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The original Indian motorycle company was founded in 1901 in Springfield Massachusetts USA, by bicycle racer George Hendee and Swedish immigrant Oscar Hedstrom. Some people wonder why it was called the Indian Motocycle Company instead of Indian Motorcycle Company. In Italy, all motorcycles have names beginning with "moto" e.g. Moto-Guzzi, Moto-Ducati, Moto-Laverda, so perhaps Hedstrom was familiar with that. The earliest Indian models looked like mopeds (bicycles with small single cylinder engines) and only 3 were made in 1901. Indian made 143 motorcycles in 1902. Interestingly, Triumph began production in 1902 and Harley-Davidson the year after (1903). So the order was Indian, Triumph, Harley. This "Big Three" are still around a century later, while many other brands which started later died off years ago.
A note on internal combustion engine terminology: Flatheads are also known as
L heads, side-valve or for cars and trucks, "valve-in-block". (Overhead valves or OHV is a misnomer, best
term is "valve-in-head".)
Site reader Buddy Ault
kindly submitted this photo of his grandfather E. D. Snodgrass on what looks
like an Indian "Camelback" (gasoline tank over rear fender) doing
some "off roading". Buddy does not know when the photo was taken.
I think that model of Indian came out in 1906 and it looks new here, and Buddy
does know the shot was taken no later than 1910. The Trev Deeley museum in Vancouver
BC Canada kindly emailed me and said they also thought it was a 1906 as they have one
on display. The Camelback was advanced in that the engine also served as the
seat post (instead of a frame tube there, to save weight) and because it was
an F head (inlet over exhaust valving). Sort of ironic that their first mass
produced model was more advanced in that regard than their last Chiefs which
were just L (flat) heads. Those very early Indians only produced a bit over two (2)
Next is a photo kindly submitted by Ed Gregory of his grandfather also on a 1906 Camelback, at Wincester NH. Luckily only the edges of the 110 year old photo have deteriorated.
The third photo is of Bob Stromberg's father. Thanks for the submission Bob. Not sure of the Indian model, looks like a Camelback engine but the fuel tank is in the traditional position and not over the rear fender, so perhaps a successor to the Camelback. Bob and I would like to know what years this model was made so he can estimate the date of the photo.
The V-twin model of Indian
engine came out in 1907. Below is a photo from 1910 showing a couple in a 1907-10 Indian sidear outfit.
In 1914 Indian had been the first with both electric
lighting and an electric starter. All very advanced but they did not continue with the electric starters longer than six years. Indian was also very advanced with a swinging arm rear suspension (albeit with leaf springs, not coils) from 1913 to at least 1918. The early "Big Twins" as they were called had F heads.
Indian's next major development came in 1916 when Hedstrom's former assistant Charles Gustafson developed the 1 litre "Powerplus". It had two side valves instead of one (full flathead instead of F head). It made a mere 7 horsepower.
The middle of WW I (1916) was the first year for the Power Plus, and the first engine not designed by Oscar Hedstrom. Both Hedstrom and Hendee had left the company by 1916, being unable to agree.
Some Big Twins and Powerpluses were built in Toronto Canada from 1912 and through World War I (up to 1918) and were featured on Canadian postage stamps in summer of 2013. About eight decades later, around the turn of the century, the building was used as an upscale tavern for downtown office workers having lunch, who seemed to know and care nothing about motorcycles let alone old Indians, (judging from the response I got from customers and staff when I went there to have a look). It was called the Indian Motorcycle Cafe (see image below) and at least had a small display of Indian material in the waiting area and some Indian paraphernalia such as photos and banners on the walls . Sadly the building was demolished in 2014.
Below photos from EBay as recent as July 2013 showing a perfectly restored 1913 Power Plus (seven images), an unrestored 1914 engine (3 views: Left, Right and Top looking down), a 1914 frame, and four shots of a 1915 Powerplus motorcycle from Blenheim Ontario (first two shots show engine closeup). Finally from an earlier time on Ebay a 1918 Powerplus lacking lights, exhaust and some other parts, and its engine.
