I love looking at antique motorcycles. I have ridden one or two over the years and loved the adventure but would I want to own one? I don’t think so. They take too much work. I like to appreciate the work that someone else did to keep a wonderful piece of history running. The love and dedication that goes into restoring and then maintaining an antique motorcycle, not to mention the money ($$$$$) is truly admirable.
A couple of years ago I toured the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh New York and was enthralled by motorcycle makes that have been long gone, makes that lasted just one or two years, makes I had never heard of. They were all there. Some beautifully restored, others rusty and dirty as the day they came out of a barn in Iowa. It was beautiful.
At the turn of the century (the 20th century) when fortunes were being made in the bicycle business a few started stuffing an engine into the bicycle frame and a new world was born. The world we love so much.
One of the company’s that was short lived also had an important part in one of motorcycling’s greatest legendary brands. Aurora Manufacturing in Aurora Illinois started making parts and tools for bicycles back in 1886, one of the companies buying these tools and parts was Hendee Manufacturing the makers of Silver King and Silver Queen bicycles…ringing a bell yet? it will.
In 1901 George Hendee sent Aurora an engine to be studied and parts and tools made for. Aurora went and produced the engine of Hendee’s design which was the basis for the beginning of the Indian Moto Cycle company. Is that cool or what? The deal was that Aurora would build the motors and sell motors to others (with a royalty paid of course) but they couldn’t build motorcycles to compete with Indian. No problem.
By 1903 Indian had its own manufacturing set up and Aurora was once again on their own. That same year Aurora founded the Aurora Moto Cycle and Bicycle Co. Thor Motorcycles was born.
At that point, Aurora/Thor was basically just a catalog company…here’s all the parts, build it yourself. Not much different from what we can do today…I build cafe racers that way.
By 1908 the Indian apron strings had been cut and Thor was complete motorcycles. Aurora/Thor built singles and then big twins under the Thor name. They had some success in racing, but nothing really of note.
Thor shut down motorcycle production somewhere between 1916 and 1918. The reason I say somewhere is that on paper, production ended in 1916 but bikes were assembled with existing parts into 1918 and rumor has it that a few bikes were sold up until 1920.
I found a really nice 1912 single on ebay today that would make a great restoration project. The reason I think this is great is because the bike is just about complete as it is! It’s not a basket case, it isn’t a rust bucket it just needs a few parts. Some you’re going to have to make yourself, some you might find on the internet. It is a 5hp single…not what you would call fast and not a bike that you could ride in the Cannonball Coast to Coast (even though it qualifies by age). The seller is not asking an unreasonable price for what you are getting. So if you have a desire to restore a very unique motorcycle with a pretty cool story behind it. Give this one a look.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
We all know someone who deserves a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking…right? The person that leaves their motorcycle out in the rain because that’s the only time it gets washed, checks tire pressure only when they go out to ride and find a flat tire, oil changes happen as regularly as Congress actually does something (never), they come over to a barbeque and all they bring to the party is their appetite, they borrow a couple of tools to do a clutch adjustment and only one of them comes back…the list goes on but we all know that person.
Most of us have bought a motorcycle or two that we thought would be a good winter project only to find that it’s probably more work than it it’s worth, in so many ways. We end up finding a sucker…uh, I mean friend, that thinks he can make something good out of it (I have been that sucker more than once in my life..) and you are more than happy to send that two wheeled (if you actually have both wheels) was a motorcycle, off to new home.
Years back a group of riding buddies and I started this running joke of passing around a fruitcake at Christmas. It got mailed all over the country and after about ten years somebody actually opened it up. Surprise,surprise…it was just the same as it was when it started it’s all over the country journey.
A year or two later one of the band of merry men decided to resurrect the tradition but this time with a junk yard motorcycle. Ok, now this one didn’t shipped around the country it was just transported house to house here in So Cal. I was the first recipient of said junk yard P.O.S.
I awoke December 26th to a Suzuki something or other that had one wheel, a rusty gas tank, no seat and one turn signal(which was hanging by one wire) laying on my front porch. No one ever fessed up to being the one to start it but that almost rolling Suzuki ended up in someone’s Christmas stocking for the next ten years or so. Not a one of us ever did anything to it, we just laughed our asses off every time we dropped it off on a friends front porch with a bow on it.
