Motorcycle: Twins - WLA & XA
Date: Sunday, October 31 @ 23:11:23 UTC
Topic: Motorcycle, Motorcycles, Motor Cycle
WLA & XA
• WLA, 1940-5
If the Willys Jeep was the archetypal American military four-wheeler during the Second World War then Harley-Davidson's rugged old 45-inch flathead twin was its two-wheeled equivalent. By the time the United States entered the war in December 1941, the "45" had proved itself during a dozen years of civilian development and was the obvious choice for an army workhorse. The first example, dubbed WLA (the A stood for "army") appeared in 1940 and was initially scarcely more than a drab green WL. By 1941, it had acquired blacked-out auxiliary lights, an oil-bath air-cleaner (intended for North African conditions) and a quieter fishtail exhaust. Depending on the precise military requirements, luggage racks were added, front and rear, plus a gun scabbard and under-sump bash plate.
That pivotal year also brought the first of around 18,000 WLC models built for the Canadian military, which differed principally in having a foot-operated gear change on the right, rather than hand-change on the left. Anti-hertz suppressors and more comprehensive blackout gear were added later, and by late 1943 — the year in which WLA/WLC production peaked, at over 27,000 — even the crankcases were painted olive drab. Each machine bore a plate warning the rider not to exceed 65mph (105kph), not that the WLA was capable of very much more. Of around 88,000 WLs produced for war-time service, many went to Russia, of which later examples were specified WSR models. It is reputed that some 30,000 Red-Army Harley-Davidsons entered Berlin as the war in Europe drew to a close. Milwaukee's contribution to the war effort was marked by no fewer than three Army/ Navy "E" awards for excellence in military production - although this was to backfire commercially on the company when thousands of WLAs were sold as war surplus after 1945, damping-down the post-war recovery.
Engine: side-valve V-twin
Capacity: 45.3cu in (742cc)
Power: around 22 bhp
Weight: varied with specification
Wheelbase: 59 1/2 in (1,510 mm)
Top speed: limited to 65 mph (105 kph)
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