In 1918 the company offered
for sale to the public its own new factory racer featuring OHV and 4 VPC (valves
per cylinder). This was many years ahead of the competition. Considering that
3 or 4 VPC only began to show up on a few street V twins bikes in the late 1980's
and mid 1990's, and Harleys are still built with only 2 VPC, it can be said
that this V twin was 70 years ahead of its time. Top speed was 120 mph, but
the racers were very light and had no brakes, lights, fenders, suspension etc.
The high price of this racer resulted in very few sales and it did not last
In 1919 the very advanced opposed twin came out. See photo below.
In 1920, the Power Plus street model was offered in a 74 CID (1200 c.c.) version for sidecar owners.
1920 was also an important year as the Scout was "born" then. Originally it was only 600 cc. (37 CID) but was enlarged in 1928 to 45 CID (750 c.c.) and called the Scout 101.
The 1920 Scout was the brainchild of one Charles B. Franklin. When European sales collapsed after WW I, Charles Franklin, who had ridden for Indian's winning 1911 Isle of Man team, emigrated from Ireland to join Indian's engineering department in Massachusetts. Working with Gustafson's 1000cc Powerplus design, Franklin developed the Scout. Like the Powerplus, it was a side-valve design, but it featured semi-unit construction, with the transmission bolted to the engine (like the Royal Enfields of the 1950's up until around 2010) and driven by an efficient helical gear drive. The Scout became the basis for other bigger V-twins. In 1922, it was enlarged to 1000 cc (1 liter or 61 cubic inches) to become the Chief and to 1200 cc or 74 cubic inches in 1924 to become the Big Chief engine. These early Chiefs had gear driven primary in aluminium casings, in oil bath. (English and Harley motorcycles were still using leaky pressed steel primary cases decades later.) The 1928 Scout 101 (750 cc.) was and is regarded as Indian's best handling if not best-ever motorcycle. It won many races (in its early day its main competition was Excelsior-Henderson) and it and the later Sport Scout was often hopped up for racing and street-fighting with Chief 74 CID flywheels and connecting rods. Ironically, Soichiro Honda rode a 101 Scout for a number of years and it inspired him to build motorcycles, and later the Honda company built cars.
To summarize from 1918, the end of WW I, Indian was in a weak financial condition but continued to produce great models. First the 600 cc Scout in 1920, then the Chief (1 liter or 61 CID) in 1921, the Big Chief (1.2 liters or 74 CID) in 1923 and the 101 Scout (45 cubic inches) in 1928. In 1923 the 250,000th Indian rolled off the line. Below are two shots of a 1924 Big Chief.
In 1927 Indian purchased the Ace Four, the brainchild of W.G. Henderson, which became the Indian Four. (The first year it was called "Indian Ace".) The first improvement Indian did was to add two more main bearings (5 v. 3). Meanwhile Mr. Henderson hooked up wth the Excelsior company. Neither the Ace nor Indian fours should be confused with the Henderson-Excelsior Four, although all three derived from the same design by Mr. Henderson and thus look similar. Note how the skirted ("valenced") fenders which came out in 1940 completely change the look of the Fours.
First we have a 1941 Four that was restored in the 1970s and recently offered on Ebay (the forks have been chrome plated), next to the right is a Four (circa 1940) owned by Canadian Tom Wilcoks, which he racks up huge mileages on annually, and is basically stock.and finally a 1941 Four painted in yellow with aftermarket (back in the day) Vard brand forks.
Mr. Henderson designed the Four with an F head and this configuration was also used in Jeeps a few years later. The exhaust valves were below the head and off to the side as in any old flathead design but the inlet valves were in the head as in later OHV designs. This made sense as getting the fuel-air mixture into the heads is more important for power and efficiency than getting the burned mixture out. OHV inlet and exhaust is best, plus allows much higher compression ratios. But the F head was at least a significant improvement over the L head. In 1936 and 1937 only, Indian engineers must have been drunk because the F head was reversed. This "upside down" engine (side valve inlet, valve-in-head for exhaust is considered a mistake by all. As already noted, the inlet port and valve is much more crucial than the exhaust for breathing and power. If they were going to go to the trouble and expense of redesigning they should have made it a full OHV. The only rationale I can think of is they must have been aiming for cooler exhaust valves as flathead engines, even liquid cooled car ones, are known to overheat especially in the exhaust area, and flathead Indian Chiefs get 10 mph slower top speed as they get hot. The F head was reverted to in 1938. Someone must have said "What were we thinking?" At least the Sport model of the 1937 Four had two carburetors, which was a very good idea. (see photo attached courtesy of former owner Tom "Landshark" - a very cool looking motorcycle.)
