1951 HARLEY-DAVIDSON WL SOLO Engine no. 51 G 1510 • Last year of production

1951 HARLEY-DAVIDSON WL SOLO Engine no. 51 G 1510 • Last year of production • Finished in mint green and cream Excelsior’s Super-X began the race. Indian won it. And Harley-Davidson outlasted them all. In the first two decades of motorcycles in the United States, two displacement classes prevailed; 21 cubic inch and 61 cubic inch, and racing classes were developed around these criteria. Then Excelsior introduced the class breaking Super-X in 1925, a 45 cubic inch engine that featured unit construction with the crankcase containing both the flywheel assembly and the transmission. Actually it was a direct response to Indian’s little Scout which was a 37 cubic inch engine, and a phenomenal sales success. In 1927, they too punched out the Scout to a full 45 cubic displacement. Harley-Davidson jumped into the game too in 1929 but had difficulty promoting their 45 inch model against the sales leadership Indian and Excelsior had a stranglehold on. That 45 cubic inch class, or 750cc, is still a recognized class in the sales and competition of motorcycles today. Harley-Davidson’s entry into the new class of 45’s occurred in 1929 with a new sidevalve engine in the 21 cubic single Model B’s chassis. This cost saving idea required the generator on the engine to be mounted vertically, hence the nickname “three cylinder Harley by its detractors. And typical of Harley-Davidson, the evolution of this model was one of conservatism. In 1930, it got a new frame and in 1932 the generator was now horizontal thanks to the new frame, and in 1937 it received dry sump lubrication in part to the development of the Knucklehead. A new transmission and clutch in 1941 finished the substantial upgrades to the model as the impending war changed everything and following World War II, our boys were coming home to British motorcycles that were less expensive, lighter, faster and more comfortable. Plus there were hordes of cheap leftover military motorcycles coming on the market for a couple hundred bucks each when a new 45 would cost the rider $730 in its final year. The last year of 45 production occurred in 1951, the year of this motorcycle being offered for sale. An older restoration using a G model engine, a common changeover, it’s finished in a pleasant mint green and cream with red lining. The Harley 45’s were promoted as intermediate motorcycles, a transient rider until the owner could extend himself to a Big Twin as well as a machine for the growing population of women who enjoyed riding motorcycles but didn’t care for the weight of the larger bikes. The WL or 45 was a great combination of Big Twin styling and lighter weight. As a fully capable riding motorcycle in today’s world, it will cruise all day at 50 mph with its under stressed engine. With plenty of spare parts still available, any issue is quite easy to address, plus there are many modern upgrades the owner can add to the bike like belt drive primaries. While there were plenty of 45 Harleys produced, they were actually much rarer than the Big Twins as they only accounted for 7% of the company’s overall sales.