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Motorcycles and World War II

Discussion in 'General Motorcycling Discussion' started by rc36, Jun 20, 2005.

  1. I'm sure we've all heard the urban myth about the hundreds of WLA Harleys that were left behind by the American forces when they left Australia after WWII and how so many of them were found in barns, down wells and in all sorts of places. Supposedly people bought them for Ten Pounds ($20) each and later sold them for huge profits.

    I have yet to actually have this story confirmed though someone always seems to know someone who knows someone who bought/has one of them. I guess it's like the Indian Rope Trick, and just about as fallacious.

    That set me to thinking about the general topic of motorcycles in WWII, and I focussed just one one model, the BSA M20. BSA made and supplied 126000 of thse bikes to the British and Commonwealth armed forces from 1936 to 1950, amazing production figures really.

    If you'd like to follow this story up, as I will, here's a link.


    Hope you find this interesting, I certainly did.
  2. very interesting site, ive always liked the history of WW11
    ill pass it onto a mate whoes right into the war.

    cheers ratty ( aka Paul )
  3. No mate, the stories are quite true.
    When I was a lad (ooops sorry about that) I had a Matchless, 57 model. I was offered 2 harleys in the crates for 5 Pounds each. I didn't have 5 bob to rub together between pays. That was the equivalent of 2 weeks bed and board. How the hell could you afford that? Besides they were heaps of shit compared with the trumpies, beemers AJSs etc. Why would you want them?

    Today? Different storey.

    I gave the matchy away. I gave away a 27 model Graham Paige simply because the gearbox had a fault. I can mention several other bikes and cars I gave away. Even old stationary engines I used to collect. I had a 6hp Southern Cross. Max revs 600rpm.

    Would I give them away now? Noway. Then? Story was different. Get rid of the old junk and buy a newie was the motto. Sad really.

  4. That one struck a spark. Woulda been about 14 at the time, the guy running the garage opposite home dug out a Zuendapp 600 with chair somewhere and restored it in the little service area over many weekends.
    WW2 Kraut messenger bikes, many of them with a machine gun mounted on the top of the sidecar, this one still had the bracing-plate and the top mounts.
    The "Green Elephant" (as it was known) was a 600 boxer with a power-takeoff, allowing a driveshaft to the sidecar-wheel.
    Amazing stuff !!
    I'd seriously extend the garage for one of those and live on dry bickies for a year. :D :D :D
  5. Any bike from WWII would be worth having now, even if it was a crock, but a Zundapp, man that would be worth SOOOOO much now.
  6. A mate of mine who has now moved to London was in the cave clan. He told me that a group of fellow cave clanspeople went into the drains around the watsonia barracks and discovered an underground area thaty housed surplus american jeeps and motorcycles stowed there from world war 2.
    It would have been fantastic to uncover that cache and get some of those vehicles restored of thay haven't been badly water damaged or rotted after nearly 60 years underground.
  7. It's not all an Urban Myth. I have a mate that picked up 3 WWII Harleys off the Townsville tip soon after the war. He striped one of them, keeping the major parts due to naging from his mom about the junk lying around the place.

    He now lives in Brisbane and still has them in his garage I have sat on one and started it. He plans to restore them and is well on the way with one of them. And no he wont sell them, I have tried.
  8. A woman I used to work with was German and had a husband who was a traffic cop on the Autobahn pre WWII. I remeber the photos she had of his Green Elephant Solo.

    The rarest WWII bike would have to be the time Harley Davidson got it absolutely right. :LOL: :LOL: The XA Harley.

    The US Government drew up a specification for a horizontally-opposed, shaft drive motorcycle in 1941 and asked Indian, Delco, and Harley-Davidson to tender for it. It was considered that the horizantally opposed shaft drive was far better for the North African desert (The WLA's overheated and had chain problems from the sand). Harley got the tender and produced around 1000 bikes but they never got into real mass production as by then the North African campaign was over and the Jeep was in production.

    Interestingly Indian produced a 90 degree twin similar to the Moto Guzzi (which predated the Guzzi design) for their tender.

    Picture at http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/motor_cycles/1268606.html?page=5&c=y

  9. Hey that is awsome,
    I will have to find the numbers off Dads old M21 BSA,
    It was donated to a friend of his,
    with 2 crates of parts.
    Pete has since got it running and ridable,
    quite a feat given its condition.
    It was not an army release was civilian,
    Black and chrome.
  10. 5 pound for a bike - that's a bit pricey! Apparently just after that war you could get a whole, brand new Spitfire, still in boxes, for 30!!! :shock: :D
  11. oh Jarrah, you are a cynical beggar!
    (and I used to walk 5 miles to school, each day, carrying a horse.......) etc
  12. ray a guy i used to work for had 3, sold 2 and still has 1 bike in the original crate in his shed :D

    his dad bought 3 at some stage after the war, put 1 together and rode it everywhere.
    then when ray was old enough (late teens) he and the old man put the 2nd together as a show piece.
    just as they were getting ready to do the 3rd rays dad kicked the bucket :( and as such its been sitting there ever since :(
  13. Yeah Jarrah, that was one of the reasons I didnt buy one. If it was 1 pound, maybe.
    My first car was a 49 Vanguard. Price? 10 pounds. Why would I want a bike in pieces when I could have a car?
    The matchy cost me 7 pound and it was running real well.
    The Graham Paige was 15 pound. I was a 3rd yr apprentice by then and could afford it.

    Ah yes the memories. Things that happened in those cars. Wonder whatever happened to ---- ooops.

    Anyway, if one had forsight, one would be smarter. One does not have forsight, so one is dumber.