With a Four, the more carbs
the better. Most Indian Fours had one carb at the very back to cool the rear
cylinder. (Same was used on the Ariel Square Four.) The downside is that the
front cylinders get a tiny bit less fuel and air mixture. In 1938 the company
did a major redesign of the Four, generally considered a big improvement, but
they perversely still did not take the opportunity to go to full OHV (it was an
F head) nor to offer multiple carbs as standard, nor to increase the displacement. Displacement
of the Four was always just over 77 CID or 1260 c.c. Nevertheless, the price of well restored
Fours has become amazing; over US$65,000!
Famous cowboy singer/actor Roy Rogers rode a 1940 or '41 Indian Four with the valenced fenders. (Roy owned many bikes over the years, including several Indians.) If anyone can provide non-copyright photos of Roy on his Injuns please submit. Next we see two images of a 1934 Indian Four. (Photo courtesy of Cycle World magazine.)
Despite mismanagement Indian survived the Great Depression. Below is a photo from Slovenia, Yugoslavia of unknown date (I'm guessing early 1930's) of a magneto ignition Chief (I'n guessing about a 1929) with unknown riders. This was submitted by Alexis Flanegan. If anyone can provide any more clues as to who these guys were and what they were doing, please do.
Mr. E. Paul Du Pont of paint company fame became President of Indian in 1929 and this was the beginning of a period of good management, profits and the beginning of multi-tone paint jobs of high quality on Indians. Meanwhile Indian and Harley riders continued to compete on the race tracks so in 1934 the Sport Scout came out as a replacement for the 101 Scout (really just an improved 101 in a heavy frame). For more photos of Scouts visit www.indianscoutmotorcycles.com by clicking the link on the handlebar image at the top of this page.
A reader sent in this dandy photo of a genuine North American "Indian" Chief (as mis-named by C. Columbus who was lost) on an Indian Chief motorcycle. His Anglicized name was George Major Cook and he was Chief of the Pamunkey tribe and the bike appears to be a late 1920's Chief. (Note the external contracting rear drum brake instead of later interal expanding.) Since Mr. Cook died at a youngish age in 1930 that is the latest it could be.
Shown below is a 1930's Indian Chief, seen at the Paris Ontario rally of the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group circa 2003. Also next to it another restored 1930's Chief, in dark red and cream, seen at Oley PA AMCA meet May 2012. Then several shots of a funky 1938 orange colored Chief that was offered on Ebay in 2012 or '13. The latter two bikes have 4" X 18" tires while the first (black) one has the 5" X 16" tires that become popular after WWII.
As mentioned earlier in
1918 Indian brought out racing models with OHV and 4 VPC (valves per cylinder),
and about 15 years later (early 1930's) they built some OHV hillclimber engines.
They also tried the 1930's OHV engine in a car of their own design but hardly
any were sold. Had Indian kept using electric starters, OHVs and 4 VPC, they
might well have been far ahead of their competition in the 1930's, 40's and fifties.
Here are some prewar Chiefs that I shot at Paris (Ontario, Canada) at the annual CVMG rally June 2014. Note how the dull green pre 1940 one (with chromed front end, and alternator instead of generator) looks so long and low compared to the early 1980's Yamaha XS650 behind it.
The yellow and black Chief appears to be a 1940 or '41, denoted by the valanced fenders.
Then here are some 1946 to 1948 Chiefs I shot at the CVMG Paris Ontario annual rally June 1014. These are typical of Chiefs one would have seen back in the day, not over restored or accessorized.
