måndag 5 mars 2012


The VARD Company produced landing gear components for the US Air Force during the WWII and among their employees you’d find Earl Flanders himself (yes that Flanders) along with several members of the Pasadena Motorcycle Club, Est. 1907 PMC are today the third oldest MC club in the US, however - together these young visionary, brave and dedicated motorcycle riders decided to produce the very first hydraulic frontend for Harley-Davidson’s and Indian motorcycles; the VARD Frontend. A frontend that because of its clean looks and hydraulically damped ride became popular among MC riders and custom builders of the day, and also commonly seen in dirt track and TT racing etcetera…

Earl Flanders / Pasadena 1946 / Photo / Robbin Scroggie / Bikernet

Produced in the VARD Plant in Pasadena CA somewhere in between late 1945 - early 1950’s this magnificent frontend with its amazing cast Manganese bronze triple trees and cutting edge hydraulic fork legs sure portrays the holy grail of vintage parts, close to impossible to find and with a price tag that’s been heard to penetrate the 5 digit $ range they certainly have become more of a delicate museum ingredient than a young man’s choice of a cool and functional frontend.
But keep in mind, the intergalactic eight ball haven’t fallen into a black hole just yet, this entire game is not finished, because the wheel's still in spin. And besides that - sometimes the cosmos can still 'smile at you’… Finding a Vard frontend is a story that for me includes episodes that’s synonymous with Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower:
“Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth"

My search for a Vard Frontend with a Harley top tree began long ago, and over the years gone by I’ve came across some very knowledgeable people, some very friendly people but also some very greedy, lying and directly dishonest people. So, it’s been a long, stressful and overall emotional battle to say the least, but hey - nobody likes a quitter..

"You say it is the good cause that hallows even war?
I tell you: it is the good war that hallows every cause"
- Friedrich Nietzsche

A very reliable, friendly and knowledgeable source in Tokyo told me it’s not uncommon that people look for 10+ years before finding a Vard fork, and I have no reason to doubt it. However, last week my search came to an end. I finally found my Vard fork.
The Vard frontend is a thing that means more to me than any other produced motorcycle part on the planet and I want to send out my deepest and sincerest gratitude to everyone from all over the world that helped me out along the way; answering my questions, replying to my emails and to everyone who stayed on the phone with me listening to me speaking English sounding like Kevin Costner with a Swedish accent, really embarrassing... Everyone from Japan to Europe to all across the US, I thank you all.
But most of all I want to thank the talented individual and knowledgeable motor historian who didn't only teach me a lot of cool facts regarding the history of this frontend but also finally choose to offer me the Holy Grail, this man surely wouldn’t need no introduction on here but out of respect and to save him from getting flooded by people wanting to 'buy stuff' I choose not to mention his name, however I am forever indebted to you and I'll take this Vard with me to the grave.


Article form Easy Rider early 1970’s:
"Better lay low, bro’s. Spider lost a bet yesterday – to none other than Ronny, the snotty-nosed office boy – so things are a little squirrely around the shack. Spider, who usually knows his old timer stuff colder’n a frog belly in February, claimed halfway through the last juice session that Harley had produced the first American-made Glide. Well, snot-nose knew better, ‘cause his ol’ man’s uncle had ridden an Indian just after the war, equipped with a thing made by a company in Pasadena, California, called a Vard – and he even dug up some musty old ads to prove it. The Vard was an accessory tube front end you could buy for either Indian or Hog to replace the then-standing stock Springer. It was introduced in 1946 and production continued until the early 1950’s. H-D went to their Hydra-Glide in 1949, so most later Vard’s were bolted on to Indians, which stuck with their Girder except for the last year, 1953. In fact, there is a persistent rumor that the tele forks fitted to those late Indians were of Vard design. Actually the Vard forks are much more similar in design to the early Hydra-Glide, leading some to wonder if H-D copied a good thing when they saw one.


The dudes who made the Vard produced primarily landing gear components for WWII airplanes, but they were secretly motorcycle freaks at heart. So after the war, they pirated the BMW telescopic front end and used their additional knowledge of hydraulic systems to develop an oil-damped fork, with steel main tubes and lower sliders (1). Manganese bronze triple clamps (2). And cast aluminum upper fork shrouds (3) – which were removed on a bob-job of those days. They even went so far as to design a complete scoot, a little 350cc single, but never constructed more than a few prototypes.
The Vard forks had some shortcomings: suspension travel was limited by today’s standards (although longer than most Springers), and the trees were a little thin to withstand a lot of rough treatment. But the clean looks and hydraulically damped ride, which we all take for granted now, made the Vard popular among the custom bike builders of two decades ago. The few Vards that are still left usually molder away in a basement or are overlooked in the search for XA Springers at the swap meets. If you decide to add a little 1940’s class to your scoot, just remember that those bronze trees aren’t beefy enough for much of an extension! – Jake"

Keep Your Wheels On The Ground
"The Vard fork will improve both the riding and steering qualities of any standard motorcycle to which it is fitted. Every owner of an Indian Chief or Scout or Harley-Davidson 45, 61 or 74 will want one. These forks can also be adapted to any other make of motorcycle. Made of highest grade cold-drawn, seamless steel tubing – the whole fork assembly is strong and cleanly designed, a fine addition to any motorcycle. It permits the use of standard fenders, lights, horns, and is useable with standard handlebars, risers or Flanders bars. Forks can telescope a full 3.1/2 inches under shock and recover instantly. This feature keeps the front wheel on the ground at all times"

9 kommentarer:

  1. Yet again mate, a brilliant revelation, knew they existed but had no clue as to the history, the background, let alone the Flanders involvement, and certainly not an inkling as to their rarity and value . . . totally admire your consistantly excellent combination of fact, story telling and passion, you're a fabulous freak of the highest order, thanks.

  2. I'm so jealous - I found one in Sydney check my blog.


  3. Indian went to a glide fork in 1950, not 53. 48 is last year for girder chief, hydro was 50-53. I'm sending you a photo of one of my dads bikes, 37 el original paint with vard and Flanders. You'll love it!

    1. The Indian thing you're mentioning is from the early 1970's Easy Rider article, I only re-published it on here.

      The Knuckle you sent a pic of is a true beauty for sure, thanks for sharing.

  4. Cool story. A harley with a landing gear. What a great combo that must be. Good luck!

  5. can we please see some pics of your treasure? guts and all? pretty please? (though why the physical appearance of the please should make a difference is still unknown)

    1. Milo, I promise this place will be flooded with Vard tech posts soon enough.