Husqvarna’s ‘Good Old Times’ blog is a history lesson for many, often enlightening those of us who weren’t around in the 'old days' to how the hell it is we got where we are today in this dirt biking world.
The latest Husqvarna blog, ‘Bikes To Dye For’ written and photographed by Kenneth Olausson, is a history lesson shining a light where desert racing and scrambling ruled and on a time before enduro and motocross even existed.
Edison Dye accepting his life achievement award in 1999
As America prospered after the Second World War with a big economy leap modern US products which were much sought after in Europe. American motorcycling was everyman's game, be it in the desert or just scrambling around the forests.
In Europe, things looked gloomy for the Husqvarna two-wheelers at the beginning of the 60s. Despite good intentions and motocross titles, the board of directors had limited understanding of their potential.
To say the least, they were against most of the ideas that came their way. Chance would alter the future for the Husqvarna off-roaders and the answer lay in the United States.
The '70s US Husqvarna Racing Team
The Swedish dealer Stig Ericson of MC-Trim in Stockholm was travelling around San Diego in southern California. As winters were cold back home, ‘Stickan’ preferred the western state sun to the local snow.
In a nifty smorgasbord joint called ‘Bit of Sweden’ in El Cajon, by sheer chance met with salesman Edison Dye. The American had been in the bike business for years and the two started talking about European motocross.
Edison showed genuine interest for Husqvarna, even though MX sport had yet to be discovered in the U.S.A.
Dye figured there would be interest in solid off-road machines like Husqvarna’s and consequently wrote a letter asking them to let his company, MED International, represent Husqvarna in the United States.
True to their negative instinct from the leaders in Huskvarna, replied “no” with a polite, "thank you for the interest."
You could understand it to a point with no desire to export, no motocross market in the US at that time, no knowledge of the market and an unfavourable exchange rate, which made Swedish goods expensive across the Atlantic.
But Dye from Oskaloosa in Iowa was persistent and by the autumn of 1965 was invited for a meeting. Two representatives from Husqvarna met with the American in Scandinavia where Edison convinced them and bought 50 machines to be delivered during the 1966 season.
Initial deliveries were air-freighted, saving valuable time as Dye who wanted to give the first Husqvarna to rider Malcolm Smith.
Edison had seen Malcolm ride on a track outside San Diego and he went to see Smith in Riverside. The rider showed interest to switch bikes: "I will try out your bike and let you know how I feel," he said.
Malcolm was impressed with his first Husky ride after a long ride in the hills. "I want to try it next Sunday at a desert race," was Malcolm's comment.
Smith won the race by over 20 minutes and the rest is history: Malcolm Smith became the number one rider for Husqvarna in the United States, backed by Med International – a relationship that lasted more than five years.
Edison Dye also wanted machines in his Californian showroom. One of the initial 50 machines was bought by Steen's and delivered to Alhambra in Los Angeles - a Husky which I (Olausson) rode in 1967.
For three years the Swedish factory had only churned out a few hundred units a year, but this changed in 1966 when USA hit the market for the Husqvarna products.
Edison Dye: "The first year I sold 100 machines, then it was around 500 units while the third year's sale came up to 1,000."
Not only was MED International successful, but also triple world champion Torsten Hallman, who rode 23 races with as many wins. He was the true Swedish ambassador who presented the sport to US fans.
Shortly after, Dye and Hallman introduced the Inter-AM motocross series in the USA, where many of the world’s top stars came to compete towards the end of the sixties. Effectively Edison Dye was the father of American motocross and did many fine things for the sport when it was established in the USA.
Now would have been the right time for Husky to react and invest into the future. Unfortunately, that did not happen despite the U.S. market swallowing the better part of the factory's production.
Helped obviously by the initial success of Malcom Smith but by 1970 names like Bengt Aberg and Arne Kring were winning races and helping sell bikes.
From 1961 to 1970 Husqvarna only manufactured 14,000 units, of which 5,000 were made in 1970 when the new Ödeshög factory opened. But the demand from the American market was bigger than that. Hungry customers waited to lay their hands on this new Scandinavian product.
By 1974 Dye decided to end his successful business and stop going to races. He had spent a good part of his life selling bikes. He wanted to retire, also having lost his influence on the international motocross series (first called ‘Inter-AM’ - then the ‘Trans-AMA’ series).
In 1999 however, the American received a Motocross Life Achievement Award in the USA for his outstanding efforts with Husqvarna during an influential 10-year period when motocross arrived in the big country.