1942 Harley Davidson Other
Year of manufacture1942
1942 Harley-Davidson 739cc WLA
Frame no. 42WLA58215
Engine no. 42WLA58215
* Civilianised military motorcycle
* Restored condition
* Italian registered
Although Harley-Davidson was no stranger to sidevalve ('flat head') engines, it did not apply this valve gear arrangement to a v-twin until the arrival of the all-new 45ci 'D' (standard) and 'DL' (high-compression) models in 1929. With the introduction of the Powerplus model in 1916, rivals Indian had demonstrated that a properly designed 'flat head' could produce all the power a road rider required, so it is perhaps surprising that Harley took so long to follow suit. One of the other advantages of this new engine was that it was cheaper to produce, enabling Harley to price the new 45ci (750cc) Model D at $290, and the 45's relative affordability would prove to be an important factor during the Depression years of the early 1930s.
Production of the sidevalve '45' really took off when the USA's entry into WW2 in December 1941 created an unprecedented demand for military motorcycles, around 90,000 of the WL (military) version rolling off the Milwaukee production lines before hostilities ceased. After rigorous testing in 1939, the US Army had ordered its first batch of WLs in March 1940, with further substantial orders of machines from South Africa and Great Britain following soon after. These military Harleys benefited from the new aluminium cylinder heads fitted to the civilian version from 1939 and came with a full complement of equipment including D-shaped foot-boards, crash bars, skid plates, cargo racks and panniers. Designated WLA (Army) or WLC (Canadian-built), the Harley '45' saw action in just about every theatre of war. 'De-mobbed' Harley WLs helped meet the upsurge in demand for motorcycles in the immediate post-war years, doing much to establish the marque's reputation worldwide, while the civilian version remained a catalogued model until the end of 1951. From as early as 1935 a competition version had been offered (identified with an 'R' suffix) and these special, limited edition Harley 45s would be the machines to beat in flat track racing well into the 1950s.
This restored WLA has been 'civilianised' and restyled along the lines of the 1940/1941 models. A total of only two miles is recorded on the odometer, which is presumed to be the distance covered since restoration. The machine is offered with Italian registration papers.