wearymicrobe PowerDork
12/11/22 1:42 p.m.

Need to put this all down because it is silly and I want to document it. 

I have been really looking at restored WLA Harley's, full military regalia, gun mounts the whole shebang. I am not sure why but I have been attracted to really anything made from 1932-1948ish my whole life. Especially things that used to be military and then converted to civilian life. 32 Model A's turned into racers, belly tanks use on the salt flats, old flatheads turned into choppers.

I just love the idea that really anybody with a could make something and make a good bit of the parts themselves. Spent a good bit of time looking for a WLA/WLC and there are fully restored bikes and not much else out there. So fun to own, not a lot of fun to operate over the long haul and keep then accurate. Add in that I adore my panhead frame shovel powered chopper which is a rolling pile of different parts and even love my stupid ratty hardtail so I started looking for a decent flathead start. 

I wanted a good motor, magneto ignition and some small projects to perform to get my feet wet. Did not care about originality because I am going to ride the thing and I did not want to worry about finding year specific parts for the bike. 

So this popped up on eBay, was winning the bid and then it just disappeared with BIN. Was a good bike, fresh motor with 10 miles, magneto, it was originally built by a shop for a client ~25 years back and he ran out of money in the end and they did not finish everything. Was setup like a frisco chopper with a pedal clutch and no front brake, not the right carb, not wired completely. So cheap enough for me to work on and I could have fun. Clearly a civilian WL not a WLA which actually makes it significantly rarer but no more valuable. 

I sent the owner a quick text after the BIN was used by someone else and they did not complete the deal I would take it. Continued my search for about another week plus and get a text out of the blue that it is available. Buyer of course never even contacts the seller. Cool I own the bike. Uncool did not read the description right and it's in a town in New Mexico. Call my usual shippers to see about getting it picked up.  Cheapest bid was 1550$ from a reliable carrier and they were at least a month plus out. 

So took a day off work left San Diego at 9:00PM went to New Mexico with a rented trailer and my dad in tow and 25 hours and ~1750 miles with a few stops to look at cool stuff it was back in the garage. Lots of fun adventures, Dad and I got to talk for 20 hours or so when he was awake. Got to see the the white sands proving grounds. The largest fiberglass pistachio, which surprisingly almost all my family have photos with when doing cross country drives. 



wearymicrobe PowerDork
12/11/22 2:01 p.m.

Just how bad was the bike. 

So the bike had "run" about a year ago, the seller put some spray down the carb and oil got it to fire then pulled all the fluids and let it sit. He had owned it for a decade, the previous owner was a friend who had it a bit long then that. Odometer reads 7 miles. After a 800+ mile drive I was expecting a pile but it was reasonably accurate to the photos. Motor was restamped with a new vin which happened in the late 80's when they were worth nothing and that does not bug me. I think the springer is a later 1939 which could actually be original to the frame. The Magneto is what looks like a brand new Morse, brand new carb, decent paint, brand new tires. 

So lets get him paid, load it in the trailer and drag this thing home. 

So once I get it home lets strip the thing down and see what we got. 

So first thing is the wiring looks like it was done by a third grader. It's not terrible but its not good. They wired the kill for the magneto to the main switch (this is bad for a few reasons) had a 1.5K brand new generator/regulator combo on it that is wired incorrectly and it has a huge voltage leak somewhere in the bike. Battery goes dead in about 10 hours. This thing has a front light, tail light and a horn. It should hold for years. 

Pulled the carb and hot tanked it, it was almost perfect inside except for some varnish, put some oil in it, fresh gas, battery and lets see what we have. Fired up after about 100 kicks, flooded the thing but runs great. Kill the bike let it sit, now it fires up third kick every time. Then E36 M3 starts to roll down hill. 

I know the wiring is bad and I have a battery in it, put the bike on the accessory side of the switch and I see smoke come out of the Magneto. They wired it so poorly it put 12v right down the line and smoked the points. 200$ later for a new coil and fresh points and few other things I am back and running. Morse Magneto still exists and they had parts in stock ready to go. Pull the magneto to rebuild it and find 10 years worth of rain water and rust in the body. Hot tanked it, sonicated it and spent almost three hours getting all the rust out. Would not even spin freely when I pulled it the first time. Put new ground isolators while I was in there. Looking for a new cover and some braided plug wires like I have on the other bike. 


So next is the brakes. There are none in the front.  People called this is the suicide setup with the pedal clutch for a reason. Looks cool as hell but not ridable safely in any way. Find somebody in Poland who makes twin cam setup drum brake. Order the whole setup. Now this is a WL not a WLA but it should have an integrated drum on the wheel. This is a star hub setup for a knuckle/pan. Fork feet have been moved to the outside. Well they are aftermarket but same principal. Parts get stuck in customs in Poland for almost 15 days. They show up and are missing the shackle bolts and the cable terminator for the drum. Boo. 

