Harley-Davidson didn’t make a 45 until 1929, and its Model D was an attempt to regain the market share they’d lost to the popular Indian 101 Scout and Excelsior Super X 750cc sidevalve V-twins.
The Model D evolved into the Model R in 1932, with improvements to the frame and engine; the final prewar development was the Model W of 1937. The Model W proved astoundingly reliable, and was easily tuned, using a four-camshaft timing chest from the start, which was inherited from the racing department. With a multi-cam timing chest, the W became the perfect basis for Class C racing (45CI, production-based). Plenty of home tuners worked their skills on the 750cc W, WL, WR and WRLD models in the late 1930s and early ‘40s. In time, the sidevalve 45 outlasted its rivals Indian and Excelsior, and lingering Class C rules in the 1950s meant the final incarnation of Harley-Davidson’s 750cc V-twin sidevalver (the KRTT) hit 150 MPH on the banking at Daytona by 1962.
In typical usage, the 45 Model W was the workhorse of the Harley-Davidson range, remaining in the solo motorcycle model lineup all the way through 1952, and its motor was used as late as 1973 in the three-wheeled Servi-Cars. The longevity of the design was mostly due to its simplicity and heavy-duty construction; in fact, the W was often mistaken for a Big Twin, as it was so visually similar to its larger 74 CI and 80 CI brothers. It was easy to tune and maintain, and in its military guise, gained the affection of tens of thousands of riders in very rough use during World War II, gaining the nickname the Liberator in the process.
This 1941 Harley-Davidson WL was originally a war-service machine, and it was recovered in South Africa. It has since undergone an extensive, five-year restoration by Cyclemos Restoration and Museum in Tennessee, using mostly original, NOS parts.
The restoration was fully documented, and all the parts are correct for the military service—the air cleaners, scabbards, screen, saddlebags, fenders, etc. It runs and drives beautifully, having been thoroughly mechanically refreshed in September 2017, and it has matching engine and frame numbers (41WL2701). In short, it’s a near-perfect military Harley-Davidson, just waiting for the right owner to appreciate its special history.
Report by mecum.com