Sunday, January 9, 2011

Trivia: Motorcycling's fifth decade - 1940-'49 - you're in the army now

Allied Forces in North Africa reported that the shaft-drive Zundapps and BMWs used by the Wehrmacht (which were usually set up as sidecar outfits, with a driven third wheel) were incredibly tough and useful. Captured specimens were returned to Milwaukee, and Harley-Davidson developed a test batch of 1,000 XA-model opposed twins. By the time the bike was ready for prime time, it was clear that the Willys Jeep, at under 1,300 pounds(!) was not much heavier than a sidecar outfit, but it was more powerful and had a larger payload.

America’s belated entry into WWII kick-started Indian again and breathed new life into Harley, too. Both companies filled open-ended military procurement contracts for all the bikes they could make, at the standard cost-plus-10% rate. Harley alone sold over 90,000 45 cu. in. WL models.

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