1941 Harley WLDR: Granddaddy of the Sportster

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Harley WLDR

Chock-full of NOS & original parts, this in-progress Harley WLDR resto job deserves to be finished. 

Harley-Davidson has built countless cool models in its 115 year history. And while you can argue until the cows come home which is the coolest, everyone agrees that the Harley WLDR is right up there near the top. A vast improvement over the already impressive WL, the WLDR was a fantastic racing bike built right at the peak of motorcycle racing’s popularity. And this incredible 1941 Harley WLDR, which we spotted on eBay, is one of the finest examples you’ll ever see.

Sadly, the WLDR never got to realize its full potential, as the start of World War II promptly killed it. Like other manufacturers, H-D shifted their efforts to supporting the war, meaning that things like silly racing bikes weren’t important anymore. But the spirit of the WLDR eventually lived on and evolved into the K models. And eventually the Sportster we know and love today.

Harley WLDR

Considering how short the WLDR’s run was, it’s not exactly easy to find clean, original examples these days. But this ’41 is nearly complete and loaded with original and NOS parts. The kind of stuff that’s really hard to find, like heads, cams, and manifold. Both the engine bottom end and transmission have received a rebuild, though the heads need a redo.

Harley WLDR

The seller says the original engine cases were destroyed decades ago, so NOS replacements were stamped to match. And there’s a little bit of assembly and repair work left to get this Harley WLDR back to its proper glory. But as tough as these things are to find these days, we’d say it’s well worth the effort. And we look forward to seeing this forgotten racer back on the road again soon!

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Brett Foote is a longtime contributor to Internet Brands’ Auto sites, including Chevrolet Forum, Rennlist, and Ford Truck Enthusiasts.

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