wee tp wee tp

above close up photo is a 1945 Chief built by Steve Killon

Customs, Choppers, Bobbers, Snow-mobiles and Racers

Also see the Scout page of this website for more customs, Scout racers and WWII military Scouts

page updated 10 October 2022.

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We start off with this bobbed 1935 Chief:

Now a very basic 1947 bobber from Ebay May 2019:

This mild custom 1946 has disk brakes on both wheels and a huge headlamp, maybe from an old car.

Now things get more radical. Check out this 1947 Chief chopper. I personally am not keen on coffin tanks but I admire the engineering tricks and clean execution of this custom Indian Chief. Looks like a Scout fork at the front. The generator and regulator had been moved under the custom oil tank which sits where the generator used to go.The generator now is located where the battery used to go. Do not know where the battery went. There is no ignition coil and none needed because a magneto sits atop the oil pump where the distributor used to go. So the engiine needs no battery to run and the lights will work (not very brightly) if you keep the RPM's up when stopped, But maybe he overcomes this by using a capacitor to store electricity. Some British bikes of the 1960's came with capacitors that acted automatically like a battery if the battery failed. You can still buy these but 12 volt only. I googled "motorcycle battery eiliminator capacitor" and found you can buy a universal 12 volt one made by Accel. Obviously no good for e-start bikes. That gizmo where the coil used to be may be a battery eliminator. As far as I can figure from these and the other photos I have, (I could be wrong) oil flows from the tank to the pump, then is pumped up and forward to the custom oil cooler radiator and then back on the left side to the oil tank. Normally we have the rad spliced in to the return route not the feed line (because the return pump is stronger and one wants to cool the hot oil) but it should still work as the stock feed pump is strong.

Now into Bizarro World. Seen on EBay in the Fall of 2022 was this 1944 engined Chief (converted to 80 CID) with a 1940's frame and I think a 1950's fork and front brake but with parts from a 1959 -61 Chief (as made by Royal Enfield in the UK). The 1960 era parts are the sheet metal: the front fender, rear fender tilted forward so that the tail light aims up instead of back and the heaadlamp and dash. The oil tank is mounted on the left above where the generator drive goes on the primary csae. I do not know if that is a custom oil tank or from some other mass produced motorcycle. It is a clever place to mount the oil tank, would be nice if they cut down the top rear of it about 1.5" to blend with the frame; then it would not look so much like a bolt on after thought. But maybe your left inner thigh gets burned by the oil tank? Need to see a photo of a rider on the bike to see where the human body contacts the old tank, if it does. Certainly if it had a dual seat the passenger's leg would get hot. I expect most purists would be put off by this machine but I sort of like it, rotate the rear fender to a normal position and chop a bit off the oil tank and I would buy it (providing proof of the 80 inch conversion was supplied and the price was reasonable). It would stand out in a group of Chiefs and it takes awhile to figure out what it is. Other than the oil tank and seat and slightly extended chain guard it really is made of all stock Chief parts, just a mixture of 1940's and 50's US and 1960 UK.

My favorite is this Vindian built by Dennis Magri (member of the AMCA Fort Sutter California chapter). This is very close to the original factory prototype built in the late 1940's whch sadly never went into production. If it had it might have saved both companies. Check out my other website Custom Cruiser Concepts to see lots of drawings of Vincent powered cruisers of the 1950's and '60' style and many other ideas I had for both American V twins and English bikes and even a Honda and a BMW custom concept.

Here is a 1948 Chief tastefully and mildly cosmetically customized by Jesse James and seen on Ebay early 2012. Here are a series of thumbnail images. Click on them to open the large images.

I am not normally a fan of radical choppers, but sometimes I see a really nice one. Here is a superb example of a Chief out of New York City, featured in Iron Horse magazine circa Y2K. The forks are extended a few too many inches for good handling but they do provide more ground clearance and aren't raked out too much. (Some rake was necessary to clear the oil tank which is in front of the engine.) I think this is a wonderful example of chopping without compromising the original styling. Bill O'Neill's chopping here actually accentuates the Chief's lines, and even the engine which is not normally a high point on a flathead is a centerpiece here. Mounting the tail light and licence plate on top of the low rise sissy bar was a stroke of genius. Click on thumbnail images to enlarge.

NY chopper R mini NY chopper L engine mini

Photos courtesy of Iron Horse magazine.

Next are three shots from EBay June 2014 of a 1937 Chief chopper. This one is unique, for its combination of old and new school parts. Looks like an extended Harley Sporster or FX type front end from the 1970's and latest style chopper rear wheel and brake, and maybe that fender is a cut-down Gilroy type. Also unique is the opaque windshield made from leather. Probably the rider can easily see over and around it and it can still serve to shield him from the wind blast, like plastic shields on current sport bikes. At least he need not worry if it gets splattered with bugs.

1937 chopper dash

Check out this heavily customized Scout model 741 (500 c.c) from Ebay July 2017. Minimalist approach - less is more. :

A bit off topic: If anyone likes rock'n'roll and country rock songs about motorycle riding or about Old Harleys, here is the link to two of my music vidoes (the sound does not kick in until a few seconds after the images start so don't think they are broken) :

At Mid-Ohio in summer 2014 at the Indian company's official display I saw a superb privately customized and modernized 440 Scout twin (converted to 500cc Warrior size). It was built by Tony Prust (AnalogMotorcycles.com). This bike would appeal to fans of British cafe racers.

I saw a small cluster of Indian Scout racers (750 cc flatheads) in the paddocks at mid-Ohio in 2014. These were true 1940's style racers, looking rough and tough and done on a small budget, probably like things were for most private racers back in the day. These are in the Scout page of this website.

