Harley Sidecar: Inbred Utilitarianism

Cabana Dan Rognsvoog’s Hybrid Hauler

harley custom sidecar

Inbred Utilitarianism

The term “sidecar” is fairly common in V-twin-speak, let alone the motorcycle world in general. Expanding on that, however, to include “sidevan” and/or “package truck,” and you might get more blank stares than the history you’d rather ingest.

Words: Rob Fortier Photos: Colleen Swartz

harley custom sidecar

Inbred Utilitarianism

Unlike Harley-Davidson’s Servi-Car—a purpose-built utilitarian model that purportedly debuted in 1932—the Package Truck or Sidevan (The Motor Company used both terms officially) was a special-order dealer option, attached to either civilian or military models…like a sidecar.

Words: Rob Fortier Photos: Colleen Swartz

harley custom sidecar

Inbred Utilitarianism

Unlike the sidecar, however, the box option didn’t experience the same factory longevity, ultimately disappearing from the dealers’ lists midway through the 20th century.

Words: Rob Fortier Photos: Colleen Swartz

harley custom sidecar

Inbred Utilitarianism

It is likely this rarity, combined with his passion for all things early H-D, that led Cabana Dan Rognsvoog to hybridize his latest project as such.

Words: Rob Fortier Photos: Colleen Swartz

harley custom sidecar

Inbred Utilitarianism

“I’ve always had a passion for old motorcycles,” Rognsvoog says. “I’m a member of the Badger Heritage chapter of the AMCA [Antique Motorcycle Club of America]. I had just completed my restoration of my 1913 Harley-Davidson single and thought it’d be cool to try something that gives a nod to history but has modern conveniences.”

Words: Rob Fortier Photos: Colleen Swartz

harley custom sidecar

Inbred Utilitarianism

“Last summer in Sturgis,” he continues, “I talked with Arlen Ness about his 1920s-style sidecar kits that he sold, and we discussed that no one had ever customized it to make the kit into a package delivery bike. Harley-Davidson made Package Truck-equipped motorcycles from about 1915 to 1957. The bikes were used for utilitarian purposes, like newspaper deliveries and sales, and were also customized for businesses to promote themselves."

Words: Rob Fortier Photos: Colleen Swartz

The term “sidecar” is fairly common in V-twin-speak, let alone the motorcycle world in general. Expanding on that, however, to include “sidevan” and/or “package truck,” and you might get more blank stares than the history you’d rather ingest.

Unlike Harley-Davidson’s Servi-Car—a purpose-built utilitarian model that purportedly debuted in 1932—the Package Truck or Sidevan (The Motor Company used both terms officially) was a special-order dealer option, attached to either civilian or military models…like a sidecar. Unlike the sidecar, however, the box option didn’t experience the same factory longevity, ultimately disappearing from the dealers’ lists midway through the 20th century.

It is likely this rarity, combined with his passion for all things early H-D, that led Cabana Dan Rognsvoog to hybridize his latest project as such.

“I’ve always had a passion for old motorcycles,” Rognsvoog says. “I’m a member of the Badger Heritage chapter of the AMCA [Antique Motorcycle Club of America]. I had just completed my restoration of my 1913 Harley-Davidson single and thought it’d be cool to try something that gives a nod to history but has modern conveniences.

“Last summer in Sturgis,” he continues, “I talked with Arlen Ness about his 1920s-style sidecar kits that he sold, and we discussed that no one had ever customized it to make the kit into a package delivery bike. Harley-Davidson made Package Truck-equipped motorcycles from about 1915 to 1957. The bikes were used for utilitarian purposes, like newspaper deliveries and sales, and were also customized for businesses to promote themselves.

“Arlen was very helpful and shared information about chassis setup, et cetera,” Rognsvoog says. “I talked with Bill Rodencal at the Harley-Davidson Museum and got some more information about how to set up sidecars and package delivery trucks [Bill’s also a member of the Badger Heritage Chapter].

“Jayme Schmidt at Blue Moon Kustoms in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, brought the bike to life with an amazing paint job,” Rognsvoog explains. “He and Calico [of Calico Pinstriping] had their work cut out for them. There’s lots of room for graphics! I’ve been known as ‘Cabana Dan’ since I’ve been wrenching for a buddy who ran Top-Fuel Harley Drag Bike in the ’90s and early 2000s. One of the cool, one-of-a-kind touches is the Klaxon horn. It’s an original ‘ooh-gah’ horn from the 1920s, with some added pinstriping from Calico.

“The bike is a testimony to supporting local businesses,” he says. “Terry Sheckles of Bert’s Polishing in Racine and Randy at First Rate Upholstery in Sturtevant did the bike justice. And one of my Wednesday night ‘Wrench Night’ crew, Nick Jandron, was always there to lend a hand—and sell me his wife’s Sporty and the ’56 Chevy leaf springs that support the package truck and offer his creative insight into the project.”

Through modern influences and historical references, Cabana Dan’s ode to the elusive Harley-Davidson Package Truck serves its purpose twofold: acknowledging a vital part of Americana while doing just what the original Sidevans did, promoting one’s trade in transit.