Next is a tastey 1948 "peaches and cream" colored Chief from Ebay July 2013; with a lot of chrome and polishing and two tone paint and white leather seat that is slightly over-restored but gorgeous.
Then we move ahead to 1950-53 Chiefs: the black and yellow 52-53 was on Ebay recently and the blue one I shot at Campbell River circa Y2K when Charlie Mahoney was still alive and hosting that meet.
During WW II Indian made a detuned Sport Scout for the Allied armies called the 640. (Six refers to the model Scout and 40 to the year of manufacture, Three refers to Chiefs, e.g. a 341 is a 1941 Chief.) Bikes below are 643 and 644 models. Indian also made many model 741's (30.5 CID or 500 cc, made in 1941), slow as molasses but reliable. During the war Indian made about 33,000 military cycles compared to about 50,000 or 90,000 by Harley (depending on who you read). Harley not only sold more but their contract provided that they earned more per unit. Instead of profiting by the war like so many big manufacturing companies in the US, Indian lost money! Typical US Army models shown below - more photos in the Indian Scout website (access via Handlebar at page top).
Next we have a You Tube video of a US army Chief called a 340B by the army, which is just like the last bike in the still photos above (probably a 341, photo taken by me at Oley PA in 2012).
Many 30.5 CID and 45 CID Scouts (740's and 640's) and some 74 CID Chiefs were sold to the American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and British military during the war. (I once saw an ex-French Chief in the 1960's North of Toronto Canada.) Last photo above shows a U.S. Army Indian Chief with rifle, photographed by me at Oley PA in 2012. My Dad rode a very similar bike in the Canadian Army when those machines were new. Many of the smaller 500 and 750 c.c. models remain in the UK, Europe and Australia and New Zealand. In civilian terminology, the smaller 500cc models were called "thirty-fifties" or "Junior Scouts" or "Pony Scouts". If you are interested in the similar Harley-Davidson military and civilian 750 flatheads, see the Scout page of this site for info on them.
No Indian history is complete without mention of the advanced military 841 model. Sadly only 1000 were made and barely a handful saw combat action before the US Army decided to order huge numbers of Jeeps instead. The 841 (and similar Harley XLA which suffered the same fate) copied the successful German BMW army motorcycles including shaft drive and 4 speed hand clutch/foot shift. (The Harley looks a lot like a 1940's military BMW, while the Indian 841 looks more like a late 1960's and up Moto-Guzzi because it was a 90 degree V instead of a 180 degree flat or "boxer" engine layout.) Why Indian and Harley did not use these advanced (for 1941) bikes as postwar civilian models is a big mystery. The ad below from Dec. 1943 issue of Popular Mechanics suggest that at least some folks at the Indian factory were thinking along these lines.
In the "Modified" page of this site are photos of custom civilianized 841's.
After the war the Indian Motocycle Company had a surplus of unsold army machines and sold them to the public for $1,000. Since they were new, and of an advanced design, it seems to me they should have sold them for more, but maybe that was a fairly high price back then.
The US War Dept circa 1943 held a competition for a mini-jeep, a lighter one 4' wide and 9' long that could carry soldiers and other equipment and supplies after being parachuted down behind enemy lines. A few companies applied. One competitor Willys (who made the original Jeep) used the Harley XA (BMW copy) engine and Chevrolet's version (see illustration below) used the Indian 841 engine. However it apparently could not handle the weight (a little over 1000 pounds unloaded) of the rig and carry it at 50 mph for extended periods. The engine reportedly failed after only 3,200 miles. (To pass it should have lasted over 10,000 miles.) The Harley powered Willys also broke down as did the other entries so the competition was cancelled. Today's huge V-twin engines would easily pass, but would need to be liquid cooled.
