he Harley-Davidson 45 was America's two-wheeled workhorse for nearly half the 20th century, and examples like this beautifully restored 1941 WL attest that there was an equal measure of form with all that function. The 45 CI (750 cc) side-valve engine design was made popular in the mid-1920s by Harley-Davidson's then competition at Excelsior and Indian. When the AMA created a new class for the displacement in 1926, the gentlemen in Milwaukee knew that they would need something on offer. What they may not have anticipated was that their little forty-five would remain in their lineup in one form or another over 40 years later. The Milwaukee Motor Company's first attempt came in 1929 with the beautiful yet finicky Model D. In 1932, with most of the wrinkles ironed out, the 45 CI line was designated as the R-Series. Two years later, the AMA again stoked the marketplace for the midsized flatheads by creating the Class C division, an everyman's class for production motorcycles, which made the sport available to the masses on a national level. In 1937, Harley-Davidson adapted and integrated many of the new designs and engineering changes developed for its revolutionary OHV Knucklehead the year before. The new 45 line featured the recirculating oil system, roller bearings, a one-piece cam, frame improvements and styling changes, and it was designated as the W-Series. When America was called to war, the trusty, agile and reliable 45 was produced in record numbers for the war effort, with nearly 90,000 Harley-Davidson WLA motorcycles rolling out of Milwaukee. This dapper 1941 Harley-Davidson WL is a superb example of America's trusty workhorse, expertly restored in inky black and chrome. Serviceable and straightforward, by 1941, the reputation of Harley-Davidson's flathead platform had been well established, and the machines on offer perfectly balanced performance, reliability and style. Newer features fitted on the 1941 WL are taller cooling fins on the cylinder heads, an improved clutch and transmission, tubular fork arms, larger brakes and slightly longer valve springs. This WL also features a reverse gear in the 3-speed gearbox for sidecar use, a correct chrome tank badge, cat's-eye dashboard, fender and tank trim, toolbox and a beehive tail light. The fork ride-control, winged bar-and-shield electric horn, front fender light and 18-inch wheels complete the package on this 1941 Harley-Davidson WL, making it a most handsome and capable 45.
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