Mention vintage Husqvarna dirt bikes, and the legendary Cross 400 immediately springs to mind. But Johan Nordin of 6/5/4 Motors has managed to get his hands on something even more rare and quirky.
He’s managed to score a Husqvarna 256—a bike that was developed in 1968 specifically for the Swedish defence force. Only a thousand were ever produced, and all of them were sold by the early 80s.
Johan’s named the bike ‘Thage,’ after his father. “I built this bike because my dad had one when he did his compulsory military service in the early 1970s,” says Johan. “And I’ve heard a lot of great stories of his winter adventures on the little bike with skis. Now I want to experience the same adventures.”
The 256’s two-stroke engine punches out an earth-shattering 15.4 horses, reined in by a four-speed box. But that’s not the best part: it actually comes with skis. And the operating procedure for the skis is the sketchiest we’ve ever come across…
“The skis automatically spring up if they are not pushed down,” explains Johan. “You push them down using your feet.” That makes changing gear difficult—so when the skis are down, you have to shift with a hand-lever that is attached to the gear lever.
“The gear lever is on the righthand side and the rear brake is on the left,” says Johan. “This is so that you can use the clutch with your left hand, and shift with your right.” Got that?
“When using the skis you can also disconnect the front brake cable and reconnect it, so it controls the rear brake instead.”
As scary as that sounds, it’s all part of the 256’s charm. Secondhand models are extremely hard to come by: “They’re usually owned by older men who did the mandatory military service back in the early 70s,” Johan tells us. “I guess this bike was the first motorcycle most of them came in contact with… and was also the only fun they had when doing their military service.”
As a result, owners typically hold on tight, and treat their 256s really well. This one was in great condition when Johan got it; a friend had bought it from an old-timer, with the intention of rebuilding it. “He became a father, so that was the end of that story,” says Johan. “So the bike was just standing, untouched, for a year, before I got to buy it from him.”
Like most military-issue vehicles, the Husky was originally very green, and very utilitarian. But Johan and his compadres at 6/5/4 have injected their usual brand of Scandinavian style.
The rear frame’s been lopped-n-looped, and there’s a more compact perch up top. The fenders are new too, but the front retains a lot of the original’s styling.
6/5/4 also fitted longer shocks, new drum brakes, and new Maxxis knobbies. Up front are a set of MX bars and grips, with a simple, classic switchgear setup. A small Bates-style headlight and a new LED tail light round out the parts list.
Johan took a look inside the engine’s top-end too, but everything looked mint. So he just fitted new gaskets and fasteners, and carried out a solid carb and clutch service. After much searching, he found the final piece of the puzzle: a decent exhaust system with a properly sized expansion chamber.
Naturally, the whole bike’s been given a new lick of paint, from the tank right down to the frame, engine and wheels. It’s a huge improvement over the stock drab, with a pair of killer ‘Thage’ graphics on the tank sending it comfortably over the top.
Still, one burning question remains: what are those skis like to operate?
“To be honest, I haven’t tried this one in the snow yet,” Johan admits. “But my dad has access to the successor of the 256—the 258, with an automatic gearbox—and that one I’ve tried…”
“Even with the automatic gearbox, it takes a while to get used to. So I imagine it will be hard to ride the manual 256.”
“I can’t wait to try it out in the snow though. I guess I’ll have to keep it until next winter!”
Please do. And then send us the pics.