Some Indian owners insist on originality while others are motivated to modify their bikes. The aim may be to build a better racer (e.g. a flat track or Daytona Scout, a Chief hillclimber), or to have a tourer with more comfort and carrying space, not to mention more lights and chrome rails, or to build a chopper just for aesthetics and to look tough to impress your buddies, girls and especially yourself. (The late Steve McQueen's favorite ride, other than off-road, was a '46 Indian Chief chopper.) In this chapter are shown a few examples of each, and I invite any readers who have an Indian racer, decker or chopper to send me two photos for possible future inclusion here.

Way back around 1920 some guy in California (the late Bill Arnold) had the major ambition to make a V4 out of two 1915 Indian 61 CID Powerplus engines. He also had the skill and succeeded! He also widened the gasoline tank. This bike was used a lot on the street and also raced until it was worn out in 1929 when it was parked. Bill's son put some gasoline in it in the 1960's and started it, then it went back into hibernation. After Bill's and his son's demise it was discovered rusting in a barn in 1986 along with other motorcycle treasures and cars and scrap metal by Doug King who restored it with the help of metal fabricator Bob Munroe. Below you can see what the engine looked like before the resto, and two shots of the bike after.

Below are photos (article from CYCLE magazine, 1952) of a custom Indian called the Enterprise. (Click on small images to enlarge in a new window.) Apparently this was first offered for sale on a bespoke basis, and then the maker (Mr. Ray Courtney) decided to offer it in kit form for half the price. It still looks Buck Rogers / Flash Gordon-y today, and since we all know that in Star Trek the spaceship is called the Enterprise, this guy was way ahead of his time. In fact the creator of Star Trek, Gene Rodenberry was a biker so maybe he read this article and that is what inspired him to name the spaceship Enterprise in his TV show of a decade later. The bike is like an elongated amusement park ride or Scooter body over a motorcycle frame. My only concern is that with that much metal around, the air cooled engine may overheat. I do see air intake grills at the front but idling in traffic on a hot day may present problems. If he were doing this nowadays, I am sure Mr. Courtney would use a liquid cooled engine, e.g. from a Japanese bike.

The next photo is of a 1940 Indian Four which has been modified for touring with Harley K saddlebags and touring trunk. The other main mod was to mount 1950-53 Chief forks in place of the crude and ugly semi leaf spring front suspension. This was owned by the late Charlie Mahoney of Campbellford Ontario Canada. I took this photo over 15 years ago when he was still alive. Charlie attended the annual Indian celebrations in Springfield Mass. annually since 1971 up until he died in 2004, aged well over 80. Some years he rode his '53 Chief and other years this Four. He hosted an annual Indian Days at his 1950 style shop, alongside the Campbell River in Ontario, which is where I took this photo. The event is now called "Chrome on the River" .

weeteepee weeteepee

I do not know where the next modified motorcycle is from but it appears to be a 1960 era Matchless with an old Scout engine so neatly transplanted a non-expert might assume it came that way from the factory. (Click on thumbnail to see large image) I am guessing Oz since so many ex military Scout engines and relatively fair number of Matchlesses still abound there. Maybe the owner will see this and provide a less cluttered right side photo and info on the project. (For another photo of this bike see the Scout site.) Other than a different muffler and chrome on the side of the tank, and use of a Scout instead of Chief engine, it is almost a replica of the prototype the Indian factory built in 1960 (see below, Matchless and AJS were virtually the same thing in those days).

So on the left below is the aforementioned factory prototype 1957 AJS (probably originally with a 550 or 600 c.c. mill) with the Indian Chief mill very carefully inserted. It uses the English primary drive. Not a centimeter to spare but it fits! Bike probably has same power output as before (meaning clutch can cope) but engine will last forever. Less vibration too I'd expect. The bike must be at least 150 pounds lighter than a 1946-48 Chief, so faster. Also it has a Burman 4 speed and having owned a '50's Matchless I can say they shift very fast, partly because its 1 up and 3 down. Large AJS tank carries about 5.5 US gallons and the lighter weight = better fuel mileage and with that big seat (rare on a Brit bike, but stock during the '50's) one could cruise longer than a stock Chief. I do not know if James Clark still owns it.

Engine below or next to it is in a 1960 Matchless rolling chassis with same setup, once owned by Indian Don. Note how big the normally insignificant Chief left cylinders look in the smaller frame.(Also love that 1960's Matchless primary cover -they look ace when polished.) Grafting a Lucas alernator rotor onto the left side of the Indian crank shaft and case to copy the typical 1950's English setup would be not be easy, (the alternaror coils cleverly sit inside the primary case bulge on Matchless, AJS and Norton N-15's, but that's apparently what was done on the bike below right. Seems this was another one off special put together by the guys at the factory in 1960, using a new Matchless/AJS rolling chassis and left over Indian Chief 74 parts. I am informed the factory also assembled two other specials based on the English brands they were then selling under the Brockhouse label, but I do not think they used American engines. One or both of those were destroyed in a fire. The old email address I had for the owner is defunct, as is the email address of the guy who was selling it for him. Anyone know how to contact the current owner?

Then we have a very recent Nordian completed in 2010, with a few more mods in 2011, by Neil Grieve of Edinborough, Scotland. (Click on small images to open as larger.) This uses what Norton fans call a "wideline" as opposed to "slimline" Featherbed (TM) frame. Neil's bike features a disk front brake, but unlike the stock Norton Lockheed disk brake, this is a performance one with the master cylinder hidden under the tank. Other mods include belt primary drive, alternator on the left of the crankshaft, electronic ignition, Mikuni flat slide carb. Neil emailed me saying "I have to say I did build the engine and gearbox myself, designed the drive pin, engine plates and pulleys etc, not just worked on the chassis." For more photos on these mods as they were done before final assembly, and other shots of Neil's superb machine, buy Classic Bike Nov. 2012 issue or visit http://www.virtualindian.org/nordian.html . Neil will make you one of these if you can come up with enough money.

