Unopened 1942 Harley-Davidson 45 WLA Crate Engine

Hiding in this wooden crate is something that our two-wheeled enthusiasts would find to be very interesting. Even if you prefer your action on four wheels, it is still something that is pretty interesting and is a link to a significant era in world history. Barn Finder Patrick S located this classic piece of equipment for us, so thank you so much for that Patrick. Located in Arden, North Carolina, you will find this collectible listed for sale here on eBay. It comes with a BIN of $13,500, but the option is available to make an offer.

With a couple of panels removed from the crate, now we can get a look at what hides inside. This is a World War II Harley-Davidson flathead engine, produced for the US Army as part of the war effort. With a capacity of 45ci (740cc), the engine was standard fitment in the WLA model (along with the Canadian WLC). It featured very low 5:1 compression, allowing the engine to run on low-grade fuel. This engine was a spare that would’ve been shipped to the Army for a rapid engine change in the event of mechanical problems. It was packed into the crate after being checked and timed at the Harley-Davidson factory, so was essentially ready for fitment at short notice.

Included in the crate engine was a set of accessories that would be required to complete the engine before installation. The owner hasn’t unpacked anything, and how you see it now is as close as it has ever been from being removed from the crate. The owner believes that amongst the accessories is a brand new carburetor, which would be in the moisture-resistant waxed cardboard box that you see in this photo. This would have been pre-set at the factory, so that engine changes could be affected as quickly as possible in the field of battle. After all, time equals lives in those situations, so everything needs to be as efficient as possible. The engine also comes with an installation book, so that there could be no problems with executing a change-over in a hurry.

As their part in the war effort, Harley-Davidson produced 90,000 of the WLA model motorcycle for the US Army, plus derivatives for the Canadian and other allied defense forces. Many of these machines found their way into civilian use once hostilities ended, and the engine itself remained in production in slightly altered form right through until 1973. Production of the WLA model ended in 1945, but because it was a proven product, production restarted in 1949 and continued through until 1952 as part of the Harley-Davidson supply commitment for the Korean War. Therefore, they were not a particularly rare bike. However, finding an original, complete, and untouched crate engine would have to be something of a rarity today, and with an amazing 443 people currently watching the listing, I have no doubt that this engine will soon find its way to a new home.

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Comments

  1. mtshootist1

    wow!! what a find!! For decades the rumors of crated WLAs on various military bases were abound, when I was a young biker, the 45’s were too slow for anything but around town. However, I remember hearing stories growing up in Kansas about crated WLAs in warehouses, at Fort Riley, then when I worked for the Air Force at FE Warren, the urban legend was that there were Harleys buried in a pit out at the fort. I got all over the fort, but never found a trace of any WWII harley. I did find a brand new Aluminum Head for a WLA at a chopper shop back then, they wanted five bucks for it, with a sign that said that it would make a good ash tray. Couldn’t resist a five dollar “ashtray”…

    33
  2. davew833

    Somebody alert the guys from American Pickers– they’d be all over this!

    7
    • CapNemo

      Screw those guys.

      70
      • carter f bigelow

        whats wrong with the american pickers

        2
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Spelt wrong; there should be an ‘E’ instead of an ‘I.’

        19
    • Chasman358 Member

      I love it. In a crate for almost 75 years!

      14
    • Gaspumpchas

      Amercan @$$pickers wouldn’t buy this, first they are greedy pr*cks, second, mike is in the slammer, and third too much money. these 2 clowns have run the collectibles market up to unaffordability.. My $.02 worth.
      GPC

      35
      • clayV.

        Wrong Mike Wolfe. The one in jail was arrested in Oregon for murder. I agree with the rest of your post, though.

      • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

        Why is he in jail? I still watch the show now and then, but yeah, it lost its magic a long time ago.

        8
    • jd

      Really!!! Do you guys really believe that show is real?? Totally fake made up smoke and mirrors…

      4
  3. Snotty

    Nah! Let the pickers find it themselves.

    9
    • J.R.

      Gaspumpchas
      Your $.02 isn’t worth anything if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Mike isn’t in the “slammer”. Get your facts straight before posting 3rd grade nonsense. Same name different person. 🙄

      14
      • Gaspumpchas

        Thanks for your commentary, JR. Keep it positive or keep it to yourself. Like I said, its opinion. Go back to your @$$picker buddies.

