Tag Archives: Harley-Davidson
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.
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.
Most of you are probably familiar with the Crosley and King Midget mini-cars that enjoyed a brief period of popularity in this country following World War II, but cycle cars and “baby” cars, have been around since the very beginning of the Automobile Age. Voiturettes enjoyed a racing class of their own in Europe both before and after the First War, and proved popular as economical road transportation as well. Photo (above) appears to have been shot at a bicycle racing track that was in France.
The first two cars pictured here today fall more into the category of novelties, although they appear to be very finely crafted. According to writer Robert Cunningham the two might be the work of “Bird Boy” Art Smith, a pioneer aviator who contracted with the Perkins and Magini motorcycle shop in San Francisco to build several dozen copies of his design. They specced out at less than 30 inches high at the cowl and rolled on a 60 inch wheelbase with a 40 inch track. With V-twin motorcycle power, they were said to be capable of 60 miles per hour. Some earlier cars of the same type can be seen in these previous posts on The Old Motor The latter features racing great Ralph De Palma posed behind the wheel of one. The photo (above) was taken in Boston by Leslie Jones and it was reported that the driver later died in a “Loop the Loop” accident in Maine.
This last one was built by the future automotive writer and publisher Floyd Clymer in Denver, Colorado in 1920. Driven by Hart Hueraine “Hal” Bowman (pictured behind the wheel) in 1920, it was the only car of it’s type in the Midwest at the time and had to compete with the big cars on dirt ovals. Although the car’s nickname might be viewed unfavorably today, with it’s Indian V-twin power it beat the bigger cars as often as not and in fact once set a record of a thirty second lap on a half mile track.
This is the first of a series of articles about the American cyclecar and baby car phenomenon that we hope to present in the near future.
Top photo courtesy of the National Library of France. Center photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. Leslie Jones Collection © Copyright Leslie Jones. Bottom photo courtesy Bob Lawrence.