In one of the main North American aboriginal tribes the word "papoose" was a kind of back pack mothers used to carry thie babies around in. Probably the frame was made of branches and it was covered in hide and blankets to keep the child warm. An appropriate word for the WWII Indian mini-bike which was so small a soldier could almost carry it around on his back if it ran out of fuel or he had to stop the engine as the noise would alert the enemy. It was built and designed in the UK by Brockhouse, there called "Wellbike" (for the military) and "Corgi" when released to the public after the war. (A Corgi is a small breed of dog, popular in the UK.). The idea was that Allied paratroopers would use it to be more mobile after landing. After landing and hiding their parachute, they would rush over to the nearest Wellbike, unfold the handlebars, pull up the seat post, turn on the ignition and start the bike and ride off into enemy territory. Presumably not good for sneaking up in a Commando raid as the engine noise would give one away and your hands would be on the handlebars instead of your weapon. Recently (Fall 2012) a 1947 Papoose came up for sale on EBay, along with a WWII publicity photo of how it would appear (as a Wellbike) on the battlefield. The soldiers here appear to be wearing American helmets and uniforms. Notice the motorbike is so small it could almost fit in the sidecar of the black Chief outfit shown below. Just like a mother carrying a Papoose the big Chief could carry a Papoose in it's sidecar to use in case of a breakdown, accident or running out of fuel. The Corgis and Papooses came with 98 c.c. Villiers engines. If anyone knows if these ever saw actual combat service or were just an experiment, please let me know. I see no reason why they would not work just as well today. (B&W photos courtesy of Classic Bike magazine, always a great "read" for vintage motorycles.)
Even rarer (and much faster) than the 841's was a secret factory experimental four
built supposedly in 1941 but probably around 1949 since based on the Arrow and postwar Scout (later called Warrior) engines.
Front end also looks Warrior as does rear suspension. Shaft drive probably taken from the Model 841 and probably the 4
speed foot shift used on the 841. If it has four Arrow OHV cylinders inline, displacement would have been 854 cc. but the posters and other authors list it as having 880 c.c.
The postwar Scout was marketed as a 440 so this job would have been listed as an 880, but postwar Scout was really only 426 so this would have been 854,
still lots of power for a four and who cares about 26 cc? This lean machine looks like it would have
been fast and had good handling. This was far more advanced than anything Harley
produced until their recent V-Rod. Another "too bad/what if?"
I was thrilled to see the actual machine at the Rhinebeck AMCA meet in 2007, and have loaded my photos into this website - the More Oldies page. The bike is owned by the AMCA but members are not allowed to touch it let alone ride it. I guess the club directors are afraid someone will drop it and damage it, over-rev it and harm the engine, or ride off with it. The value is literally priceless.
You may have heard of the
Hollister California 1947 event (see my song about it on the Music page of this
site) where rival outlaw gangs supposedly battled, raped, pillaged and took
over the town. (The reality was not that bad, but the media of the time, and
the later 1953 "Wild One" movie exaggerated and dramatized.) Actually
there were serious AMA races going on in Hollister each year but in 1947 the
drunken outlaws came mainly to entertain themselves and the local townsfolk
with shenanigans on the main streets, and contribute a lot of money to the local
economy, mainly the bars, some of which allowed these two-wheeled customers
to ride right inside. In the movie gang leader "Johnny" (Marlon Brando)
steals the main race trophy and straps it to his Triumph without having even
participated in the race. Below left is a photo from the website of 13 Rebels
MC (one of the clubs who attended Hollister and still exist) showing club member
Arden van Syckle (could that really have been his surname ?) posing with the
actual trophy from the main 1947 race. I guess unlike "Johnny" he
rode hard and won it, but certainly not on that 1946 or '47 Chief which must
have been his daily rider. Note the 18" diameter front wheel which back
then was as common as the 15". Nearly all modern restorations use the fat
front wheel. Incidentally, the character "Chino" as played by Lee
Marvin in the movie was based on "Wino Willie" of the Boozefighters who had
been a member of the 13 Rebels but somewhat ironically got kicked out for his
rebellious antics in 1946, which type of drunken behavior he continued at Hollister
the next year. So this is a case of art (the movie) imitating life, but then
life imitating art as countless individual riders and outlaw clubs sprouted
up modeling their behavior on what they had seen on the silver screen. Here
is a link to www.13rebelsmc.com When I
recorded the song "Hollister, 1947" (go to BIKER MUSIC page of this site) I had never heard of the 13 Rebels (sorry guys), so the song only mentions
the Boozefighters and another club which became the Hells Angels in 1948.