So of course when was pulling this apart then had cut the axle spacers incorrectly to get the wheel to sit flush, the axle itself is a really nice piece but had to order new spacers. The left threaded spacer actually had a crack and likely was OEM to the springer and the right had been shaved just a bit to much so all those parts were ordered along with the shaker nuts/bolts spacers. Ordered them from Germany and they will be here tomorrow. Once again got stuck in customs for an extra day and I lost the weekend to work on the bike which sucks because it is rainy and not much else I could do. 


Last is the conversion to rocker clutch. Resurrection motors had that in stock for me in the states and it is already here and on the bike. Going to run the primary open which I also setup during that install. 



wearymicrobe PowerDork
12/11/22 2:08 p.m.

So right now the last thing that was completed was the wiring. Who ever built the bike spent a fortune on that really cool braided and cloth covered wired. they just wired it drunk. Or more likely I think the shop wired the bike and then somebody came in and put the magneto on it and screwed it all up. 

So I stripped the entire harness down to nothing. Rewired the entire bike from scratch and isolated the Magneto out to a hidden kill switch that I can reach while riding. I have always used a really old manual crimper for all my projects, I was on Amazon during cyber money and found a ratcheting crimper to help with the bike. Holy tar is it nice. Like the best 30$ I have spent in a long time on a tool. 

So everything is now cloth wired, properly crimped, double shrunk wrapped and  color coded correctly. All my grounds are correct and both the generator and oil lights work as they are supposed to. Well one did the other bulb was 6v and popped after I got some flickering due to a cold start. I want to rewire everything now with this tool again. I spent so long hand crimping and soldering the wires in the 550 that I got a little lazy near the end. I put a few of these crimped lines in the vice and pulled on the wire and they are not going to give out. 

Fancy cloth wire, used to energize the regulator. Not double shrunk wrapped like the rest of the harness. 

wearymicrobe PowerDork
12/11/22 2:25 p.m.

So as of 12/11/2022 where am I. 

I have a properly running bike on the motor and transmission side, everything checks out and looks brand new. The bike has the replica WLD heads and cams in it. The valves are the upgraded units and are lightened in the center. Has upgraded oil pumps, perfect paint, nice chrome, UL hubs with better bearings, new tires, wiring is correct, the magneto runs, knuckle/pan charging system and I will have brand new front and rear brakes on the bike upgraded to the double cam setup. Clutch has been returned to rocker with a nice rebuilt unit. A realy nice bike that I can ride and if something brakes I don't have to go full matching year on parts. 

I would guess that the bike cost about 20K for the PO to restore even 20 years ago. I imagine that I am going to be into the bike for about 2K in parts on top of that and another 20 hours of labor for mechanics and anther 6 for wiring.  It is likely worth around 14-15K give or take as it sits and I would have paid much more for that for a WL in good/decent restored condition and even then I would not know what I had until I blew it apart. 

I got to do a road trip with my dad which was fun, I get to experience tank shifters and rocker clutches and if I want to sell it and get a knuckle or a restored UL in the future it will make a good down payment for me to do so. Not that I will need to or want to sell it but its nice to know I could. 

Riding photos to come once my bolts are here and the rain goes away. I have a 1981 Schott Perfecto jacket that I got on Poshmark for a song and I cleaned up and reconditioned. Plus some WW2 era reproduction boots one the way that have the ankle wraps. Can cosplay on the bike and look the part except for the full face helmet which is the only way I ride. 

BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/11/22 2:29 p.m.

That looks like a really cool project. Thanks for sharing it with us!

MiniDave Reader
12/11/22 5:00 p.m.

Link to the ratcheting crimper you bought? I need a good crimper.....

Nice bike! My first bike was an old pan I got in the mid 60's that had the hand shifter and an extended fork. Classic chopper. I only weighed about 125lbs then and it tried to throw me over the handle bars a few times trying to kick start it....no electric starters back then!

wearymicrobe PowerDork
12/11/22 5:52 p.m.

Will post up the crimper later today when I get home. I got one specifically for car wiring and for 22$ worth every penny. 

This one kicks over easy 6:1 compression and only 45ci kick only but it like velocity to start.  My shovel is 96ci and 10:1 with no releases and kick only. That thing I have to be off the bike and full power kick it every single time. It has thrown me a few times and I am 200lbs in gear. 

matthewmcl Dork
12/11/22 9:48 p.m.

I had a traveler stay at my house a decade ago. He was from Holland and was touring the states on a 42 (or thereabouts, but I think 42) Harley. He stopped to charge the battery each evening somewhere on his route, even with continuous riding. Headlight off during the daytime. You may not be chasing a problem so much as the state of Harley electrics in 42.