By the way, a company in Australia makes all new (no interchangeable parts) five speed AMC gearboxes in case anyone out there is planning on a similar project or to modify a Norton or late Matchless.

Still on high level specials, in New Mexico USA, Jim Mosher builds very fast and reliable Scouts and Chiefs; bobbers would be the best rubric for them but there is hardly anything stock left so they are more Moshers than Indians. Or you can just send your engine to Jim and he will rebuild it for you, at a very reasonable hourly rate, making it as fast as you want. You can also buy his special CV carburettor kit and a crankcase ventilation kit and some other goodies if you prefer to DIY. What really impresses me about Jim is that instead of just using old recipes that Indian fanatics have been passing down for ages, he does experiments, dyno testing and measurements on graphs like an engineer, to come up with the best results. His scientific approach has exploded some old ideas (which can now be called myths) and has confirmed the worth of factory engineers (e.g. it is hard to beat the factory's Bonneville cam setup). Professor Jim (my nickname for him) has found some interesting things about performance cams, the upper valve train, and ignition timing with today's low octane fuel. For more info and some nice photos visit : Professor Jim's web page For now have a look at these two shots of his Super Chief and see how many modifications it has. It has an Italian Grimeca front hub featuring a single leading shoe brake on each side. (The inside of the engine features a host of performance improvements which can't be seen.) I have put photos of his 950 cc custom Scout on the Scout website (use handlebar at top of this page to navigate there). It tastefully incorporates US and British features (Jim also makes 32mm manifolds for Vincents.) Even more - truly impressive "blow your mind, knock your socks off" his twin engined souped up Scout that he raced recently at Bonneville salt flats is also in the Scout page of this website.

Mosher Super Chief fr brake Mosher Super Chief L rear

A reader from the Netherlands, Leendert Lau, sent me these shots of a custom Indian. It is a 1952 Triumph engine and transmission in what is probably a pre 1940 Scout or Chief frame. The forks are also pre-War and off a Chief or Four. The fuel tank is Indian (but with oil tank portion removed) as is the rear fender. Custom headlight, so big may be from a 1930's car. Oil tank is Triumph. The front fender is either fabricated or a genuine Chief or Four fender that has been cut in half and narrowed to suit the Triumph front wheel. Custom mufflers The builder (unknown) stamped info and factory logos onto an aluminium plate which looked so official it fooled the present owner into thinking this was an Indian - Triumph factory prototype. (It shows 650 cc.) Check out the cute Indian head shaped tail light lens.

Indian head tail light lens

Below and right is an ex-army 1943 Indian model 841 in civilian paint, and some chrome plating, e.g. oil tank, handlebars, instrument panel and fuel caps, headlamp rim, fork springs, rear shock covers, at Rhinebeck, NY in 2007.

841 Rbeck 2007 civilian paint

Below is another ex- US Army model 841 that has been customized with Chief fenders and a neat custom sheet metal headlamp nacelle and fishtail muffler tips. The other changes are just paint and chrome, but it turns the ugly duckling into a swan princess. It would have been easy for Indian to make a bike just like this. Instead they sold the remaining 841's (the army cancelled the contract when the Jeep became popular) for "peanuts" and turned their back on it.They were probably smart not to market it the way it was as it suffered from a weak gearbox and weighed 550 pounds and the flathead 750 mill even if in Sport Scout specs would not have given acceptable performance. It was expensive to make (shaft drive, different gearbox) so would have been competing with BMW. I say if they had marketed a bike like this with an improved gearbox and enlarged engine, e.g. stroked to 950 cc via Chief crank and rods, they would have given BMW a run for their money, maybe not have gone bankrupt.

841 rear vertical 2007


Here is a photo-montage of another civilian-ized 841, this time done by Krumm's of Texas (no longer in business) and owned by Dave Schultz.

Still on civilianized model 841's here is a stunning beauty exported from Canada to Australia and superbly restored and civilianized by Pete Ypatidis, (who has been restoring Indians for 30 years). I believe it was sold for about A$50,000. It is a real work of art and craftsmanship. The original military 841's were a bit ugly but here we see a Cinderella transformation.

weeteepee weeteepee
Here is a closeup of the engine. Click on the thumbnail image to open it in a new browser window.
model 841 engine closeup thumbnail

Below we see a shot of the late Indian dealer Chuck Myles on his Indian hillclimber in the mid 1990's. A few words about Chuck - interesting guy. He used to be a teacher (phys. ed. and sociology), then started his Indian service, sold parts and rode competition (hillclimbs), built specials etc. Circa 1969-70 I bought and sold parts from/to him via mail and about five years later I met him at a hillclimb near Hedielburg Ontario. Years later he had some problems with the law (falsely accused of stolen property, resisting arrest). He sued public officials, acting as his own counsel, and eventually won! Later he ran as a judicial candidate and won, becoming a judge. How cool is that? I was flattered to meet him at Rhinebeck NY in June 2007. He hardly looked any older than he did when I previously met him about 30 years earlier! So I was surprised when he died in 2012. if anyone has any more photos of Chuck I would like to post them here.

chuck myles

On the left below is a Chief hillclimber with a special rear tire to really grip the dirt (also check the high ground clearance and the loooong rear fork (swinging arm). In the middle is an alcohol-burning hillclimber with a 101 bottom end and Bonneville Sport Scout top end. (Photos courtesy Allan Lowson.) You may wonder about the small fuel tank and the fins on the heads being sawed off. A typical hillclimb lasts less than ten seconds, so you don't need much fuel or engine cooling. The ground-off fins show what a flathead "really" looks like, so now we know the label "flathead" is very apt. The hillclimber on the far right was seen by me at Rhinebeck in 2007.