Below right is a shot of the now famous Sturgis North Dakota annual rally (now mainly a Harley event) showing a 1946-48 Chief in the foreground. Judging by the Chrysler to the right, the photo dates from about 1952.
In 1948 and for a couple of years after, Indian imported 3 speed bicycles from Britain and called them Indians. Evidently this venture was a failure as these bicycles were and are rarely seen. However this may make them valuable nowadays to collectors.
Many Indian riders were irate that there was no V-twin flathead Scout for sale after the war, and privately owned Scouts continued to win races for many years after the war. Some privateers put Chief flywheels in to get 950 c.c. (57 CID) and a lot more power out of their racing or souped up street Scouts. As mentioned above, the factory did relent slightly in 1948, and produced 25 - 50 racing Scouts stamped FDH, but commonly known as the Big Base Scout or the "648 Daytona" as Daytona was where most were raced. They performed extremely well in their class (Class C) and continued to win races for the next six years! In fact at various other types of races across the USA, racing Scouts continued to do well and even win up to the 1970s! But what was the point if no mass produced versions were made for sale to the general public? (Yet another lost sales opportunity and management blunder.) Visit www.indianscoutmotorcycles.com to see a photo of a 648 racer.
A much more expensive venture, making and selling an outboard boat motor (called
the Arrow) sank in red ink not because there was anything unreliable or unattractive
about the engine, but it was a planning and marketing error because it
was too big and heavy for fishermen who wanted to troll and too small a displacement for people who wanted to tow skiers or just zoom around. Here is a photo of
an Arrow outboard motor courtesy of Allan "Zippy" Lowson.
The series of blunders continued when Indian also tried making suspension dampers for cars (shock absorbers) but somehow that flopped too. (One is reminded of Harley's failure with golf karts and recreational trailers some years later.) One might have thought that with experience in shock absorbers Indian would have come out with a Swingarm rear frame. Maybe because their shocks were no good they did not pursue it? Most likely it was never thought about, as swingarms did not even come on most British bikes until the early 1950's. The then-new Indian Warrior and postwar Scout bikes used non-hydraulically dampened plunger rear suspension (like on the Chiefs but longer thinner springs, copied from the model 841) which was cruder than the typical oil dampened British plungers of the day. Harley did not come out with a swinging arm rear suspension setup for its Big Twin until 1958 (although it had it as early as 1952 on the K model, it's version of an English sports bike.)
Continuing the saga around 1948, Indian
was in such bad straights that Paul DuPont sold it to a manufacturing
group headed by one Ralph Rogers. Rogers was so dedicated he put a lot of his
own money (like, millions) into Indian. He had the right ideas - fresh modern
designs, get away from the oily outlaws and police market into selling motorycles
for the whole family (just like the "You meet the nicest people on a Honda"
ad campaign of the 1960's and '70's). This resulted in the "Torque series"
inspired by English designs similar to Edward Turner's vertical twin Triumph.
But the resultant 213 c.c single Arrow and 426 c.c.twin Scout (two Arrow cylinders side by side)
were rushed into production without proper testing and assembly and were junk.
(wheel rims so narrow tubes and tires would not fit, and so thin they collapsed,
main bearings failed, magnetos failed, gears would not shift, the valve gears
failed.) Also they were too small to compete with Triumph, BSA, Norton, Matchless and Royal Enfield (500 and later 650 c.c. by the end of the decade). Then the
British government devalued the pound sterling making the English imports a
lot cheaper than the Indians. By the time Indian had enlarged the twin engine to 500 cc.
and gotten some of the bugs out (1950 and 1951), and renamed the Scout the Warrior,
it was too late and 1952 was its last year.
