The Harley-Davidson 45 cubic inch flathead engine was one of the longest tenured engines in the history of internal combustion. It was in continuous production from 1929-1973, and was often considered the most reliable engine in HD’s line-up over those years.
The “Forty-Five” started as a semi-lightweight machine intended for smaller and younger riders. As the model gained its footing in the American motorcycle market, Harley-Davidson began to offer it in different packages and configurations.
The Model WLD debuted in 1937, and was based on the standard W-model. It featured high compression heads, larger intake ports, different carburetor and bigger cooling fins on the cylinders. This 1941 example — one of only a few hundred produced — was restored in 2010 by Dale in the WTT Restoration Shop.
WTT’s 2013 Annual Raffle Giveaway Bike was a beauty — a 1939 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead Bobber restored from the ground up in the WTT restoration shop. Thousands bought tickets, helping to keep the museum up and running and building new exhibits. When the lucky ticket was drawn on November 16th, the winner was Randy Horn of Chester, South Carolina. Randy is a member of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, and is the president of the clubs Catawba Chapter. Randy has been riding his 1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead for over 30 years, and now has another beauty to add to his collection. He bought the winning ticket when he visited during the museum’s “What’s in the Barn?” Season Premier Party in late June.
Congratulations Randy! Enjoy your new motorcycle!
Many bikes at Wheels Through Time are so rare that virtually no documentation exists. This 1912 Thor Special, which rested at the famous Lee Hartung Museum for over a half century, is one of those motorcycles.
The machine features an uncatalogued low-slung racing frame, reinforced front end, special gas and oil tanks, and a unique two-speed clutch. The 76 cubic inch Thor Model-U Engine, which was newly designed for 1912, is serial number two. A National brand sidecar was added at a later date.
Based on the machines uniqueness, and through stories acquired from Mr. Hartung, we believe this machine was first owned by Bill Ottoway, the engineer behind the Thor Model U engine. In 1913, Ottoway was hired away from Thor by the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, and put in charge of their racing department. Ottoway’s quick departure from Thor could explain the like-new condition of the machine, as HD would not want their chief racing director on anything but a brand new Harley.
Shortly after World War II, Indian built approximately 50 machines specially for Dirt Track and Beach/Road Racing. Nick-named the “Big Base”, the model 648 made an immediate impact when Floyd Emde took the checkered flag at the 1948 Daytona 200 in March. Today, the Big Base is among the most desirable Indian’s on the planet.
This 1948 “Big Base” was specially built for long distance flat track racing, and features Large capacity gas and oil tanks, narrowed front end, racing magneto, and no brakes. I was given the honor to race it at the 2013 Wauseon Half-Mile Flat Track races this past July. Those Indian’s just wind and wind and wind. What a bike!