The Resurgence of Husqvarna Motorcycles
Words by Andrew Campo & Ben Giese | Photos by Sebas Romero
On this day, life had treated us very well, and as the sun beamed off the fields of yellow rapeseed flowers outside the Hotel Gyllene Uttern banquet-hall window and onto Sweden’s Vättern Lake in the near distance, our minds began to drift. The room was grand: tables dressed with fresh-cut flowers, warming candlelight, whitefish roe, Arctic char, and Swedish cheese curd. Laughter and smiles swept the room as Husqvarna ambassadors from around the world shared stories and smiles. A sense of obligation had swept over us as we pondered how we would take this experience and share with you the extraordinary brand heritage that we have experienced along this journey. We continued to drift off in thought while watching the wake from the Visingsö ferry flow into the calming fog that was slowly blanketing the second-largest lake in Sweden.
Metal gently chimed against crystal and the room silenced. Standing center was Anders Sarbäcken, the managing director of Husqvarna Scandinavia, and in a commanding tone that represented three centuries, the words “This feels like revenge” echoed through the hall. We got chills that were instantly followed by a sigh of relief. The room exploded again, this time in celebration, and we sat smiling simply because it all made sense and we had found what we were looking for.
The previous day was spent in total captivation as we soaked in the vast history of the brand during our visit to the Husqvarna Fabriksmuseum, located in the heart of Huskvarna, Sweden. This was the same location that once housed the original factory where the Husqvarna brand was founded in the 1600s producing weapons for the king’s army. This legendary structure rests at the base of a series of waterfalls that feed the river that runs alongside the building. As we stood on the bridge just outside the front entrance, overlooking the powerful waters raging beneath us, an overwhelming thought came to mind: water is an essential component to life, and during those early years this water had served as the lifeblood that fueled the hydro-powered weapons factory. It’s these sacred waters that spawned a legacy and it’s where more than 200 years later some of the world’s first motorcycles would be manufactured—true to their heritage, ready for battle.
Absorbing this history within the museum environment was somewhat surreal. As we stepped into the room that showcased Husqvarna’s racing heritage, we were greeted by a 1931 500cc V-Twin built by Folke Mannerstedt. This motorcycle won the Swedish GPs in 1932 and 1933 as Husqvarna experienced their first taste of victory over the competitive Norton works team. The ability to touch, see, smell, and even hear these legendary machines fill the air left a compelling impression.
Our time in Sweden was spent under the guidance of Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee Gunnar Lindström. A Swedish-born rider who helped introduce the sport of motocross to America during the 1960s, Lindström’s talent on a motorcycle was matched only by his ingenuity in engineering, developing chassis and suspension for Husqvarna Motorcycles. Lindström then went on to write Husqvarna Success, a book curating the history of Husqvarna Motorcycles, so it’s safe to say we were in the right hands. He gave us an intimate look into the evolution of off-road motorcycling and the birth of motocross through sharing stories of when the likes of Rolf Tibblin, Bill Nilsson, and Torsten Hallman helped pioneer the sport throughout Europe, eventually introducing motocross to the United States.
Earlier in the week, Lindström had invited us to the picturesque town of Gränna, where cobblestone streets were lined with colorful flowers and white picket fences. The town was coming to life as locals wandered the streets en route to their favorite coffee and pastry shops. We watched life unfold while gearing up off of the main street, then fired up our collection of FE models and began the journey, following Lindström’s lead as he guided us through town. The air smelled rich with fresh peppermint and flowers as we rode past the endless candy shops, cafés, and gingerbread-style cottages that overlooked Vättern Lake. As we toured the countryside and rode through the rolling farmlands, tiny villages, and castle gates, we got lost in time, and it felt as if we would soon be waking from a good dream. There was something special happening in that moment as we overlooked the lake, soaking in the best Sweden had to offer and experiencing firsthand the monumental history of the brand.
Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee, industry icon, and Husqvarna business advisor Mark Blackwell gave us a little insight into why the recent rejuvenation of the brand is so monumental. “After Electrolux sold the Husqvarna Motorcycles business to the Castiglionis and the factory and engineering were moved to Italy, there was tremendous concern, sadness, and frustration in the hearts of those who loved the Husqvarna Motorcycles brand. For many, it had been their life’s work—for others, a brand they had raced and risked everything for. Most just had no idea what would happen to the brand following the move, and, as a result, most of the engineers and staff chose to stay behind in Sweden and not make the move to Italy,” he explained. “In the following years, there was a lot of bitterness over how the brand was treated under the Italian—and, later, German—ownership.
“But once acquired by Mr. [Stefan] Pierer, he immediately went to work with the help of Gerald Kiska to substantially rejuvenate the Husqvarna Motorcycles brand and the quality and performance of the motorcycles, with special attention to the heritage and Swedish roots of the brand. And in the first full year of production under Mr. Pierer’s leadership, the brand achieved its all-time record sales in its 111-year history. So to have more than 50 leaders (managing directors and brand managers) from around the world back in Sweden to immerse themselves in the rich history and celebrate the comeback of the brand was the sweetest revenge.”
We came here to experience the legacy of one of the longest-running motorcycle brands in history. To soak in the culture alongside the pioneers who so elegantly paved the way to what motorcycling has become today. To make a toast alongside all the brand leaders and innovative minds currently cultivating this exciting new beginning. It’s inspiring to see a brand so rich in history experiencing such a reawakening, and if there’s one thing we can take away from this trip, it’s that the soul of Husqvarna is back with a vengeance. The spirit of pioneering lives on as the next chapter unfolds.