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Topic: The Harley Boxer Twin with Shaft Drive  (Read 5591 times)

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Rincewind
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« on: January 04, 2012, 10:02:30 PM »

Did you know that in the crucible of WWII, Harley was tasked with creating a bike for the hot North African desert.  It was modeled after the BMW R bikes with boxer engine and shaft drive?  It was called the XA for Experimental Army.   For better or worse the Jeeps and hard tail Harley WLA models were selected instead for most Army use, though 1000 XA's were produced.  I discovered this from a pin-up girl Harley t-shirt I bought the other week near Honolulu.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harley-Davidson_XA

Additional write-up at http://harleyxa.zoomshare.com/



It is interesting that Indian also made an experimental desert bike with shaft driv, called the 841e.  But instead of a Boxer they made transverse vtwin engines with their bike.  This was decades before Moto Guzzi made that engine style famous.



http://youtu.be/5XTEXTFN2UM

« Last Edit: January 05, 2012, 07:04:40 AM by Rincewind » Logged
veefer800canuck
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« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2012, 10:22:14 PM »

Damn darksiders. Running car tires on a bike again.  
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nevinfs327
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« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2012, 01:50:46 PM »

Cool machines - think they had examples of at least the transverse sidecar rig and usual pushrod twin at Barber, but could be wrong.  Didn't know about the boxer version.  Stout tires in the pic!
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« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2012, 02:24:47 PM »

The transverse engine model is the Indian 841.  The expense of the XA model, combined with the popularity of the Jeep and the war combat moving out of the N African desert, meant that the contract for the XA was discontinued early.  Harley was producing bikes solely for the military at this time, and the more traditional WLA's sold for about half the price of the XA's.  Motorcycles were used less and less in the war effort because they required additional operations training where the Jeeps did not.  

Here is an excerpt from another website:

Quote
But while the WLA was well known as America's ubiquitous military machine, it was almost eclipsed by something very different - the XA.  This was a horizontally-opposed twin, and an almost exact copy of the equivalent BMW.  It was Harley's second departure from the V-Twin and again came as a result of its military involvement: despite some reluctance from Harley-Davidson, the top brass was convinced that a shaft-drive flat-twin would make the perfect military motorcycle.
 
The company's answer, after purchasing a BMW for evaluation, was the XA, which produced 23bhp at 4,600 rpm and had a low 5.7:1 compression ration to allow it to function in desert conditions.  With its cylinders sticking out into the air for additional cooling, it was hoped that it would fare better that a V-Twin or single in hot weather.  It also featured a wet sump to tackle the heat problem and was estimated to run nearly 100 degrees cooler than a V-Twin engine.  Other notable design features on this model included a hand clutch, foot gear-change, with a down-for-down and up-for-up shift pattern on the lever.  Some where fitted with sidecars and Harley experimented with a drive to the sidecar wheel like the BMWs, although this was never put into production.
 
During testing, a few problems emerged, but not enough to stall the project: at one time there was talk of an order for 25,000 XAs, and a reduction of WLA orders.  In the end, the army took 1,000 in 1943 and then no more.  None of them actually saw service, remaining in the US at military bases.  Despite all the development work that had been put into the XA and the lessons learned about such thins as shaft drive, Harley never used any of this knowledge or engineering in post-war bikes, almost to the extent of pretending the XA had never happened.  


Quoted from http://www.miamichoppershop.com/id101.html



Here are some more pics of the Harley Boxer.  





Here is the BMW R75 for comparison.

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BobW
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« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2012, 08:26:00 PM »

What a great find, thanks!

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« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2012, 11:09:39 AM »

They have (had?) an HD boxer twin at that motorcycle museum in Maggie Valley, NC. When I went there in 2007 with my brother-in-law, Joe. The owner saw Joe's R1150GS and said "you have to ride this" pointing to the HD boxer. The guy fired it up and let Joe ride it around for a bit. Pretty cool. I'll see if I can dig a picture from that morning.
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« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2012, 01:46:46 AM »

Cool stuff, thanks for sharing  Thumbsup
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« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2012, 08:13:58 PM »

That was a very cool find. Rince is the man.  Thumbsup
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« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2012, 11:54:12 AM »

 I discovered this from a pin-up girl Harley t-shirt I bought the other week near Honolulu.

I wanna see the pin-up girl Bigsmile



 Harley was producing bikes solely for the military at this time

I could be wrong, but I'm sure I've read that Harley never stopped producing civilian bikes during the war.  As I recall, Indian did switch completely to military production, and they never did fully recover from that; when the war ended, Harley still had a whole civilian dealer network in place and civilian bikes in production, but Indian didn't...
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« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2012, 12:34:57 PM »

I can't seem to find a pic of the tshirt w/pin-up girl for you, Kootenanny.  It's an image of a WWII era nurse on the Harley XA.  I may be able to get my wife to model the tshirt later. Wink

Regarding WWII production, the info that I've online all indicate that Harley was only producing for the military during WWII.

http://www.harley-davidson.com/wcm/Content/Pages/H-D_History/history_1940s.jsp?locale=en_US -- "1945 -    Harley-Davidson produces almost 60,000 WLA models during the war for military use. World War II ends. Wasting no time, production of civilian motorcycles resumes in November."

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Rincewind
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« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2012, 04:02:58 PM »

As promised, picture of said t-shirt with nurse pin-up girl and the Harley XA experimental bike.   Bigok

http://i100.photobucket.com/albums/m17/Rincewind0011/photo-9.jpg
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Kootenanny
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« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2012, 07:20:52 PM »

 Smile Smile Smile
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« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2012, 01:59:45 PM »

Hubba, Hubba and maybe one or two photos with SWMBO, just in the interest of ................ the Arts. Bigsmile
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« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2012, 02:07:19 PM »

She was the one modelling the shirt, so there you go.  Lol Bigsmile
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