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Even Harley-Davidson can’t fit one hundred-plus years of history into a single museum. Experience more here – including an interactive timeline.


1940

Babe Tancrede is the winner at the Daytona 200, riding a WLDR model.


1941

America is plunged into World War II. Production of civilian motorcycles is almost entirely suspended in favor of military production. The Service School is converted back to the Quartermasters School for the training of military mechanics.


The FL series premieres.


1942

Among other motorcycles made for the Army, H-D produces the unique XA 750, a motorcycle with horizontally opposed cylinders and shaft drive, designed for desert use. The contract is cancelled early due to war combat moving out of North Africa. Only 1,011 XA's are built.


1943

Harley-Davidson receives the first of its four Army-Navy "E" Awards for excellence in wartime production. Overseas, many American servicemen get their first exposure to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, something they would not forget when they would return stateside.


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.


1946

Harley-Davidson introduces the 45 cubic inch flathead WR racing motorcycle. It proves to be one of the best racing motorcycles ever built.


1947

Attendees at the year's Dealers Convention in Milwaukee are given a train ride to a "secret destination," which turns out to be the newly purchased plant on Capitol Drive. The plant was formerly the A.O. Smith Propeller Plant, created during the war. Harley-Davidson uses the plant as a large machine shop, shipping the new parts to Juneau Ave. for final assembly.


Harley-Davidson begins selling what will become the classic black leather motorcycle jacket.


Harley-Davidson dirt track racer Jimmy Chann wins the first of three consecutive AMA Grand National Championships.


1948

New features are added to the 61 and 74 overhead valve engines, including aluminum heads and hydraulic valve lifters. Also new are the one piece, chrome plated rocker covers shaped like cake pans. The nickname "Panhead" only seemed logical.


Production of American-made lightweight motorcycles begins with the model S. Various versions will be sold until 1966.


1949

Hydraulic front forks first appear on the new Hydra-Glide models.

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