Neat guy. He was a teacher and saved all his vacation time for a 6 month sabbatical every few years. His only vehicle with 12V electrics was a sixties Triumph, as I recall. It is never really dark on the roads in Holland, he said, due to streetlights everywhere.

docwyte PowerDork
12/12/22 9:30 a.m.

Did you get the front brake installed?

wearymicrobe PowerDork
12/12/22 10:37 a.m.
docwyte said:

Did you get the front brake installed?

Tonight it should be installed. Waiting on shackle bolts and axle spacers being sent from overseas. UPS is supposed to drop them off today while I am at work. 

wearymicrobe PowerDork
12/12/22 9:09 p.m.

Complete and ready for test ride. 

Brakes work pretty darn well but took some time to adjust and I am sure the cable will stretch. Lever does not return 100% but releases just fine. Not sure if I should put a return spring on it or just tighten up the adjusters a bit more. 

wearymicrobe PowerDork
12/15/22 6:36 p.m.

No rain today and had a half day off work. It runs and rides again. 20 miles today woooooo.

So had to spend a hour adjusting the rocker clutch a few times and still I stall it at lights but once I am moving it really is fun. Its slow as E36 M3 though, it has to have a smaller rear sprocket because it makes almost no power down low and then once the rpm gets . I could chase down a Grom or a old Rebel 250.  

Need to work on the engine timing I think as well if the sprocket is correct, makes power up high and almost nothing down. It has to be timing related because I do not have the torque to really get away from the light. It is that or my clutch is locking up and stalling the bike. 

Photos and some videos to come soon. 

wearymicrobe PowerDork
12/27/22 8:12 p.m.

So about 80 miles on the bike now in SoCal traffic. It's unique that is for sure. I have it really dialed in now, stops, goes, starts and runs really well. Had to borrow a magneto timing tool to 100% dial in the timing. I was off a few degrees and it really makes a difference. Last thing that needs to get here are the leather bags I had made in the vintage style and to find a air cleaner that works on the Mikuni that looks vintage. Also going to dye the carburetor black at some point because it is way too shiny. 

So sub 5mph it just does not move, above 55 mph it does not accelerate. It tracks true and I can ride hands off the throttle at 45 with almost no body English. The weird thing is the gearing 1st is too short after 5mph, second is actually really usable but third is so far out that you end up dropping so much speed that I have to rev the nuts off it between 2nd and 3rd to keep my speed up. Now I have the WLDR cams and the magneto which does not help the low RPM power but you could walk away from a stoplight faster then this bike for the first 10 feet or so. If I had to fathom a guess it makes 25-27hp with 750cc even with all the hopup parts on mine. It surprisingly likes to rev which I did not expect. 

It also gets amazing fuel economy if my odometer is correct. Like 45mpg which for 1942 is really cool. It stands out like a sore thumb on the road, my 1951 has disk brakes and looks modern bobberish even with the panhead frame. People don't know how old it is, this with the tank shifter and the foot clutch the occasional backfire and the drum brakes they know its old and they give me plenty of space on the road. Everybody wants to know how to operate the clutch, everybody wants to see it kick started and they love the sound. I wish I had bought a WLA that was fully restored but this is a good middle ground until I find one that is properly restored and has all the correct military parts. 

If you take a step back and look at it for the era it was built and it purpose its pretty darn good. 

  • 1st gear will get you up and over any off-road obstacle that you have the ground clearance or the bravery. 
  • 2nd gear will putter down a graded dirt road pretty well and 
  • 3rd is fantastic for 1942 paved road travel and you have plenty of power. 
    • Speed limit in 1942 was 35mph on paved roads to conserve fuel for the troops. 

If you had one in the war with the 18 inch front wheel and all the gear you would get where you need even if it was 80% offroad to get there. If you had a few minutes to get going you could outrun most armored divisions pretty quick as well. It likely would run on just about any combustible fluid you could find and if you kept up with the maintaince I don't think it would strand you. 



foxtrapper UltimaDork
12/28/22 12:39 p.m.

Thank you for this, especially the riding description.


I've been thirsting for a prewar bike myself for a bit now.  I'd personally love to have an Indian Scout, but I'd be happy with many others.  I'm only just starting to almost be actually shopping.

Reading your description of riding it is very helpful for thinking about how and where I'd ride one.


wearymicrobe PowerDork
12/28/22 1:26 p.m.

If you are ever in SoCal come on over and take this one for a ride, then take the 51 bobber out. You will find out real quick just how old you want to go. My neighbor has a bunch of vintage Harley's and had his 1926 out on Christmas if you really want to ride something old, surprisingly not that much slower then my 42. 

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