Today I found on ebay a bike that you can buy and start a fine tradition yourself with your ‘friends’(?). It’s a 1975 Indian ML100. It is truly a classic Indian motorbike, well the seller thinks so. It is almost complete? so says the seller, it’s a rare find? Oh sure it may be missing a few parts but it has some extra rust to make up for that. And the best part is that the seller is willing to part with it for just under $1000 dollars…how can anybody pass up a deal like that to start a running joke with your riding pals. A good tradition isn’t always as cheap as a fruitcake, but how much do you like a good joke.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info. Also, a good laugh at what someone thinks something is worth. This is one Indian you know the Chief doesn’t want to admit siring.
A couple of decades ago a good friend of mine bought a 1937 Indian Chief, ten milk crates of parts and a frame. Ten years later he rode that ‘basket case’ Indian up to the front door of my surf shop with the biggest shit eating grin I think I have ever seen on anybody’s face ever. Roger had taken the time to bring the bike back to life without doing a museum level restoration. It was beautiful. Next thing I knew I was riding that Chief along the coast and the last thing I wanted to do was give it back to my friend. Alas, I handed back to my friend, but riding that bike sparked a love for Indian motorcycles.
Roger too came under the spell of Indian. One by one he collected old Indians…I believe he pretty much spent his 401K on his Indian collection. Other than his first ‘Chief’ his favorite was the ‘Scout Junior’ he found in a barn in Montana. It needed a lot, I mean ‘a lot’ of love. It wasn’t in milk crates but it could have been. Roger did get it running without restoring it and last I knew he was still riding it…faded paint, rusty bolts and a seat that is held together with shoe laces.
Here is what Indian said about the Scout Junior, “You can’t wear out an Indian Scout, It will wear you out first”. The Scout was Indians life blood through out the 1920′s and 30′s. It was popular with everyone from racers to women. Yes, in that time period a good number of women did ride motorbikes. The Scout Junior weighed just 350 pounds and was very easy to handle.
The Scout Junior’s main competition in the marketplace was the Harley 45 incher but even with a size disadvantage the Indian outperformed the Harley. Remember, this is a motorbike that in stock form at that time only produced 5hp!? The Scout provided Indian with the basis for 1000cc Chief. Sadly, the Scout was discontinued in 1942.
I found a really nice Scout Junior on ebay this morning. It appears to be an older restoration but still really nice, I love the Firestone tires on the bike. The seller says it is a runner but needs a new battery, no big deal. This truly is one of the best Indian motorcycles ever built, light weight, reliable (for the time), and fun to ride. Owning an old Indian is not cheap nor easy but is certainly well worth it, just ask my friend Roger,
For more info and pictures of this nice Scout Junior, click on the pics below. There are a lot more pictures that reallt show how nice this bike really is.
Year by year I have had this building desire to own an Indian motorcycle. It started out when I was just a small child, sitting on Santa’s lap at the local department store.
Did I get one? No. Has my desire for an Indian motorcycle been fulfilled? Not yet, but it is getting a lot closer.
My yearning for an Indian was rekindled by my friend Roger when he bought a basket case ’37 Indian Chief and brought it back to life.
Roger let me ride the ‘Chief’ a couple of times,the last ride was nearly half a day…that’s why it was the ‘last’ ride. That ride was when my lust for an Indian motorcycle grew even more.
Today, I have a few choices. One; find a basket case like my friend Roger did and rebuild it. Two; buy one of the Harley clone models styled to look like an ‘Indian’ from the recent past. Three; wait for one of the new Indian’s that actually will be a new original Indian. Four; find one that is ready to go for a ride now…or, very soon with little work on my part.
Number one option, no way. Number two, I’d rather do number one choice. Number three, high probability. Number four, the best choice.
I found a very nice ’48 Chief Roadmaster on ebay today. This is the pumped up Chief. Beefier motor, optional saddle bags. This bike is a runner according to the owner. I would put new tires on the bike, check the electrics and then ride. From my couple of rides on a Chief I would carry a good tool kit, a few spare parts tucked away in the saddle bags, and then just ride. Ride as far as you want, the Indian will get you there…in true classic style.
Click on the pictures below for more pictures and info on this really nice Indian for sale.
Through the first part of the 20th Century, Indian was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Indian produced the fastest and most technologically advanced motorcycles there were. Then World War 2 hit. Indian did supply motorcycles to the military for the war effort but Harley Davidson, Indian’s closest competitor, was awarded more of the contracts to serve the armed forces overseas. This caused Indian some financial problems coming out of the war but they hung in there.
