2014 Shannons Sydney Late Autumn Classic Auction

c1922 Harley-Davidson WJ 584cc Motorcycle




Engine Twin-cylinder, 584cc
Gearbox 3-Speed manual
Colour Green


This lot is no longer available

Often described as a gentleman's motorcycle, the WJ Sport was certainly one of Harley-Davidson's more unusual designs of the period, with a low-slung frame and a brand new horizontally-opposed twin. By 1920 Harley's twin were around the same price as a new Model T Ford and with ever increasing numbers of buyers switching from two wheels to four, the WJ was an attempt by Harley-Davidson to broaden the appeal of its models range. With the cylinders set 180-degrees apart and joined by a common crankcase, the 36-cid unit was unlike anything yet seen in Milwaukee. Weighing 100lbs less than its big brothers and with a lower centre of gravity, the Model W certainly handled well and the new flat twin motor was both smoother and cleaner thanks to the gear primary-drive and enclosed rear chain. Engine lubrication was via an automatic pump, which meant the rider didn't have to oil the bike like most contemporary machines. The Model WJ came well equipped too, with magneto ignition and acetylene gas lighting as standard, with coil ignition and proper electric lighting optional. Normally finished in Brewster Green, the new WJ was certainly a good looking bike, with a low-slung, lean look. However a perceived lack of performance, relatively high price ($325 at the time of introduction in 1919) and a belief that bigger is always better saw the Model W struggle to catch on and it remained in production for just five years. A number were exported and almost one third of production in the first year ended up in Britain, where the smaller, nimbler bike was better suited to the local conditions than Harley's larger V-twins. Today the Sport Twin remains a curious anomaly in the history of Harley-Davidson but no less collectible because of it.