paddle wheel rear tire flathead Hillclimber seen 2007

Still on the hillclimber theme, seen on Ebay July 1013 was this interesting factory built hillcimber. According to the ad Indian built 31 of these from 1938 thru 1939, this one being number 8. (See closeup of VIN in first image.) It produces 30 hp from its 45 cubic inch flathead engine, which is about as much as one can get iwth a flattie (67% hp to CID)

1939 Hillclimber VIN1939 Hillcliber L closeup1939 Hillclimber R engine 1939 Hillclimber L side

So far we have had roadracers and hillclimbers, but next is a drag racer. It is a 1944 Chief engined bike built and piloted by Sunbear Blair and he has won at least one race. Looks like he still has the hand shifter and foot clutch, albeit the clutch treadle is way at the back. Note huge carburetor and tiny fuel tank. I cannot tell where the oil supply is. Thanks to Carol Blair for sending these.

wee tp wee tp wee tpwee tp

Still on the bobber and chopper theme, below is a cream and reddish orange Scout, with perhaps a Warrior front end and an unusual exhaust pipe and muffler. Then another red Scout bobber with a magneto over the oil pump, a BSA or Triumph front brake and a cover over the rear cylinder presumably trying to scoop more air in and black exhaust. Then two shots of a radical Indian chopper with a 21" front wheel and prewar leaf spring front end. Looks like an oil filter way back at the right rear axle area. Is that a 1958 Cadillac rear light? All shot by me at Oley 2012.

cream and red scout bobber at Oley Scout bobber rear cyl coverradical chopper RR Oleyradical chop r front sm

Next is a 1942 Indian Four bobber. I took several shots of it because it has some unusual features:
Firstly, you never see an Indian Four bobber, they are worth so much stock restored that most people would not dare chop or bob one, also it has dual carburetors, 4 into 2 exhaust with British style aftermarket mufflers circa 1955-70, (note the heat shield near the brake pedal), modern forks, perhaps H-D but cut down, and 1969 or '70 BSA or Triumph front brake for excellent stopping power. It likely has a few other little tricks related to the electronics. Very interesting! (Note the Vincent in the background of some of the shots.) The last shot of the group is the same bike at Rhinebeck in 2013.

same bike Rbeck 2013

Here is a rough photo of a Vindian, a Vincent engine in a Chief frame (here, with a 1950-53 fork). I, and the president of the Laughing Indian Riders Club, would love to know where this bike is today. All we have is this bad old photo. Also seen at Oley in 2012 was this 1940 Four which is stock except for the four exhaust pipes and fender image. Also a better shot of the 1950-53 Chief with cut down fenders that is seen in the background of some of the previous shots.

four w 4 pipes red Four L w image on fender 50 Chief bobber at Oley

Also seen at Oley in 2013 were several cool old Harley flathead bobbers and chopppers (model U, UL or ULH)
U bobber R and B Harley U chopper B

For comparison here is a 1940's unrestored looking U with period windshield and 18 inch wheels and saddlebags.
yellow and black U w 18 in wheels

Although this site is supposed to be for only flathead (side valve) American V twins, I could not resist this funky red rusty Harley Knucklehead, aslo with 18 inch diameter wheels which were the norm until the 16 inchers were introduced to provide a softer ride back in the era of rigid frames and harsh forks, sacrificing handling in the process.

rusty red Knucklehead

Next is a 1942 Chief bobber.
42 Chief bobber L 42 Chief bobber R

Then a nice clean bobber 1947 Chief owned by Rob Buczynski of Reno, Nevada, USA. Strange, I thought it was all hot and desert there but the photos show snow, anyway - Mods include Borrani rims, E-ignition, King clutch, Dellorto carb, etc. Click on these thumbnail images for larger view or visit: Rob's site

From Ebay Fall 2012 is a typical 1970-75 style full or radical chopper, this one is a 1947 chopped in 1974.

Michael Breeding, respected supplier of high quality repro parts for Indians, is seen in the next photo with his 1953 Chief chopper. (Photo taken in 1969.) Somewhere there is a half (U.S.) gallon oil tank but where? The fuel tank looks to be Norton N15/ Matchless G15CS, and looks very nice on the bike. Funnily enough I had the same type tank on my Honda around the same time but never thought of putting such a tank on my Indian. Instead I waited about 8 months for the chopper teardrop tank to arrive (there was such a demand everyone was sold out) and then had it chromed. I tucjed a 1950's Triumph oil tank at the right front about where stock oil would go. With an N15 tank there would be no room for an oil tank there, so where did Michael have his?

weeteepee weeteepee

From the quality magazine American Bagger (Oct. 2009 issue) is a shot of the Editor's (Buzz Lovell) old Chief Chopper. As he wrote in that issue, he wishes he never sold it. It had a 1937 frame with a 1947 engine, 1948 oil pump, internal parts anti-friction coated, front end off a 1980's Kawasaki 1000 :

weeteepee Buzz Lovell weeteepee

Jim Parker who runs an Indian business in Australia made this bike from a 1944 Chief engine, a swing arm frame and modern forks, Norton primary drive and AMC 4 speed footshift gearbox.

