Showing posts with label 1940s Motorcycles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1940s Motorcycles. Show all posts

Harley-Davidson WL 45

Harley-Davidson WL 45 1940s American classic motorcycle

These days, the Harley-Davidson WL 45 is seriously old school. That is a good thing, of course! '45' referenced its engine capacity - in cubic inches. The side-valve 45° V-twin slung the WL to a top speed of 75mph. A long way from Harley's high-tech Evo powerplant of today. Still, that was plenty enough speed, given the WL's suspension set-up - or lack of it. Well, at the rear, at any rate. The WL was a full-on factory hard-tail ... no concealed shock absorber here! The WL's sprung saddle, though, kept it comfy. At the front, however, things were looking up - hopefully, not literally! '49 saw the introduction of Harley's Girdraulic damping system. It was duly fitted to the WL's 'springer' front fork assembly. Friction damping was thereafter consigned to the Harley history book.

The WL's motor made 25bhp. That was an improvement on the W model - compression having been upped a tad. 4,000rpm was now available. The 3-speed gearbox was controlled by a hand shift and foot clutch. While the roadster's performance was not exactly earth-shattering, Harley's WR race bike did what it could to redress the balance. To be fair to the road bike's output, it did have its work cut out. 528lb wet was plenty of weight for the WL to heave. Saying that, it was not excessive for a bike of its size. Bear in mind that in the Forties, carbon fibre was just a glint in a scientist's eye!

Bikes like the WL45, then, were a bridge between Harley's vintage crop and its current range. 45ci equated to 750cc - or middleweight, in modern money. The 45-powered bikes were hugely important to Harley. Indeed, they helped the firm weather the Great Depression. Were it not for those bikes, Milwaukee's finest may well not have survived. Many a biker's life would have been lessened - such is the impact Harley-Davidson has had. So, much is owed to the WL 45 ... and its pioneering predecessors!

Indian Four

Indian Four 1940s American classic motorcycle

The Indian story started in 1901 - in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA. It continued until '42 - and the outbreak of the Second World War. Originally called Hendee, the Indian Motocycle Company came into being in '23. And, no, that is not a typo! One of Indian's most iconic machines was the succinctly-named Four. As the name suggests, its engine sported four cylinders. They were arranged in a longitudinal inline-four configuration.

Top speed for the Four was 90mph. Pretty quick, in the early Forties. The Four's side-valve set-up - 2 per cylinder - gave 40bhp, at 5,000rpm. The longitudinal layout meant overheating could be an issue, though. Cooling air struggled to find its way to the rear pots.

The Four looked every inch the classic American motorcycle. The fenders' rakish lines were pure Indian. Certainly, the bike had nailed down the 'laid-back' custom look. Styling-wise, the solo saddle, front forks and straight exhaust perfectly complemented the downward diagonal of the top frame rail. Comparisons cannot help but be made with arch-rival Harley-Davidson. But - complete with its in-line motor - the Indian Four was every bit as glamorous as a motorbike from Milwaukee. V-twin fans may conceivably disagree, of course!