MiniArt 1/35 Harley Davidson WLA

Kit #35080                    MSRP $31.95                  $23.00 from Great Models Web Store
Images and text Copyright © 2011 by Matt Swan

Developmental Background
       Harley Davidson, now there is a name that just screams classic American Iron. Prior to the U.S. entry into the European Conflict the U.S. Army had contracted Harley Davidson to manufacture motorcycles to be used as couriers, police escorts and scout machines. In 1940 Harley Davidson began production of the WLA which was an evolutionary development of the earlier R family of bike. The W designation simple was a family designation, L signified ‘high compression’ and A was for ‘Army’. The engine was the latest (at the time) incarnation of the 45 cubic inch flathead engine. This bike was also manufactured for the Canadian Army as the WLC.
       Initially production of the WLA was somewhat limited but after the United States entered World War 2 production ramped up significantly and by wars end over 90,000 examples had been put into service. The bike quickly acquired the name "Liberator" because the men riding it were liberating Europe. Production of the WLA shut down at wars end however during the Korean Conflict is was started back up again. With so many of these bikes surviving the war years and heading for the surplus market they were instrumental in establishing the civilian motorcycle craze. Not only did the WLA heavily influence the American motorcycle culture, it also impacted the Russians. Russia was the number one largest recipient of WLAs under the lend-lease act during WW2 with about 90,000 units being shipped there. Today many examples of the Harley Davidson WLA exist in museums and on the road carefully maintained by motorcycle aficionados.

The Kit
       This is my first experience with a MiniArt kit and I have to say I am impressed. The kit arrived in a start tray type box with sharp artwork. Inside we have a single sprue of medium gray high pressure injection molded plastic parts, a small sprue of clear parts and a fret of photo etched brass parts. A small decal sheet covers the basic markings. Looking at the gray parts everything appears to be well formed with no flash, sink holes or noticeable injector pin markings. The parts have a very faint mold separation seam, less than I am used to seeing on the typical 1/48 aircraft kit from main-stream manufactures.
       Amongst the plastic injection molded pieces we also have five pieces that are intended for use as formers for some of the photo etched parts. We get four wire spoke formers that will help shape these pieces and a large multi-function part for some longer bike frame parts. The photo etched fret includes some very fine detail pieces such as wing nuts and spring clips for various enclosures on the bike along with a wide variety of small mounting brackets. I don’t see any way the modeler could work with some of these without at least a five to ten power magnifying set but the end result will certainly be a well detailed piece of equipment. Three clear pieces flush out the parts count with two small lenses and the wind screen. Overall the kit contains at least one hundred eight pieces that are sure to keep the modeler entertained.

You may click on these small images to view larger pictures

Decals and Instructions

       The kit instructions consist of a three-panel fold-out that begins with a well detailed parts map and PE pressing instructions. By 'pressing instructions' I mean a lay-out of how to bend the flat PE parts using the kit provided forms to create the proper angles and lengths. Next we get twenty-eight exploded view assembly steps that go into some pretty good detail. Lastly is a three-view decal placement guide and complete paint chart with a good selection of different vendor's paint codes.
       Now before you look at this decal image and say "oh my God, those are awful" let me explain something. The kit provides a nice selection of decals which are mostly white on a white sheet - very difficult to see until wet and nearly impossible to scan then view on a monitor so I adjusted the contrast (severely) to make them visible. We get a selection of placards and standard U.S. Military Police markings for a couple bikes. Obviously if you are going for a civilian paint job most of these would not be used.

       While overall a small kit it does present a challenge to the modeler. Parts are all well formed with barely visible mold separation lines, the photo etched parts really add to not only the kit's detail level but enhance the scale appearance. I would not consider tackling this build without the aid of some magnifying glasses or even a good magnifying headset. I have to admit that it is a great kit although just a little fiddly due to the high number of really small parts. I recommend this kit to any WW2 fan or Harley fan. It has good potential to add to an military diorama or as an example of an old war-horse turned to civilian use post war.

       I started this kit with all sorts of good intentions, I was going to do all this crazy detail, lay in every oil line and cable and really make a little gem out of it. Guess how that worked out? Things started off well with the engine and basic frame going together. I used Alclad aluminum for the engine and Model Master Olive Drab for the basic bike color. Being a military vehicle means we get a fairly monotonous color pallet to work with. Right off the bat I saw that every aspect of this build was going to be very fiddly. One thing that I liked initially with this kit was the wire spokes however once I got to trying to install a set on the rear tire I found them to be very difficult to work with. After an hour of screwing around with that set I settled for a slightly crooked setting and moved on.

You may click on these small images to view larger pictures

       I actually finished this some time ago, just put it on the shelf and forgot about it. I think the hardest aspect of this kit for me was simply losing interest halfway through the build. I really had to exert some force of will to get back to the table and get it done. Right from the beginning I had not intended to install the windscreen and shield material around the front fork opting instead for a more rugged road use look. The front fork took a considerable amount of fiddling to get attached and still be positionable but eventually I claimed victory. The model was sealed with Future and weathered with a basic sludge wash before getting a final seal with Squadron Micro-Flat. Overall it was an interesting kit and taxed my skills a little most likely because I don't have a lot of experience building small scale bikes. I will build more just not quite yet.

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