After the war, every motorcycle builder was counting on returning soldiers to be buying new bikes as fast as they could build them but, they were counting on smaller, lightweight bikes to be the market leaders. Harley Davidson went to Italy for lightweights, Indian built their own and went to Europe for new bikes, Triumph and BSA also jumped into the lightweight pool but returning GI’s weren’t going for it. Indian and Harley had built their reputations on big V-twins and that’s what the buyer wanted. Harley seemed to grasp the idea a bit sooner than Indian and that was Indian’s downfall. There is a lot of Indian history out there that documents why Indian faded away.
One of the smaller bikes that Indian built was the Arrow. A 220cc single cylinder bike that actually was a great bike for its size, it did however have its problems and Indian ended up losing money on the Arrow due to warranty issues. Sadly, when the motorcycle buying boom really did hit, Indian was becoming just a memory.
I found a true ‘barn find’ Indian Arrow today on ebay. This has all the dust and patina anybody could want in a vintage bike buried in some guys barn for decades. The Arrow wasn’t Indian’s most popular bike and like I said before it was saddled with problems, but still, it is an interesting motorcycle that I think is a good example of what motorcycle manufacturers were building to attract more buyers. The motorcycle buying public wasn’t interested in small bikes, they wanted big, they wanted horsepower, they wanted the classic bike. Come to think of it, not much has changed has it.
The Arrow I found is a left over from a closed dealership in 1949. The motorcycle has just 1874 miles on it and with a bit of clean up I imagine it would look like new. The Arrow may not have the status of the Chief or even the Scout, but it is still an Indian and that makes it special.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
As I am thinning out the motorcycle herd here at the rancho, my thoughts are, much to my wife’s dismay, “what do I want next?”. After visiting the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh, New York last year I have developed an affinity for Indian motorcycles. We probably spent a good two hours wandering through a large room dedicated purely to Indian. The museum had almost one of very model year from 1901! Solo models, side car rigs, delivery bikes, mini bikes..if was Indian it was there. After that visit I could just feel it building…”I need an Indian someday”, but which one? Well, for most it would be the Indian Chief. The most iconic of all Indians. The beautifully valanced fenders, the wonderful Power Plus motor and the perfect Indian head front fender light…I gotta have it. Well, maybe not. There are other models that may be more fun to ride and a bit more unique, take the Indian Scout Junior for example.
There were actually three models of the Scout; the Scout, the Scout Sport and the Junior. The first two were 750′s and the Junior was a 500cc or better known at that time as a 31 cubic inch model. The Scout Sport won the Daytona 200 and the standard Scout saw service in World War 2 but the little Scout Junior just kind of chuffed right along.
Being that I like motorbikes that may not be as popular as others, I have found myself drawn to the Scout Junior. Doing what research I can, there isn’t much out there about the Junior other than the fact that it is the ‘Junior’. So, what I have learned is basically take the Scout info you can find and make a 31 cubic inch model of it and go riding.
I like finding old bikes that have not been restored but have been resurrected and maintained. I found a Scout Junior that fits the bill perfectly…now if I could only unload a few (a bunch…) more bikes I could actually get it.
The Indian I found on ebay this morning is a nice , running ’37 model that shows it’s age beautifully…kind of like Ann Margaret or Sophia Loren. It does have a reproduction exhaust (the original does come with the bike), the motor and transmission were rebuilt (the outside of the motor was left ‘old’), the owner did put new tires on the bike, and it has the original paint. I love it! Now I just wish I could afford it. It’s a good bike for the money for the person that wants a classic bike that is a bit more unique than some others. And I’ll bet its damn fun to ride too.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. About three more bikes out of my barn and an Indian will find it’s home here.
How does a dismal failure of a motorcycle become a classic? Well, maybe because it was such a dismal failure. Before WW2 Indian and Harley were the dominant makers in the US motorcycle market. Both were successful in racing and in general usage. During the war, both built thousands of bikes to be used overseas. After World War Two, Harley continued building the V-Twin motor but Indian decided that it was a ‘obsolete design’ and looked to compete with the lighter and faster British parallel twins. Enter the Scout model.
The Scout was the first of the ‘Torque’ models to come out of the Indian factory. It was modeled after the Overhead Valve vertical twins from Britain but, it fell somewhat short of the mark. The original Scout was only 440cc’s so it was underpowered compared to the motorcycles it was designed to compete with and because Indian rushed this design into production the first series came with a lot of problems. Based on the Scout, Indian’s reputation was heading down the toilet pretty quickly. Transmission issues, crankshaft bearings…you name it, there were problems. The great hope for this new model was dashed in just one year.
