Harley-Davidson Motorcycles at Work: The Package Truck
In 1914, Harley-Davidson was only 11 years old as a Company, but had already proven the value of the motorcycle as a tool for working people. By this time, the United States Postal Service was utilizing over 4,800 Harley-Davidson motorcycles for rural delivery routes, making it one of nine departments of the Federal Government using Milwaukee iron.
But it was in 1915 that Harley-Davidson sold its first Package Trucks, or the first “delivery motorcycle.” The first Harley-Davidson product designed specifically for utility use, the Package Truck started one of two platforms. The first was a sidecar chassis outfitted with a wooden trunk with a hinged top or vertical back door. This was the most common platform. The other style, which was less common and shorter-lived, was a “trike” format called the Forecar, which had two wheels in the front of the vehicle holding the cargo container and the rear half of the vehicle being a conventional motorcycle. Typically, a Package Truck’s motorcycle component had a low-compression engine and a transmission designed for sidecar use to account for the extra weight.
Package Trucks were often highly customized by the businesses using them. Among other unusual variations was a container shaped like a milk bottle for a Dayton, Ohio, dairy and the well-known open rack often associated with Coca-Cola delivery vehicles. Harley-Davidson built Package Trucks until the 1957 model year. It is unknown exactly how many were built. However, production of Harley-Davidson commercial and utility motorcycles would continue through 1973 with the Servicar. See living motorcycle history at the H-D Museum.
Story by Bill Jackson, Harley-Davidson Senior Archivist