1942_HD_WLD_1Launched in 1937 as a replacement for the “D” model, the WLD was Harley’s middle weight side valve machine. While using a slightly lower tech design than the larger OHV EL model, the “flathead” or “side-valve” WL 45 was the backbone of Harley’s lineup. Not only did it serve well in modified trim as a courier machine in World War II, the WLA, but in numerous two and three-wheeled versions it was the mount of choice for police departments. The WL series enjoyed great commercial service and in the WLDR and WR was the basis of the Class C flat track racing series which AMA launched in 1934.

The WL being the basic model, the sportier WLD was typically referred to as the Special Sport Solo and employed a higher compression ratio. Wheel sizes, styling and trim were nearly identical to the EL and later FL, but a shorter wheelbase and less weight made for more nimble handling. If you enjoy this period of Harley-Davison styling, the 45’s are a fraction of the cost of the OHV Harleys from this era.

This WLD, currently on display at the National Motorcycle Museum has been treated to a lot of chrome work by its owner including wheels, primary cover and battery box, has a fine set of leather saddlebags, white wall tires, some tasteful pin striping and a pair of spotlights.

In an effort to make yet a sportier lightweight machine to compete better with British offerings, the side-valve K Model was released in 1952.  Ending a long and venerable heritage, the WL model was discontinued though the engine lived on in Servi-Cars. The 1952 K Model was Harley’s first production machine with rear suspension with the FL following in 1958.


  • Engine – 45 Degree Side Valve V-Twin
  • Displacement – 45 Cubic Inches / 750 cc’s
  • Bore & Stroke – 2.75″ x 3.81″
  • Carburetor – Linkert
  • Primary – Duplex Chain
  • Clutch – Dry, Multi-disk
  • Transmission – 3-Speed, Hand Shift
  • Ignition – 6V Battery, Points & Coils
  • Frame – Single Down Tube
  • Suspension – Springer Fork/Rigid Rear
  • Brakes – Drum, Internal Expanding
  • Wheelbase – 57.5″
  • Weight – 530
  • Wheels/Tires – 5.00″x16″
4 replies
  1. Aaron Sturgill
    Aaron Sturgill says:

    I had a WLD 45ci , But for the life of me I cant figure out what that is on the plunger side shifter gate on tank , I can see its a got a foot shifter so what is that where shifter gate is on the plunger bob side ?


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