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1942 Harley-Davidson WLA by Italeri


As the United States prepared for the likelihood of war in 1940, Harley-Davidson was tasked with building a general-purpose motorcycle for the US Army. Based upon their existing W-series bikes, the resulting bike used a high-compression twin-cylinder 45 cubic inch (740 cc) engine. Over 90,000 examples were built between the (US Army and WLC (Canadian Army).

has been gradually reissuing kits produced by other manufacturer’s all in scale. The kits out of this series are easy to build and have some nice details straight out of the box.

Rumor has it (based in the inter webs…) that this particular tooling was originally released in the 1970s by ESCI in with its civilian fittings including fenders and chromed parts. The tooling was revised into a wartime configuration and issued a few years later by replacing the fenders, fuel tank, and adding the Thompson machine gun with scabbard along with a black-out light and other details.

My Take on the Build

I have to tell you, this kit was a ton of fun. It really took me back to when I built models as a teen. Flash to clean off, sketchy directions, etc. But in the end it was cool. The internet helps us these days find references to make the models accurate. Fill in the gaps that the issuer doesn’t. So, to all those who’ve built this kit before me, and shared they’re “how-to’s” a big tip of the cap.

I used soft pastels to do the seat & bags. Thought this would be an opportunity to use some of the tools in my artist bag to achieve the finish of leather. I think it came out pretty good. BTW-the decals shipped with this kit are actually really good! Not too thick, not too thin.

With that, I present you my 1942 Harley-Davison WLA. Build one if you can—just fun to build.

9 additional images. Click to enlarge.

25 responses

  1. Outstanding Army Harley, Matt!

  2. Now I need to scratch build a 1:9 Captain America shield to add to the presentation.

  3. Nice. The old Esci bike kits were state of the art in the day and still hold up very well today in the reboxings by various manufacturers the latest being Italeri.

  4. Right on. And fun to build!

  5. Now that is one amazing specimen! Just wonderful!

  6. Oh, Matt - your choice of subjects and execution are just brilliant. This is an exceptional build.

  7. I have a friend who owns a real WW2 WLA US Army Harley. He had it on display at the local Harley Davidson dealership for years and I have seen it numerous times.

    In all honesty, your model looks just like the real thing ! You captured the look rather well.

    The Thompson is a nice touch as well. The leather parts looks spot on, and adding a little mud under the fenders takes it up a notch or two !

    I like everything about this one ... Well done.

  8. A real masterpiece!

  9. I also have one of these, I built it last year! It was good fun and I'm also pleased with the way it turned out. I did find that some parts around the 'working' parts were a bit weak and broke easily. The bottom of the front forks/suspension in particular.
    I love the look of yours!

  10. Man that is one good looking Haley. Well done Matt looks real from here.

  11. Very well done indeed, Matt - I really like what you've done with it - outstanding!

  12. These kits usually look pretty good when they're built and this one is no exception. The leather looks particularly good, as does the little bit of weathering. 1/9 scale seems to suit this model very well.

  13. Great job Matt, it really looks good, and real. Fill up the tank and take it for a ride.

  14. Doesn't have wings...but beyond that, it's an great-looking build! Very nice.

  15. Now I prefer a superbike, but the skill that has went into this bike is nothing short of amazing!

  16. Great rendition of a great kit. Well done.

  17. Really a BEAUTIFUL build. My oldest son gave me this kit for Christmas a year ago. I’m wrapping up my Eduard 1/48 Fw 190D-9. This is next, to “clean my palate”, if you will before I get back to my WWII airplanes. Your fantastic photos will be a indispensable in getting it done right. Thanks.

  18. Matt, if it’s not asking you to give up State Secrets, could you tell me how you “weathered” the tread on the tires and then added the “junk” in the grooves. Really a very nice touch.

    • Tom,

      No secrets between modelers…for the tire weathering I used Tamiya weathering powder. These come in three color sets (sand, mud, dirt) and are applied with basically a makeup brush. They are a little more tacky than just pastels so they will stick better to painted surfaces. You can also clear over them with out the fade back. Hope this helps.

  19. Absolutely awesome work Sir!

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