• YEAR : 1942
  • MILEAGE : 777
  • EXTERIOR : Green
  • ENGINE SIZE : 750

– The WLA was the US armed forces workhorse motorcycle
– Known as the Liberator and the Bike That Won The War
– Blackout lights
– Ammo box
– Material carrier
– Oil bath air cleaner
– Restored
– Engine #42WLA20941


It was clear that war was again brewing in Europe by 1938, and Harley-Davidson expected a call from the U.S. military to submit proposals for a new service motorcycle. The Army had already been using modified civilian VL 74 CI models with sidecars for a few years, but they weren’t considered ready for battle in Europe and other likely war fronts—like Africa—being unsuited to rough terrain and prolonged slow-speed riding. Harley-Davidson prepared versions of the EL 61 CI OHV Knucklehead and WL 45 CI Flathead’s for the Army’s rigorous new testing regimen. They competed against modified Indian 45 CI Scout and 74 CI Chief models, as well as Delco’s copy of the BMW R71, with a telescopic fork, plunger rear suspension and shaft final drive. The Army requirements included a maximum speed of 65 MPH, and the ability to stay cool when moving at a walking pace for extended periods, as on a march or in muddy terrain. In 1940, the U.S. Army approved a contract for an initial 745 of Harley-Davidson’s WLAs—WL Army. Harley-Davidson also had military contracts for many years with foreign countries, so an export version was also built to Canadian military specifications, the WLC—Commonwealth. The military WL models had a compression ratio of 5:1 on their sidevalve motors, and they produced 23.5 HP at 4600 RPM; all were equipped with an oil-bath air filter and had an improved oiling system. The WLC was soon ordered by the British (5,000 total) and South African (2,000 total) militaries, as well as the Chinese and Soviet forces. By the end of the war, nearly 88,000 of the WLA and WLCs were built, and they ended their careers almost everywhere, gaining the nickname of Liberator.

This 1942 Harley-Davidson WLA Type II is the standard 45 CI model built for the U.S. Army between December 10, 1941, and February 15, 1942. It has been restored with a fresh paint job, blackout lights, an ammo box, material carrier and the oil-bath air cleaner. It’s the “bike that won the war,” still wearing its uniform.