  4. Dave

    To quote Indiana Jones, “this belongs in a museum” .

    14
  5. Rube Goldberg

    This is pretty cool, a little off their nut on the price, but someone clearly watching American Pickers. Seeing the stuff this Mike Wolfe allegedly buys with Hollywoods money, I bet sets the price on this. With all the krap those guys encounter, I can’t help but think there are still warehouses full of crates like this, probably some Jeeps too, just hasn’t been found yet. I saw just the other day, he allegedly paid $10g’s for a wasted knucklehead motor. Seems a bit far fetched, and again, it is Hollywood, you can believe it or not. I think it’s all BS. This, however, is the real deal, and if you have deep pockets and want a new motor, here you go. I think you could find a whole bike for this money or not much more.

    5
  6. Black Bowtie

    When I was doing my AIT at Ft. Knox in 1982, we uncrated two 42 HD’s with sidecars for the Patton Museum they were building at the time on post. There were at least a dozen more still in the crates in the warehouse.

    18
  7. healeydays

    I don’t see them getting that price as there was this one out there a few months ago for $3000
    http://jacksonville.freeclassifieds.com/classified_ads/For_Sale/Auto_Parts/AeVG6_sgt4yXPA0TqKOVOg==

    11
  8. Chasman358 Member

    I love it. In a crate for almost 75 years!

    2
  9. Unobtanium Matt

    A guy near me in New York who collects military vehicles has one of these still bolted into the crate like this. He wants $10k for it. A bargain if you’re comparing it to 13k!

    2
  10. Harleys and Vettes

    way over priced!!!

  11. canadainmarkseh Member

    There’s an army surplus store in Calgary where I live. They have a crated ww2 triumph that has been sitting there for years. Story goes the owner had 15 of them to start with, and when he got down to 2 he uncrated one for personal use and has left the last one in the crate. You can see it on display in the store if you know where to look. I look at it every time I’m in there, it’s not for sale. So what do you do with this engine, do you uncrate it or do you use for a base on a glass top coffee table. Problem is the minute the crate is gone so has the value. If I were a Harley dealer I’d put plexiglass on one side of the crate then put on display in the show room to start conversations with customers.

    17
    • JAMES WHITAKER

      the evel knievel museum/ harley davidson shop in topeka, kansas would be the perfect place ! ! ! i don’t believe they have one of these…..

      • sluggo

        Maybe they would if the point is to Highlight HD products, in which case its the ultimate conversation piece, the nice thing is as a business they might be able to write it off on taxes or business expenses… But I am no lawyer or accountant so dont take tax advice from me!
        However how it would relate to Evel Knievel is not much of a connection, While he had an association with Harley and basically Sportster models, He also had relationships With Laverda, Triumph and Nortons. The Nortons were hybrids of a Norton motor and AMC trans in a Matchless frame. I have spoken to Steve Zabaro and the debate is were they N15s or G15s, But he was there and claims it was N15CS and Evel switched to Triumph when Bob Blair asked him to pay for the bikes. I could be mistaken but I am pretty sure he rode Yamahas and Hondas a time or 2 as well. So not much of a connection to this type and model. I have some cool photos of him from his sponsor at the Time, ZDS motors (Norton) as well as see Brooks & Gaylins Triumph in America book for some excellent Evel and Triumph pix.

  12. Gene L Halsey

    I remember seeing ads in Popular Mechanics back in the 50’s for these engines for $75.

  13. Gaspumpchas

    Belongs in a museum. 13 large seems excessive especially since it seems there are more out there, I’d say if it was one in the world maybe. Good luck!!
    Cheers
    GPC

    1
    • skody54 Member

      I have had a 45 for nearly 50 years. It was partially buried behind a now closed HD dealer. I brought a NOS tran ny for it. Pulled the cosmoline(?) Off of it myself and just painted the top black. It’s still OD on the bottom.

  14. geomechs geomechs Member

    Hmmm, I wonder how I missed out on this one? Just got the notice. Anyway, this is about as close as you’ll get to find a complete bike, ‘Still In the Crate.’ I’ve got a military maintenance manual for the WLA. Quite interesting to see the different equipment and procedures. Sure would like to have one in my collection. Nice one, complete with army ordinance, in the Harley Davidson museum. Remember this one, Rube? Or were you looking at the girls?

