by: Andy Renshaw [ ]
Originally published on:
The WLA is a militarized variant of the WL civilian bike with a 740cc flathead engine, hard tail, and various military specific components. The engine compression rate allowed it to run on low grade fuel common during the early war period. The WLA had a production run of over 90,000 units with about 1/3rd of those going to the Soviet Union as part of the Lend-Lease program. In fact the Soviet Union has become a major source for WLA’s and parts for restoration enthusiasts. Its widespread use during the war led to the popularity of Harley Davidson and “bike culture” as soldiers became civilians and desired a ride like what they had in the service.
Within the small box you get a single light grey plastic sprue, one clear sprue, a photo etch fret, and a small decal sheet. Instructions are presented on fold out paper with well broken down steps in easy to read line drawings. Unlike some manufactures that cram as much as possible in one step, MiniArt leads you through very methodically which makes this small, but complex kit buildable by anybody with a little patience.
The detail on the plastic parts is fantastic. Take a close look at the cylinder heads, as the cooling fin detail is thin and extremely close to scale! Use caution with the liquid glue in this area though, or the glue will seep in between the fins, fusing them together and destroying the delicate detail (ask me how I found that out!)
On the other hand, the decals are a sad disappointment with the color portions being mostly out of register, blurry, and best tossed. The white portions are useable though. It’s a shame as the printing technology is out there and they would have been better served having somebody like Cartograph do the decals for the kit.
Set yourself a good several evenings to take your time putting this little gem together. There are a lot of parts, many are very small. Tweezers are a must! Assembly starts with the wheels, which are done in both plastic (for the tires) and photo-etch (spokes). Some great jigs are provided among the plastic parts to press the spokes into the proper shape, and once done fit perfectly within the tires. Tires are a sandwiched affair which allows the tread detail to be replicated perfectly and result in zero clean up after assembly. Just go easy with the glue!
Aligning the front wheel within the fork is just about impossible, so I sandwiched a thin strip of plastic between the tire and inside of the fender, well hidden and once painted can’t be seen. This allowed not only easier alignment, but a plastic-on-plastic bond between the wheel and the rest of the bike. The engine is next and after it’s completed there is quite a bit of detail. With this out of the way you then build the bike from the frame up through a series of steps. Extra detail can be done with the addition of some cables and wires, and a few linkages for the throttle and brakes. A quick Google search for Harley WLA will provide a wealth of reference material. Military parts such as the windscreen, blackout lights, oil filter, rifle scabbard, and other details finish off the kit.
Using some photos along with the instructions, I painted my WLA using Vallejo olive green after a coat of dark grey primer. Detail painting was also done with Vallejo acrylics as well. Final items included adding the outstanding transfers from Archer, #35327, for the instrument and placards. Enough come in the pack for three bikes and are leagues above what is provided in the kit.
Overall, I am quite impressed! There was a lot to this little kit and MiniArt has defiantly stepped up to the “big boys” with the level of detail seen in this kit. The decals are a let down, but hopefully MiniArt will work with a different printer on future releases. MiniArt has also provided lots of options for the modelers using this kit as the basis for a couple other boxings including one with MP figures, and a repair crew. A great kit to have in the collection by all the BMW, Zundaps, and other motorbike kits out there!