Harley Davidson 42 WLA Nbr. 1.
The Harley-Davidson WLA is a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that was produced to US Army specifications in the years during and around World War II. It was based on an existing civilian model, the WL, and is of the 45 solo type.
Harley-Davidson began producing the WLA in small numbers in 1940, as part of a general military expansion. The entry of the United States into World War II saw increased production, and different models from the Navy and Marine Corps were also ordered.
Unusually, all the WLAs produced after Pearl Harbor, regardless of the actual year, would be given serial numbers indicating 1942 production. Thus, war-time machines would come to be known as 42WLAs. This may have been in recognition of the use of the continued use of the same specification.
Production of the WLA would cease after the war, but would be revived for the Korean War during the years 1949-1952.
After the war, most WLAs were sold as surplus. The availability and low cost of these bikes would lead to the rise of the chopper and other modified motorcycle styles, as well as the surrounding biker culture. Many young soldiers would come home hoping to get a Harley-Davidson like they saw or rode in the service, leading to the post-war popularity of both the motorcycle and the company in general.
However, this also ensured that few nearly-original WLAs as the one seen on this picture would survive in the US or even Western Europe.
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