Harley-Davidson 1945 WLC 750cc side valve V-twin frame # 31515 engine # 43WLC BW51110
Harley-Davidson’s first side valve V-twin appeared in 1929 as the Model D. Its 45-cubic-inch (750cc) engine was smaller than the company’s existing 61 and 74 ci ( 1000 and 1200cc) F-head V-twins, which then became known as “Big Twins.”
The latter switched to a side valve design the following year, but those larger engines were neither as reliable nor as long-lived as the understressed “Forty-five.”
The 750cc engine was no powerhouse but it proved to be a versatile engine that remained in production for more than four decades.
During that time it served duty not only in street motorcycles, but also in three-wheeled Servi-Cars (1933-1973),military WLAs/WLCs of the 1940s, and WR racing bikes of the 1940s and 1950s.
Harley-Davidson began producing the WLA in small numbers in 1940, as part of a general military expansion.
The later entry of the United States into World War II saw significantly increased production, with over 90,000 being produced during the war (along with spare parts the equivalent of many more).
Harley Davidson would also produce a close WLA variant, as shown here, for the Canadian Army.
called the WLC and would also supply smaller numbers to the UK, South Africa, and other allies, as well as filling orders for different models from the Navy and Marine Corps.
Many WLAs would be shipped to allies under the Lend-Lease program.
The largest recipient was the Soviet Union, which was sold over 30,000 WLAs.
Production of the WLA/WLC would cease after the war, but would be revived for the Korean War during the years 1949 to 1952.
Most WLAs/WLCs in western hands after the war would be sold as surplus and “civilianized”; the many motorcycles available at very low cost would lead to the rise of the chopper and other modified motorcycle styles, as well as the surrounding biker culture.
Many of young soldier would come home hoping to get a Harley-Davidson like he saw or rode in the service, leading to the post-war popularity of both the motorcycle and the company in general.
The US Army would use motorcycles for police and escort work, courier duties, and some scouting, as well as limited use to transport radio and radio suppression equipment.
Allied motorcycles were almost never used as combat vehicles or for troop mobility, and so were rarely equipped with sidecars as was common on the German side.
Nevertheless, the WLA/WLC acquired the nickname “Liberator”, since it was seen ridden by soldiers liberating occupied Europe.
The WLC we present here has been civilianized and restored a number of years ago.
It in good running condition throughout, has a current Dutch registration and is fitted with front and rear crash bars and very nice studded leather saddle bags.