Harley-Davidson motorcycles are generally sold as luxury vehicles and carry that open road, “Easy Rider” vibe.
But, there was a time when the company had a much more practical attitude toward its product lines.
During the Great Depression, the company needed to boost sales, and came up with what it called the Servicar, a tricycle with a storage box between the rear wheels. It was marketed to auto dealers and service stations, and had a front hitch.
“They’d (repair shop) hook the bike to the back of the car, deliver the car, unhook the bike and ride the bike back to the shop,” said Ron Germadnik, 74, of Brookfield, owner of a 1951 Servicar. “They could take tools with them. They were very popular.”
Many other industries found uses for the Servicar, which was made from 1932 to 1973, including police departments, some of whom kept their models going into the ’90s.
Germadnik’s Servicar is displayed at the National Packard Museum as part of its annual motorcycle show. Unlike with past shows, this year’s edition does not carry a specific theme, instead focusing on variety, including familiar names such as Kawasaki, BMW and Triumph, to rare models such as Ariel and a limited-edition Buell racing bike.
“Fantastic show,” said Germadnik, who has contributed bikes to the Packard show five times. “There’s a ’72 (Harley-Davidson) Sportster over there, green. That one is really nice. And, the ’55 (Harley-Davidson) KHK. That’s a rare piece. The Ariel up there. That’s a nice piece. The Triumph is fantastic, that green Triumph over there. There’s some beautiful bikes here. There’s a Cushman over there; I had one of them at one time.”
Germadnik bought his Servicar from friends in Mecca, and spent 10 years collecting parts for a restoration.
“They’re so hard to find, Servicar parts,” he said.
“When I started the restoration, I took the fenders off and I stripped the fenders, and I found out the fenders were air-cooled – rust holes everywhere,” Germadnik quipped.
The bike had once belonged to a body shop and “everything (was) filled in with Bondo (body-filling putty). I scrapped the fenders, and the box had a lot of Bondo and fiberglass in it. It had feature lines that were pretty close, so I left it alone and lived with it. I restored the bike and a year later I found a reproduction box, brand new. Beautiful metal work on it. It was made at GM’s plant in Detroit. Things you could bring home in your lunch box; it’s amazing. They did a fantastic job. I paid $1,000 for the box and took it back. I couldn’t believe it. The holes were all pre-drilled and the fenders bolted right on, all the accessory parts and everything bolted right in place.”
Germadnik sold the original box and “almost got enough to pay for the new box.”
The bike took about two years to restore.
“Pretty much done with it,” he said. “I would love to find a better (box) lid for it.”
“I ride it quite a bit. It’s a good little runner. You don’t go far with it. It’s good for 65 mph at the most.”
Germadnik had a welding shop in the ’60s, and helped to customize bikes to make them into choppers, bikes with extended front ends. In the fall of 1969, he bought his first Harley, a 1955 panhead-engine model. He has bought, sold and restored dozens of bikes over the years, but keeps a collection of 19, most of them now restored.
“I was always the big twin (engine) type guy,” he said. “I always like the big twins and fooled around with the antique ’45s, the little flat heads.”
“I’m finishing my collection. I got a real nice collection, and I don’t want to buy anymore.”
Germadnik owns the CARS II used car dealership in Brookfield, and also restores cars, focusing on Corvettes and Cadillacs.
“Back in the late ’70s, when they were closing down all the mills, I was self-employed and I was buying everybody’s toys,” he said, most of which he resold.
“Still doing restoration work on my motorcycles, and I kind of, like, sideline the Cadillac collection a little bit because prices went out of sight,” Germadnik said. “Along with Corvettes, prices went out of sight.”
The National Packard Museum’s 22nd Annual Motorcycle Exhibit runs through May 21. The museum is at 1899 Mahoning Ave., Warren, and hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Information: 330-394-1899 or packardmuseum.org