have the wind in your face going down the street.

  13. In 1954 I work for a Chevy Cadillac dealership in Thompson Georgia and we had and old 1941, Harley Davidson Servi Car, only we didn’t call it that. I was in the parts department and my job was to go out and bring customers’ cars in with the cycle attached, just like it shows in the picture, except I always centered it. Nobody ever complained about my hooking the cycle to their car. One day, when I was on my way to pick up a customer’s car. I was crossing the railroad tracks that ran through town crossing Main Street and the cycle quit right on the track! A train was coming and I was frantically jumping up-and-down on the kick starter. The old-timers, sitting up on the porch of a store, just sat there and watched me with smiles on their faces. I decided that when the train came too close, I would just have to abandon it. After, what seemed like forever, the cycle came begrudgingly back to life, and the old-timers just sat there and smiled.

  14. A buddy of mine had one of the Harley trikes that were retired from our local police force in the 80’s. I bet he’s wishing he kept it.

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