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Fagen Fighters WWII Museum proudly displays this unrestored 1944 Harley Davidson WLA Type VII

Model Designation

W : the W family of motorcycles. Harley Davidson (except in very early models) gives a letter designation for each model family. The W series at the time was the newest incarnation of the 45 cubic inches (740 cc) flathead motor, and was developed from the earlier R family 1932–1936.

L : "high compression", in the usual HD scheme. The "low compression" W model was only briefly available.

A : Army. The company would also produce a model to the slightly different specifications of the Canadian Army, which would be named the WLC. The WLCs differed from WLAs chiefly in the use of some heavier components, usually Big Twin parts, as well as Canadian blackout lighting.


Harley-Davidson began producing the WLA in small numbers in 1940, as part of a general military expansion. The later entry of the United States into World War II saw significantly increased production, with over 90,000 being produced during the war (along with spare parts the equivalent of many more). Harley Davidson would also produce a close WLA variant for the Canadian Army called the WLC and would also supply smaller numbers to the UK, South Africa, and other allies, as well as filling orders for different models from the Navy and Marine Corps.

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. Most WLCs were produced in 1943, and are marked 43WLC. The precise serial number, as well as casting marks, can be used to date a specific motor accurately, and some other parts bear year and month stamps. Frames and many other parts were not tagged with the serial number, and cannot generally be dated. (This is common prior to adoption of the VIN.)

Many WLAs would be shipped to allies under the Lend-Lease program. The largest recipient was the Soviet Union, which was sold over 30,000 WLAs. Production of the WLA would cease after the war, but would be revived for the Korean War during the years 1949–1952.

Captain America rode a modified WLA in the 2011 feature film "Captain America, The First Avenger"

A WLA was a good way to get around the motor pool

WLA's were frequently used as courier transports for long distances

Serial Number: 42WLA62925

Engine / Horsepower: Harley Davidson 45 degree V12 / 23 Horsepower


Military Police, convoy escort,dispatch rider and reconnaissance duties


Thompson submachine gun (in scabbard)


Maximum speed: 45 mph