Alan Cathcart rides Sammy Miller’s iconic Husqvarna 500 V-twin racer
Husqvarna 500 GP Racer
Claimed power: 44hp at 6,800rpm
Top speed: 118mph
Engine: 498cc air-cooled OHV 50-degree V-twin
Weight (dry): 279lb (127kg)
Way back in the 1930s, Husqvarna competed very successfully at the highest level in Grand Prix road racing with 500cc and 350cc bikes powered by its own leading-edge 50-degree V-twin four-stroke engine, produced by its legendary designer Folke Mannerstedt.
Sweden is not a country normally associated with the manufacture of exotic road race hardware, but between 1931 and 1935 Husqvarna (aka HVA), then the country’s largest street bike manufacturer, built a total of 19 500cc V-twin works GP racers and four 350s. Ridden by men of the caliber of Irish star Stanley Woods and British ace Ernie Nott, and Swedish stars such as Gunnar Kalén and Ragnar Sundqvist, the Scandinavian bikes not only challenged Britain’s established Norton and Velocette teams in the quest for GP supremacy, they also broke new ground in terms of materials and engine design. They were the first V-twins to challenge the supremacy of the British singles in 500cc and 350cc GP racing, laying the foundations of success enjoyed later in the 1930s by Moto Guzzi and BMW twins, and eventually by Italian 4-cylinder bikes, too.
Like BSA and Royal Enfield, Husqvarna was originally a firearms manufacturer. Ironically, another such company, Belgium’s FN, provided the seed for HVA’s road racing effort, thanks to the experience gained by a young Swedish engineer assisting the Belgian factory with their World Land Speed record attempts on a frozen lake in Sweden in 1927 and 1928.
For more information on the Husqvarna 500 and other vintage bikes, visit the Sammy Miller Museum website. MC
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