Back in the USA, here is a 1947 Chief chopper with Harley forks, from 2014:

1947 dark burgundy chopper w HD forks

Here is a 1948 bobber in very dark blue in a field of autumn leaves from Ebay Dec. 2014. The blue looked black in the photos so I used Photoshop to bring it back to blue:
1948 bobber dark blue right side closeup 1948 bobber rear view 1948 dark blue bobber in autumn leafs 1948 dark blue bobber L front autumn leafs

Here from late 2015 is a 1946 engine in a 1946 frame bobber with Crocker paint job in tank:
1946 mill in 48 frame L 1946 engine in 48 frame R

Here is a recent (2015) 1948 Bobber from Pittsburg Kansas
1948 bobber from KS R 1948 bobber from KS L

I cannot resist putting in my own '47 Chief chopper, admittedly an amateur quality chopped Chief, but in 1968 I had hardly any money and not even a workbench. Come to think of it I still don't have a workbench or much money. Everything was done on a dirt floor with a few hand tools, a vice, and one electric drill. (same today except concrete floor, plus another power tool - an electric bench grinder that vibrates around the floor - and I have an air compressor and did not even have a vice any more from about 1970 until 2018 I finally got a 3" vice to fit on the frame of the barn). Anyway my Indian was stolen, uninsured, in the Fall of 1970 in Stoney Creek (next to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada). Crankcase # DO2983. I know there was offically no "DO" so the outlaw who owned it before the guy I got it from had it must have restamped it and it was registered as a 1942. Note the chopperfuel tank, 1950's Triumph oil tank and front wheel, custom seat, Z bars, tractor headlamp (useless) and Norton Atlas rear fender. Originally I had two short exhaust header pipes, Sportster style, and I stuffed VW bug resonators into them after the police fined me for noise. A rubber mallet stuffed down the seat post held the seat over the frame. The generator was also Bosche from a VW bug, and I used a go-kart pulley on it. Incidentally I am 25 pounds heavier nowadays, with less hair on my head but more fat on my gut.


arrowdown You may wonder about the oil tank and decide it looks strange there. The main obstacle in chopping a Chief (assuming you want to get rid of the fatbob tanks which contain gasoline on the left and gasoline and oil on the right) is where to locate the new oil tank. Bill O'Neill (the New York chop above) put a new tank on the frame downtubes, just above the engine, but this requires raking out the front end to clear it when the suspension compresses and the wheel comes up toward the frame. Once you rake the steering neck you have to extend the forks or the bike will have no ground clearance below the front of the engine. I did not want to alter the steering neck nor extend the forks. I was never satisfied with the Triumph oil tank (which happened to bolt on to the old tank mount holes)

Below we see what happened when I tried to make a sharp left turn at the bottom of the hill in my parents' backyard. At this point I had ridden the Indian hundreds of times so was used to the suicide clutch, but ...


Below is me with the same bike in the Spring of 1969, note the Norton Atlas fenders and the Honda 175 fuel tank. The exra tail lights were cheap generic truck accessories.  Speaking of 1969 and Hondas I have finished restoring a 1969 Honda CB450 K 1.5 (These rare early 1969's look like 1968 K1 but have late 1969 K2 thru 1974 K7 style mufflers.) Odometer says 18,000 miles. Contact me if you are interested and want to spend around US$6,000.email author and web designer

me in front of Nanas with Chief spring 69

Next we see the bike in the winter of 1969-70 after I chopped the bottom off the rear fender (it was the chopper era) and painted the seat red and white (it was the psychedelic era). I had nowhere to store it except  outside in the snow and bitter cold, but it always started on the first kick even though the oil was so thick the kicker crank took 3 seconds to descend. Fifteen years later I had a Yamaha 850 triple and it wouldn't start with the kicker crank even under ideal conditions, and wouldn't even start with the electric start unless the battery was in perfect condition. I had to buy a new battery annually just to get enough rpm's to start the pig. (It weighed as much as a Chief.) Plus the automatic fuel "taps" only lasted a year as well and were very expensive to replace so I eventually used "2 ton epoxy" to convert to manual.