    8
    • Rube Goldberg

      Hi geomechs, yep, that was a great day and can’t thank you enough,,and,,,yes, yes I was looking at the girls,,,too.

      4
  15. bigdoc Member

    Being still in the crate is cool but the price is way excessive. While I would love to get a hold on a 45 not in a crate and for reasonable money I won’t pay this kind of money for it. This is a piece that belongs on display in a Harley dealership.

    3
  16. Kenneth Carney

    My Mom bought one of these from surplus when she was 16. She told me that
    ahe bought the bike because it was cheaper on gas than a car. She rode it for
    several years before I came along. After that, it was 4 wheelers all the way. If
    you asked her today, she’d still tell you the same story. Reminds me of that song
    “I Saw Mama Before She Was Mama.” Only my Mom was a motorcycle Mama!
    I’m with GPC, it belongs in a museum.

    10
  17. sluggo

    In the mid 1990s I was still finding bikes and parts still in the crates, Triumph TRWs and gensets, Service kits and I still have a few as momentos. Some Harley stuff too. Most I was finding was out of Canada, *While SOME of the Triumph stuff looked like civilian preunit parts many differed. I have photos of crates full of fenders and I know a guy who has some still, they make amazing conversation pieces but are not worth much because while a 40s or 50s original NOS fender is worth around a $1000, the TRW ones are narrower so occasionally someone overpays but last swap meet Ray was getting $250.
    So look in old Wlanecks and Old Bike Journal issues. There is ads from 1990s up into early 2000s for people selling this stuff (Harley and Triumph) and ranged from entire bikes to NOS parts.
    The going rate for a HD 45 up until about 2001-2002 was $300 to $800 and maybe $1500 if it was really nice and had upgrades, Then seemingly overnight they suddenly got valuable. I brokered a estate collection of big twin flatties and 6 45s and regret I didnt keep one of the 45s because of current market prices. However they are fun to look at but very disappointing to ride. lucky to get past 45 mph and that requires a tail wind and a steep hill. There WAS racing variants and a friend had one. Compression, swap the trans for a BSA and replace the rockers on the springer will enable you to ride around town, but not the interstate. Noveltys, showpieces and conversation items. While this is an interesting find, the price is way too high. These show up with regularity, Join AMCA and attend swap meets and bike shows. Look in the newsletters, lots of guys got this stuff sitting on the shelves. Any of you in the PNW lets have coffee at the Tenino AMCA regional meet in Washington in August.
    Here is another in the crate for sale.. no price mentioned. See:
    https://www.dianesauctions.com/harley_davidson_45_wla_crate_motor.html

    8
    • healeydays

      I talk to Diane today and she says “The motor is still available. We are asking $5k for it, serious offers are most certainly considered also.”

      4
    • Dizzy

      I rode my 45 chopper for years on the freeway in California and I had a suicide clutch and everything I loved it I was so mad when I got rid of it

  18. Doc Devorak

    WOW…Today is Monday 7/21. Yesterday, our motorcycle club met and I waws just mentioning to a club brother that I had purchased a $% WLA Army issue engine that was surplus and never installed (zero miles). He wants it and I figured today that maybe I should let it go down the road for $3,500 (what I WAS going to tell him) or so I was going to tell him prior to viewing THIS AD. Does anyone think that crate has a value of $10,000.00 because mine doesn’t have one of those? Maybe I should evaluate my selling price?
    Doc in MN

    1
  19. stillrunners

    Krewl……..or cool in some circles……

    1
  20. Mark Johnson

    If the motor is a genuine never opened never used wla motor who painted the heads black…All wla motors have alluminum heads..

  21. mtshootist1

    all the WLA heads were painted black, the brand new one that I bought for five bucks was painted black, probably for two reasons, non-shiny look and second heat dissipation.

  22. Kenn

    I rode a 1945 HD 45 in Ann Arbor in 1956. Sluggo, I can assure you they can go well in excess of 45mph. Almost double that, in fact. As I learned going from A2 to Ypsi for date I’ld been waiting for and then got a late start.

    1
  23. Skody54 Member

    I agree with Kenn. Often people put on or leave on the service car 17 tooth sprocket instead of using a 30 tooth one. A 17 t will really rev that mill

    1

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