Husaberg Motorcycle History

Special thanks to notable contributions by Ove Ekengren, whom provided information about Husaberg pioneers, first prototypes, and exclusive pictures.

1989 Husaberg FE501 - First production motorcycle
1989 Husaberg FE501 – First production motorcycle

Before Husaberg – Husqvarna Engines

1988 Husqvarna TE510 - rider is Pepe Gil (SPA)
1988 Husqvarna TE510 – Pepe Gil (SPA)

Let’s learn more of Husqvarna history…

Husqvarna was born more than 300 years ago. Swedish King Charles XI ordered the construction of a factory on the banks of the Husqvarna River, in Jönköping, to produce muskets. Water power was harnessed from the Huskvarna River to create the water-powered plant. The name Huskvarna was derived from “house mill”, “hus” meaning house and “kvarn” meaning mill. The word itself can be traced back at least to the year 1529.

Since then, they have made sewing machines, outboard power plants, chainsaws, bicycles… and what we love: dirt bikes. They began making motorcycles around 1903, and until the late 1980’s, they achieved great success with several World Championships having been won.

They made some of the finest enduro motorcycles of this century, and also the mother of all (or many) today’s 4 strokers – the 510’s watercooled engine!

Contributions to Motorcycle History

The heart of the Husqvarna - the water pump is already located in the lower part of the engine and is similar to the 1989 FE501
The heart of the Husqvarna – the water pump is already located in the lower part of the engine and is similar to the 1989 FE501

In Husqvarna facilities, these guys were re-inventing the 4-stroke engine concept. By this time, Husqvarna’s financial figures were bad and the motorcycle department’s losses worried Swedish group Electrolux, who was seeking a buyer (like BMW had done with Rover). What would happen if they made good, competitive machines? It happened to Bultaco, Montesa, and many Spanish dirtbike factories because of the Japanese, too old facilities, high prices, recession, and lack of flexibility to survive. They were integrated (non-integrated) inside a large industrial group with a wide range of products, serving different markets, and this is against one of the non mutable laws of marketing. FOCUS.

(From left to right) Hakan Lunberg, Kent Karlsson, Svenerik Jönsson, Thomas Gustavsson, Dick Wisse, Mikael Nilsson
(From left to right) Hakan Lunberg, Kent Karlsson, Svenerik Jönsson, Thomas Gustavsson, Dick Wisse, Mikael Nilsson

Mr. Gustavsson (HVA engineer and racing rider), Ruben Helmin (HVA Chief engineer) and Urban Larsson (engine), among others, were the team who developed this motorcycle (Gustavsson also rode it during the European Enduro Championship). And when Electrolux sold the motorcycle division to Cagiva, their creature, their job, and also a part of his life went away to the Cagiva corse headquarters.

Thomas Gustavsson with the 1986 aircooled Husqvarna
Thomas Gustavsson with the 1986 aircooled Husqvarna

In the above photo, you can see Thomas with the 4 Strokes European Championship trophy. He had extraordinary abilities ,not only as an outstanding engineer, but also as enduro motorcycle rider.

Cagiva Enduros and MX Motorcycles

1988 Husqvarna TE510
1988 Husqvarna TE510

Cagiva made the compromise to maintain the Swedish name and Husqvarna tradition in their motorcycles. All the 2-stroke Husqvarna engines were replaced by the Cagiva ones, and after some time, the same happened with frames and other components. The only model that remained unaltered (in concept) was the 4-stroke – they use the same frame and same powerplant (with no drastic changes). Too bad more manufacturers didn’t do as Cagiva.

Without work, and with the latest Swedish motorcycle manufacturer lost, the most rational option was to seek financial support to build a new factory from scratch and design an even better 4 stroke enduro motorcycle.

Husaberg Motor AB – Founded

In January 1988, Husaberg Motor AB was officially founded by the following people:

  • Thomas Gustavsson
    • The man behind the Husaberg project.
  • Ruben Helmin
    • Former HVA Chief Engineer
    • First Husaberg Managing Director
  • Urban Larsson
    • Engine Development
  • Björn Elwin
    • Chief HVA Test Department
    • Father of test rider, Stefan Elwin
  • Roland Söderqwist
    • Retired small Swedish mechanical firm owner

The name of the company is borrowed from the place of the first pre-production plant – an old cowshed, situated on the peninsula Husabergs Udde. Although moved from the original location years ago, the company is still in the neighborhood, just 30 km northwest of the northern peak of Lake Vättern. A surrounding more or less designed for dirtbikes (and moose) and in the heart of the Swedish race tracks and clubs.

Although Husaberg was the name they finally registered, it was not the first denomination. This was HMA (as opposed to HVA with is Husqvarna).

October 19, 1989 – First Husaberg Motorcycle

The missing link - Husaberg engine in a Husqvarna
The missing link – Husaberg engine in a Husqvarna

The motorcycle engine was based on the original TE 510 design with some improvements, shorter stroke, less weight, a nickel-silicium cylinder, a special rod, and a relocated water pump operated by the camshaft.

The red Husaberg motorcycle is a pre-production unit.

Red Husaberg Prototype. Note the big exhaust end (Husqvarana carried two silencers and some factory riders replaced or rerouted them to one unique end). This preproduction unit used Öhlins front forks, which never made it to the final design. And this plastic design is different from final production units. Rider: Stefan Elvin. Photographer: Mats Burman.
Red Husaberg Prototype. Note the big exhaust end (Husqvarana carried two silencers and some factory riders replaced or rerouted them to one unique end). This preproduction unit used Öhlins front forks, which never made it to the final design. And this plastic design is different from final production units. Rider: Stefan Elvin. Photographer: Mats Burman.

Their main objective was to reduce engine weight, both internally and externally. As the engine weight affects the overall motorcycle handling, and the internal weight steals power and produces more inertia. (less capacity to achieve high rev’s, more demanding power, engine wear). And all these objectives were accomplished, with the best 4-stroke enduro engine ever built.

The body - MX sizes, hardened steel frame and upper spine with rectangular section with air intake.
The body – MX sizes, hardened steel frame and upper spine with rectangular section with air intake.

Such an engine deserves a good body attach it to, and this was Gustavsson’s job. A very light, but enormous, rigid frame was built with never seen solutions, like the air filter location in the main tube (rectangular section) which is the fresh air conduct on in its way to the carburetor. Riders today would say it was the Husaberg ram air system. Apart from the room saved with this solution, the air temperature is lower too.

The center of gravity of the Husaberg was lower than any of competitors. They designed a special fuel tank like the special Honda CR500 of Thorpe and Malherbe was using. The fuel is located under the pilot’s knees, with all the mass in the same location like the engine.

Franco Acerbis made the fuel tank (8.5 liters, about 100 kms rides) and the plastics.

For suspension, they used the White Power 4054 upside down front forks (one of the first introductions of these forks) and rear shock. Öhlins forks were tested and ultimately rejected due to cost considerations as final production units were being made.

Wheels were Nordisk (Norway ), who were owned by Hydra Aluminium (aerospace) and are a collector’s item. Brakes were provided by Brembo (everything, including really bad discs). The clutch lever was Magura (Germany) , the throttle was Hallblax (Sweden ), and the only Japanese part was the Mikuni fuel pump and sparkplugs.

When released in Spain, the cost was 1,250,000 Spanish Pesetas. This was the most expensive dirtbike ever! (24% more than a KTM LC4). Exclusivity has to be paid for!

Special Thanks to Ove Ekengren! Here's Ove in his 1989 Husaberg, Signed, Frame #11.
Special Thanks to Ove Ekengren! Here’s Ove in his 1989 Husaberg, Signed, Frame #11.