As a change of pace, call this long paragraph the "Ironhead XLH Blues". Here is a shot of me in 2006 in a Seattle garage deciding to buy the 1966 XLH Sportster (12,300 miles) from the original owner. Took me 40 years to locate a 1966 XLH, wanted one since 1966! Since getting it have the faded paint redone same color as original, had the forks rebuilt by Steve's Custom Cycle in Lockport, who also replaced the kick start gears as it was starting to slip, and we put new bearings in the front hub and new brake linings and in 2012 I finally found at Oley a correct, unbent rim to lace the old hub to. I did a tuneup including hours making sure the valve lash and ignition timing was perfect, installed a carb kit, condenser, new clutch cable, did a bit of rewiring, new rear brake light switch, new rear chain etc. Had to get some welding done on the nut where the one of the four windshield bolts goes into the upper left of the fork, do some grinding on the spotlight mounts to make them fit over the windshield bracket. The clutch plates had seized themselves together from sitting so long (Triumph "trick") so I removed the primary cover and clutch cap and unstuck them. Like late 1960's and early 70's Triumphs and BSA twins, these Sporties will "seize" the clutch plates from sitting over the winter. The replacement stock 2 into 1 exhaust header from J and P cycle did not fit and they and Tedd's V twin do not sell them anymore so we are still working on that "pissoff". (I had had the part for about one and a half years when I tried to mount it, and J and P only offer a 90 day guarantee so I learned the hard way I should have tried to see if it would fit as soon as I got it.) Sadly the "repop" muffler is only 19" long while the no longer obtainable original was 20 3/4". The equally rare ignition and lights switch seized the same day so unable to get a replacement after phoning or emailing about 18 people who sell old Hog parts in the US and "Mostly Ironheads" in Canada, I managed to get it apart without wrecking it (tiny screws and bits flew all over) and clean it and de-corrode and lube it but when I tried to get it back together the Bakelite shattered so after some cursing and de-stressing I used "2 ton epoxy"' to get the pieces back into one and sanded down the edges and after a dozen or so tries managed to re-assemble it with all those tiny springs etc., and it works again, but if anyone has Harley PN 71500-59a (not 71500-36, that is for Big Twin) I will buy such a switch for a backup. Originally the 1966 Sportsters came with two six volt batteries wired in series, as did the first 12 v. English bikes of that era. These were long gone and replaced with a new 12 volt battery. Finally found a correct NOS fuel cap for the XLH tank. The original owner had a heavy custom made billet aluminum one on there. I managed to score a genuine Goodyear 3.50 X 18" front tire with no cracks and some tread left, from Ebay. (Update: as soon as I rode on it it cracked badly and had to be scrapped.) I got a new fuel tap (petcock) from Ebay but one of the two taps (main and reserve) was leaking afer only 2-3 years of hardly any use so had to order a new one from a Tedd's V twin dealer. (The new one leaked after a year or so, so had to get yet another.) Getting the rear crash bars (not shown in old photo) and the seat to both fit takes a lot of time and patience and some special tools. In another example of H-D not ensuring their accessories fit with the stock parts, Steve's could not install the optional center stand for me with the rear crash bars and had to do some welding and bracketing. Darren Morse of Steve's Custom Cycle in Lockport NY did such a good job I could not tell what he had modified until he pointed it out to me. Then I found out that it takes at least two people to put the bike on the center stand anyway, and while it keeps the rear wheel off the ground there is no way you can push down to get the front wheel in the air to remove it, and thirdly if you try to start the bike when it is on the stand it will fall over - so now I know why no one installed these optional belly stands. Probably the worst center stand ever devised for a motorcycle, although by sawing off the lower lugs (about 1 1/2", looks like the factory added an extra lug below for some unknown reason) it now works fine - I can get it on the stand pretty easily and and can even be used to hold bike while I kick start it. The center stands on my Honda 450s are a bitch - you need to be strong and perfect a technique to get the bikes up on them, I roll them backwards onto a short length of 2" X 4" and then push the stands down. The optional center stand for the Duo-Glides is also virtually useless, reduces the already minimal ground clearance to next to nil and takes 3 people to get it up and probably off. Best center stand is as on my Guzzi California. Easy! On the Sportster my next problem was I could not get the bike into gear. That was driving me crazy for a few weeks but finally solved it (cannot remember what I did). Then I could not get the bike to start and run consistently, often "at all", and it was sooting up. Finally hired Jim Dixon from Sanborn NY (expert Harley mechanic, a real pro and a perfectionist and very knowlegable about old Harleys) and he rebuilt my Tillotson carb (which I had just rebuilt, but somehow missed a small part or two) after chasing down tiny parts all over the USA. Also he found out that the CB points that were in it were not the proper ones, apparently from a car! I somehow stupidly had it timed for retard rather than advance. He managed to put a new check ball and spring in the oil pump to reduce wet sumping without having to pull the engine from the frame. He ended up spending 100 hours (did not charge me for all that time but it still cost a lot) and it then ran fine but starting was still hit or miss. I then designed a tickler button to dump fuel into the carb above the diaphragm and had it machined. Had to experiment 3X to get the length just right. Now afer some experimenting with the proper "drill" it starts on the first ignition kick (2nd kick). I had the front brake drum turned after I trued the rim but even with new linings the front brakes were useless (rear works great) and so front needs thicker linings to compensate for the drum having greater diameter, and arcing of them - finally found a place (Hamilton Brake) that still does this. Having the new linings arced to the drum made a big difference. Not to mention that when all was done the lift the bike was on suffered a hydraulic fluid loss and the bike fell over and gashed the oil tank. The pre 1967 tanks are "unobtainium" - look like 1967-78 ones from the outside but the inside brackets differ. Finally found someone who got rid of the dent and repainted the tank. Then during a dusk test ride the oil line disconnected itself where it goes into the tank and I lost most of my oil before I discovered that. Then the weird-to-attach oil cap did nit fully seal andI lost it while riding, thus covering rear of bike including tire with oil. Then the new oil cap (which does not come with built-in dipstick, was told they kept disconnecting as mine did and H-D's "solution" was to simply abandon the dip stick) also came loose and sprayed the bike with oil. No need for oil changes at that rate! (I now ensure the cap is snug before every ride). In my song (see Youtube video "Old Harley Breakdown Blues" I (as "Randy and the Retreads") said it took 8 years to sort out the Sportster but it ended up being over ten. I finished the song and the video before the bike. Below me on the XLH is a link to another of my songs on Youtube. Although the song is called Drinkin' Buddies there are a lot of photos of bikers in it.

author on 1966 XLH

Next, with photos courtesy of Iron Horse magazine, and as of Jan 2021 Jim Mosher we have a super updated Indian Four. It was built for Ellsworth Dunderland by Bob Stark and Wilson Plank in 1983 (cost $182,000). It was recently restored over three years by Jim Mosher . It has a 1939 Indian Four motor, in a model 841 military frame (and rear suspension). It uses 1950-53 Indian forks with a Honda 750 front brake. The motor has been modified to accept a 12 volt alternator, electric starter, Corvair oil filter, and a VW Beetle distributor. The automatic transmission is from a GM Corvair. Jim reports that It all works well, and is fun to ride

fluid4right fluid4left

Next are some early 1940's Fours for sale on Ebay in 2013 which are basically stock but have Harley Hydra-Glide or Duo-Glide front ends (but with Indian fenders). Apparently this was not such a rare conversion in the 1960's and '70's. While it may anger Indian purists, it does offer a much plusher ride and cleaner looks. The black bike with the solo seat is a 1941 up for auction May 2013. The white bike appeared on Ebay in July 2013 and was listed as a 1940 model. It seems to have the overstuffed Harley seats so popular in the 1958-78 era. It seems to have had the steering head raked out a bit to better suit the Hog forks.

1941 Four w Glife front end L 1941 Four w Glide front end L front 1941 Four w Glide front end R
1940 Four w Glide front end L 1940 Four w Glide front end L closeup 1940 Four w Glide front end R side

Next we see a 1953 Chief which has been decked or dressed with extra chrome and horns and rails. Sure looks good. This was taken by me at the CVMG annual rally in Barrie in 1976, if not Welland in 1973.

charlychiefl charlychiefr

A reader/viewer of this website sent me this photo he took of a V-8 Indian available only in Germany around the early part of this 21st century. Note the large radiator for this liquid cooled engine.

