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The Royale Treatment and an Early Harley-Davidson Servi-Car

The lucky owner of this impressive Reo Royale was the recipient of the kind of service that we can only imagine today. This 1931 photograph appears to depict the return of the big sedan from a service appointment to the owner’s substantial Pasadena home, dubbed “Villa Alegre” or “joyous country house”. Indeed, we think that both the car and the house are two very good reasons for the man who owned them to be quite happy. Near as we can tell, the rider and the Harley-Davidson Servi-Car on the tow bar come from a Reo dealership on Fair Oaks Avenue, also in Pasadena. Route 66 passes along a section of Fair Oaks Avenue as it heads toward South Pasadena.

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Back in those days, it was not uncommon for an automobile agency to pick up a busy customer’s car at his home or business and return it when they had completed the work. To do this, employees would run out to where the car was located on a trike, hook on to the car (in this case with a clamp-on bumper hitch) and drive back to the shop with the motorcycle in tow. The process was reversed for delivery. Newly purchased cars were also sometimes delivered to a customer in a similar manner. Below are a few pages from a 1932 Servi-Car brochure which describe this intended use in more detail and shows towing equipment somewhat different from the set up in our photos.

                

Most Servi-Cars were powered by the Harley 45 cubic inch V-twin, but this one appears to have one of the H-D 30.5 cubic inch single cylinder powerplants installed. Our research also tells us that the Servi-Car debuted in 1932, yet this one carries a 1931 tag leading us to believe that it was a very early model. We invite our readers to tell us what they might know about this smaller engine and it’s use in the Harley utility vehicle.

Photographs courtesy of the Huntington Library. Servi-Car brochure pages courtesy of DM45Homepage.com

8 responses to “The Royale Treatment and an Early Harley-Davidson Servi-Car

  1. Location of this photo: Villa Alegre 1021 Oak Lawn Avenue South Pasadena Ca. “Built as the residence of John Henry Meyer, Esq., near Pasadena Cal.” The image at the following link has two automobiles, one may be the same as in the image above.

    http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15799coll170/id/20230/rec/67440

    Villa Alegre was also featured in Architectural Record July 1922 pages 25 to 30 and 35, but without the automobiles.
    This link might work.

    • Try the link to Architectural Record July 1922 again. There a number of photos and plans showing how the architect laid out the drives and grounds at Villa Alegre for the automobile. There is a separate detached garage where the staff probably kept the automobiles.

      http://books.google.com/books?id=vxgsAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA28&lpg=PA28&dq=“John+Henry+Meyer””pasadena”&source=bl&ots=8Ik4_rSh7y&sig=103TyAsj6kseO4c_oHCYJYEyWRE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=GB2dUdi9GoHXygGaiYCwBA&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=”John Henry Meyer””pasadena”&f=false

      • tinindian, great finds. I google-mapped it and Zillowed it, yep it’s there. Looks very much the same! Retained circular driveway and “z” shape to home.

        Zillow has it as built in 1920, and worth $4.6 M.

        However, I have the address as 1021 Oak Grove, not Oak Lawn….

        • One other interesting point. As per the architectural records that TI shared with us and comparing to Zillow and G-maps entries, interesting to see that the property was divided at some point, and the massive rear gardens becoming someone else’s property, the pool re-established just next to the lawn. What appears to have been the massive garage accessed by a long driveway now looks like it belongs to the rear house. It’s the building (that looks like a house) right off Canon. This later house was built in 1956. Cannot imagine why the amazing property was divided besides possibly the need for money.

  2. The terminology from this era has carried into the present even though the service has changed drastically. As a 40+ year veteran of the auto business, we still call a car ‘delivered’ whenever a customer picks it up, whether it is a new purchase of in for repairs. Of course, we seldom actually deliver them anymore, but the term remains.

  3. Nice photo of Harley’s Servi-Car cycle being used. duPont Motors I was told had an Indian Motocycle setup the same way for service calls to any of the local duPont owners of the Wilmington area.
    I’ve never been able to find any photos of that paticular motorcycle, but will keep looking. Allen Carter, who had served as Cheif Mechanic for dP Motors became an Indian Dealer in the 1930’s and kept many of the duPont family cars alive for many years. Virtually past his 100th birthday.
    Thanks, STAN

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