Of all the motorcycles Harley produced for the military, the Harley-Davidson WLA was by far the most common – though that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find nowadays. Based on the WL (W – a model line of bikes, L – high compression, A – Army), this bike helped create a dramatic rise in Harley’s popularity as surplus bikes were sold to civilians, many of whom were servicemen that had come back from the war and wanted a bike like the ones he rode or saw during wartime.
What can be confusing about these bikes is the VIN. No matter the year of production, any bike built after Pearl Harbor had a serial number starting with 42 – even a bike like this that was made in 45. I noted above that the “L” designation was Harley’s letter for “High” compression, though in reality the Army used a medium compression variant for higher reliability. Even then, what was medium compression 70 years ago is, as you’d expect, very low now – just 5:1. Because of this, you can actually run this bike on 74 octane. For more on the Harley-Davidson WLA, one of the best sources online is The Liberator.
This specific Harley-Davidson WLA (VIN: 42WLA68335) apparently traded hands several times before being acquired by the seller’s grandfather in 1960 for $50. Afraid that the bike would be chopped up, the grandfather disassembled the bike and stored it until it was given to the seller in 1982. Over several years, the seller restored the bike to military spec, although the transmission disappeared (was stolen) when a shop he sent it to closed down, which is a shame. There’s a few reproduction parts,
Find this Harley-Davidson WLA for sale in Lansing, Michigan with bidding up to $10,565