On E-Bay a few years ago was this 6 cylinder Chevrolet powered and automatic transmission "Indian" although the frame is custom and wheels and seat and forks Harley-Davidson, the only Indian parts I can see are the front fender and fender lamp. Next shot shows owner pulling his boat on trailer. This bike has the power and stabiility to do it. (Sorry about the line thru the shot.)

6 cyl Chev right side 6 cyl Chev w trailer

Next is a recent Kawasaki 800 Drifter which when I first saw it from the front fooled me and many others into thinking it was a 1950's Indian with turn signals. (This was before 1999 so there were no new Indians then. Nowadays, why bother trying to make your Kaw 800 or 1500 look like a Chief when there is a real Chief available?) Nowadays the owner is liable for trademark infringement if he still has the Indian logo on the Kaw. The light blue model is a stock Drifter 800. (The 800's look more Chiefy than the 1500's with their swinging arm rear suspension. Unfortunately Kawasaki discontinued both the 800 and 1500 Drifter a few years ago, so they may eventually become classics themselves)

By comparison, a 1470 cc. (88 CID) Kaw Drifter below. (Perhaps named because they drift rather than steer thru corners? The originally proposed name "Vintage" was much better in my opinion.) The headlight is a copy of a 1950's BSA or Matchless- why they didn't stick with the Nomad headlamp and nacelle which is a copy of 1950's Harley or Indian makes no sense at all. Also the imitation Shovelhead (TM) engine looks like a 1980 H-D stuck into a 1950 Chief. They should've kept the earlier Vulcan engine which was imitation Panhead (TM reg'd). The concept of the rear fender matching the front is great in theory but looks overdone to some. What is neat is that the rear fender is the same distance from the tire as the front, and like the front the fender as well as wheel moves up and down. This concept was copied from the Vincents of the late forties and early fifties.)

Now for something equally interesting, a Swedish Albin (1 liter or 61 CID V- twin with huge transfer case for the shaft drive) in bobber form. It seems to have Harley split fuel tanks and a 1960's Sportster front end. Custom solo seat and custom exhaust pipes and a bobbed rear fender and chopper style oil tank and rear wheel. Actually other than the engine and gearbox and possibly the frame there is nothing else Albin on this. This would make a really unique bike to show up with at any meeting of vintage bikes or Harleys. I am curious as to what a stock 1940's Albin looked like. Apparently only two Albins were ever built (military protoypes?) and this is what is left of one. Talk about rare! (Click on the thumbnails to enlarge, full sized image will appear in a new browser window overtop of this one, when finished looking, click off the new browser window to return here).

Indian never made a snow vehicle but several privateers made their own using Indian Scout engines and other parts, and a company named Eliason made "motor toboggans" using Indian engines. Below is a photo taken in 1916, sorry do not know where. The owner uses a steering wheel instead of handlebars so in this sense is way ahead of even today's snowmobiles. However he took the fast and easy way out by using an almost complete Indian motorcycle (less wheels and handlebars) to make most of the machine. The cycle's forks seem to be bolted to the wood plank by a strap. but since steering is instead via ropes attached to the skis, not a problem. Unlike most other homemade snow machines, he has a headlight, which will turn with the skis. Easy to check and refill gasoline too, with the stock tank in its normal location. Looks like the "body" is simply canvas.

Next are three photos of Eliasons. The first is a 1943 US Army model C. The second is a civilian 1945 model D (photos by Wayne Campbell) and the third looks like an advertisement from the 1950's. Perhaps Eliason folded when the supply of Scout mills dried up after WWII, although they could have switched to Harley "45" engines which, although not as powerful, were very plentiful for about 15 years after 1945. However the helmets and snowmobile suits in the last Eliason ad further below definitely look like 1970's, which then raises the question "How did they keep accessing Scout engines for over 30 years after they stopped being made?" If anyone out there owns an Eliason please don't contact me asking what it's worth as I do not have a clue. They are so rare there is no market for them. It is whatever you can get, be it $50 or $5,000.

fishing from tobaggan

Next are two photos of an Eliason running around a lake in Northern Ontario in early 1991. The vehicle was purchased by Gary Bluestone's father in 1974, and was made around 1940 either in Sayner Wisconson or by the (FWD) Four Wheel Drive Co. also in Wisconson, who did subcontracting for military contracts. It was used by the Wisconson Fish and Game dept. at some time. The image was used in Indian advertising later in the 1940's. The first Eliasons used Excelsior motors. Gary Bluestone spoke with  Eliason' s son who told him that after 1929 when these motors were no longer made, they simply bought up used bikes to get motors. Then apparently they bought new Scout engines from Indian. After the Scouts were no longer made, they switched designs to use a rear mounted Briggs and Straten or similar motor. It appears that the fuel tank is the metal box in between the riders' knees and the silo shaped cylinder sticking up like a smoke stack is the oil tank. because it would have to be above the oil pump for gravity feed. The exhaust seems to aim forward but I think it is actually just angled out and exits to the right so the rider does not inhale as much. Steering is via metal blades, like skates, underneath and just to the front of the motor, connected to a tiller. The long lever on the right pushes the drivetrain down like engaging a gear in a car. The shorter lever on the right is the gearshift. Instead of the stock three speeds, Gary uses a sidecar type transmission with reverse to help when the rig gets stuck. So although he only has two forward speeds (plenty for a frozen lake with almost no other traffic) he does not need to get a hernia or back strain pulling the rig back when it gets stuck. Photos and info by Gary Bluestone.

