The History of the 1942 Harley-Davidson XA

One of the military machines built by the Harley-Davidson was the 1942 XA. This is part 1 of a 2 part series on the history of a great “Liberator”.

During WWII, the US Army requested the Harley Davidson Motor Company to design a specification of a motorcycle much like the BMW’s used by the German forces.They wanted it with a shaft drive, boxer engine (with opposed twin for better cooling) and several other features that made the BMW exceptionally reliable and low maintenance machines. Harley was already producing the WLA based on a traditional 45-degree V-twin but the army specifically wanted the one feature that the WLA didn’t have: shaft drive. In response, the company produced the 1942 XA, whose engine and drivetrain were based on the flathead BMW R71 (1938-1941) versus the overhead valve (OHV) BMW R75 (1941-1946).

On a side note, Milan bought his first and only BMW R75 in the 1990’s. It was bought in Europe, shipped to Canada and eventually sold to a buyer in the U.S. prior to restoration. So it goes with this world-wide business. You never know where your next customer may come from. Ironically, his very first XA was purchased right here in Canada, in 1986 from “French Guy” Eugene.  It can be a small, very connected world when things are meant to happen and the right people just seem to arrive in your life, at the right time. We’ve been so fortunate that many have become wonderful, life long friends.

There were only just over 1000 of these amazing 1942 XA motorcycles ever produced which makes them and their replacement parts and accessories so rare and so valuable. Milan’s Motorycles is passionate about keeping the Harley Davidson XA legend alive with an extensive and ever changing inventory of parts to assist you in completing your projects. Let us know what you are looking for and we will do what we can to get you the parts you need. Use the link below to connect.