Below are two shots from Ebay (March of 2016) of an immaculately restored 1952 Arrow single in a lovely yellow color:
Next are some photos I took of a maroon 426 c.c. Scout at the Paris Ontario rally circa the year 2000, plus an exploded view of the engine
showing it to be similar to a Triumph twin of that era, but with the timing
side on the left and primary and final drive on the right (maybe because the
Chief and Scout had final drives on the right?). Following are a shot of a blue 1950 500 cc Warrior, then a 1950 Arrow 250 in teal. Then some shots of postwar Scouts or Warriors including a black Warrrior or Scout that was on display at the AMCA Rhinebeck meet in 2007, then a blue Scout or Warrior seen at Oley PA 2012 with solo seat and chromed horns, then another black one seen in a trailer at Oley. Check out the "More Oldies" page of this site for police Chiefs and trikes.
|Although the Warrior was a mechanical and sales flop it did have one moment of shining glory. It won the 1962 Greenhorn Enduro - a 500 mile desert race. The bike was at least ten years old by 1962, and the race was so tough that of 170 entrants only 23 finished. A large part of this success was the famous rider: Max Bubeck. However he did have an aftermarket swingarm rear suspension kit (sold to update British bikes) attached to the Warrior. Not only was the bike a bit old but so was the rider. Fifteen years earlier, here is a photo of Max after winning the 1947 Greenhorn Enduro using - incredibly - an Indian Four (the very last type of machine anyone would want for an enduro)!|
With losses instead of profits, the proposed 854 cc. shaft-drive Four (consisting of four 213 cc. Arrow cylinders) had to be abandoned. What a shame as this would have been an amazing machine had it been perfected, it would have been many years ahead of any American or English competitors. Another sales failure was the 250 cc. single cylinder, 3-speed flathead Brave, not to be confused with the more advanced Arrow. The Brave was cheap but very slow and some were unreliable due to bad batches of metal. However other experts say it sold fairly well and the bad batch was small in number. I think these were made in the UK, it certainly does not look American. On the page in this web site about events from 1950-85 you can see photos of a 1956 model. Also the mid 1950's Fire Arrow which was a 250cc OHV single made for Indian by Royal Enfield. As for the noble Chief, there wasn't enough money to create a replacement for it or even make serious improvements. An attempt to create a foot shift did not materialize, despite some police wanting it and dealers being told it existed! Indian started trying to make a foot shift conversion as early as late 1948 aiming for the 1950 model, and at least one prototype was made for a 1950 Chief. The shifter worked "so-so" but never went into production. The clutch treadle served as the foot shift lever. Thanks to Don Doody for this information. If anyone comes across this prototype or any Chief from 1950 with a factory (not home made or current aftermarket by Stark) foot shift, contact me as it is a rare collectible.
Actually Indian had a very inexpensive solution to the big V-twin problem literally in their hands in 1949 but with their usual tendency to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory they failed to follow though with it. In 1948 they had sent a stock Chief to the Vincent company in England to see if the super powerful (for its day) ultra-modern (for 1948) Vincent V twin engine and gearbox would fit in the Chief rolling chassis. The Vincent engineers got to work and accomplished the task in very short order. The OHV engine and its 4 speed footshift gearbox barely fit, but they did fit with no major frame changes. Even the stock generator drive setup with its belt and tin cover fit! The exhaust routing was not at all unfaithful to the overall Chief styling. In fact having a pipe on each side really helped the Chief's "bad side" (the left side). At a glance you would not know that the Vincent engine did not always belong in the Chief. Although the fastest Vincent engines - the Black Shadow and the rare Black Lightning racer - were not reliable for ordinary use and American mileages, the Rapide version was. Although mild compared to a Black Shadow it was peppier than a Chief mill. Both the English and US companies tested the prototype and found it satisfactory, but sadly nothing more was followed through with. In my opinion, this was a huge mistake for Indian, as the poor sales of the old fashioned 1950-53 Chief showed, and also a huge mistake for the Vincent company which also died two years after Indian. If the Vindian had gone into production both companies might have done well for years thereafter. There would not have been a lot of extra cost involved in producing the Vindian since everything except engine mounts and exhausts and brackets were already being produced by either company.
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