If you like customized cruiser motorcycles be they based on Harley "45" or Panhead engines or Indian flatheads, metric V twins, old Vincent engines, Ducati or even English engines, check out my new website:
Custom Cruiser Concepts which contains lots of my styling exercises done over the last 40 years, plus pencil sketches of basically stock Harleys and a BSA and a Gold Wing and other bikes, and for $40 I can do one of your bike.

The Crocker

No history of American motorcycles in the first half of the 20th century is complete without mention of the Crocker. Crocker made very successful single cylinder Speedway race bikes, and V-twin street bikes. Like the English Vincent this big V-twin was very fast and technologically advanced for its day (1936), and the bikes were hand built, so they were expensive and rare even in their day. (The war put an end to American and English civilian motorcycle production in 1942, and while Indian, Harley and Vincent resumed after WW II, Crocker did not.) The Vincent V-twin came into production about the same year as the Crocker and Harley Knucklehead (1936). The Crocker only lasted until 1942 and the Vincent until 1955. The Harley evolved into the Panhead in 1948, the Shovelhead in 1966, the Evolution in 1984, and more recently the Twin Cam. Probably no two Crockers were alike even when brand new. Buyers could order engine sizes from 61 (1 liter) to 100 CID (1.5 liters or 1500 c.c.). While the Vincent was fast but fragile and high maintenance in some respects, e.g. gearbox, clutch, brakes, electrics, the Crocker was fast, simpler and rugged. Parts were made overly strong for the power output, understressing them and making them reliable. While the Crocker was like a big Detroit V-8 car of the fifties, the Vincent was more like a finicky British sports car. (Not that people then and now have not racked up tens of thousands of touring miles on Vincent Rapides - I am thinking more of the Black Shadows and Lightnings. The Vincent was much more complex than the Crocker or for that matter any V twin made in the following half century. The Vincent rear suspension was not copied until the Harley Softail and the oil-in-frame design was not copied in a street bike until Triumph and BSA used it in their 650 twins starting in 1971.) While the Vincent was unique in appearance, the Crocker looked familiar: like a stripped down Indian Chief with Harley Knucklehead engine. Actually Albert Crocker used to work for Indian so resemblances between Crocker and Indian parts (tanks, Scout-like forks, aluminum primary cover and generator drive location) are not just coincidence. While some parts were obtained by Al Crocker from Indian and Harley dealers, it is not true that the bike was a combination of Indian and Hog parts. The frame (which included a cast-in steel gearbox), forks, engine etc. were pure Crocker. Many parts which on other bikes were pressed steel or cast steel were made of aluminum; even the fuel tanks. The gears were oversized for strength, but only three speeds were available. (That was standard in 1936.) The engine was of valve-in-head design (OHV) and had an almost square bore and stroke ratio. That ratio was truly ahead of its time as until about 20 years ago V twins on both sides of the Atlantic except for the Vincent and Crocker and Moto-Guzzi had narrow bores and long strokes. The Crocker came out in the same year as Harley's OHV Knucklehead, but beating Harley to the market by about 5 months. Early Crocker V-twins were hemi-head with exposed valve springs, but some of the heads cracked. The later design was called "parallel" and had fully enclosed top end, but less power. I am not sure of whether the valve angle was more vertical like the latest designs or not. Apparently Harley and perhaps also Indian felt so threatened by the more advanced and fast Crocker that they pressured Budd and Kelsey-Hayes, the wheel rim makers, not to deal with Crocker, so Crockers were sold without wheels and buyers had to buy them under the table from sympathetic Indian and Harley dealers. According to one story, during the early 1940's Mr. Al Crocker, seeing the writing on the wall, approached Indian about buying the rights to his engine for use in Chiefs. As is typical of the Indian management of the 1940's, and Indian's own failing finances, they turned their noses up at a golden opportunity and looked a gift horse in the mouth, just as they did in 1949 when they had the chance to power new Chiefs with Vincent engines. Thus the postwar Indian V twin never became an OHV. Al Crocker made 64 V-twins plus successful Speedway singles and had another 85 V-twins almost finished in 1942 when the War Dept. forced him to melt them down for badly needed metal. What a shame! He then made so much money making military parts he did not resume Crocker production after the war. He died in 1961. A restored Crocker today is worth far more than an Indian or Harley V-twin of the same era, due to rarity and more advanced design. I mean like ten times more. At auctions since late 2006, well preserved or restored Crocker V-twins have been sold for up to $350,000!
Below are three B&W photos: firstly, a photo from the early 1960's showing an unrestored 1942 Crocker in Los Angeles, owned by Hiroshi Watanuki; and secondly a restored Crocker from L.A. (photo taken around Y2K) owned by Richard Morris, and thirdly from an unknown source, another Crocker, a 1939.



1939 Crocker Left sharp

Above two color photos were kindly submitted a few years ago by web viewer "Bob" (don't know his surname). Bike on left is a 1940 Crocker "big tank" which was restored by Chuck Vernon, photo taken by Buzz Lovell, while one on right is a "small tank" model. One on right has non-stock exhaust and has a BSA gearbox, non stock front wheel and tire, and is missing the headlight. Below is a 1938 Big Tank which was on offer recently at MECUM acutions in Las Vegas.


Michael Schact finally achieved his ambition after years of hard work, perseverance over many obstacles, financial, inter-personal and legal. The result sure is glorious, if expensive. I believe it is only available as a kit that you assemble, due to high labor costs in the US, but I suppose if you are truly rich he can provide an assembled one.

new Crocker

THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO HAS SENT PHOTOS OF THEIR INDIANS, STORIES, INFORMATION and CORRECTIONS. New material is always welcome and appreciated. If anyone recognizes their bike in this site please let me know so I can put your name in as owner. email author and web designer

This site is not the official site of the makers of the current lines of Indian motorcycles, POLARIS INDUSTRIES (V twins in the USA) - They are at www.indianmotorcycle.com, Nor is it the official site of the new Crocker motorycle company.