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Posted on Nov 10, 2015 | 0 comments

WWII and the Harley-Davidson WLA

Video Robert Cassin


The Harley-Davidson WLA was produced to US Army specifications during WWII. It featured a 740 cc engine and was a single-rider design. The WLA was used extensively for carrying messages, liaison, and recon work.

Over 90,000 Harley-Davidson  WLAs were produced during the war with smaller numbers of the WLC variant supplied to Canada, the UK, South Africa, and other allies. The biggest importer was the Soviet Union who received 30,000 of the original Harley-Davidson WLA model.  Production ended after the war, but was revised between 1949 and 1952 for the Korean War.

After the war, most WLAs were sold as surplus at very low cost and “civilianized” – leading to the rise of the chopper and a biker culture that grew up around young soldiers returning home and wanting a bike like they rode in the war. As a result, few original WLAs survived in the UW or Wester Europe; however, with limited access to parts and no motorcycle culture in the Soviet Union, most WLAs were stored or put in private hands and survived in original condition throughout the cold war. Today, Russia and other former members of the Soviet bloc are a major source for pats.

Here’s a great video from RieStore featuring a time-lapse restoration of a Canadian WLC version of the WLC located in Europe.


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