In 1950 Indian brought back the V-Twin Chief and upgraded the Scout to 500cc and renamed it the ‘Warrior’. In the one year period from introduction to remodel, most all the problems had been addressed and solved, but, it was a case of too little too late and then there was another problem…the price. It was still more expensive to buy than a Triumph, Norton, BSA, Matchless, AJS and wasn’t as fast. Things were not looking good for the Indian Warrior.
So after all this history on a short-lived model I still find these Indians quite interesting so when I found one on ebay I had to look into it.
This particular Scout has only 2200 miles on the clock, not too many but may be enough to have the well-known problems rear their ugly little heads. What’s really cool is that it does have the original tool kit, warranty and break in card and the original registration. Neat. The bike looks really good and if you’re into Indian motorcycles which I am finding myself more and more drawn to, this is definitely a bike worth looking at. For more info and more pictures click on the pic’s below.
Lately I have gotten very interested in Indian Motorcycles. New, old, American, English (yes, there were English Indian’s…), the mini bikes, it doesn’t matter, it’s where my Vintage bike mind is wandering nowadays.
My first real exposure to Indian motorcycles, other than seeing them in museums or bike shows, came from Roger Herbison of Ojai, California. Roger spent a number of years restoring a 1937 Chief. When he first got it running he brought it by my store with the biggest grin on his mustachioed face (and by the way, his handlebar moustache was almost as big as the handlebars on his Indian??!!). “You want to ride it??” he asked as it was sitting there idling in my parking lot. Before he could regret his offer I had my helmet on, was sitting on the bike and asking if there was anything I needed to know about riding it. “Nope, just have fun.” The next half hour was pure bliss. I spent twenty minutes of that half hour thinking of a way I could convince Roger that a roving band of desperado’s hi-jacked his motorcycle, then I had to think of where I could move to with the Chief where Roger would never find us. Alas, I rode back into the parking lot and gave Roger his Indian back. Little by little the Indian legend and mystique started building in my sub-conscious thanks to that short ride.
Indian Motorcycle simply refused to die. There had been a couple of ownership changes and yeah, at one point they had the ‘look’ of an Indian but were powered by a ‘catalog’ motor…close, but no cigar. Before they (the Indian motorcycle company in Gilroy, California) ran out of money though, they start replicating the Indian ‘Power Plus’ motor. Good looking, plenty of power and truly an Indian.. But, like I said..they ran out of money and Indian again was lost.
Fast forward a few years.
A friend of mine owns a multi-line motorcycle dealership featuring Harley Davidson, Husqvarna, Husaberg and Victory. Paul is a dirt rider at heart but he does love riding his Harley every day. When word came out that Polaris (maker of Victory motorcycles) had bought up Indian Motorcycle. I instantly called Paul and asked if he was excited about the news. He told me that he was already in negotiations for a new building across the street so he could spread out and give Indian a place to live.
This last December, Team Motoworld (myself and staff photographer Heather) went to the Long Beach motorcycle show and got a chance to see the new Indian motorcycles. Truly beautiful. I have never been a ‘Cruiser’ type of person but there was / is something about an Indian motorcycle that makes me want one…badly, (“Dear Santa….”). But, I want an old one. Will my banker (staff photographer Heather) go along with that idea?? I wouldn’t take those odds to Vegas. So, I’ll be content, for the time being, reading about them. That is where I came across these books and magazines about the Chief I would love to own.
Cruising through ebay this morning I found a nice little collection of Indian literature that would help anyone restoring an Indian motorcycle or would just like to know more about America’s first motorcycle. Click on the pics below for more info.
You know, Indian motorcycles has probably one of the most convoluted history’s of any motorcycle brand name I can think of. From being the first American motorcycle company, 1901, to little Taiwanese mini bikes and everything in between. There is so much in Indian Motorcycle history available here on the web. Because of my love of vintage and unique motorcycles (I own a fleet of one year only type motorcycles, read; hard to get parts for…), I spend a good deal of time searching the web and talking to riders that have these motorbikes.
Indian went from being the winningest racer on the track in it’s earlier lives, to a British made motor (either Matchless or Royal Enfield), tucked into an Italian frame. Interestingly enough however, other than the Taiwanese mini bikes, Indian motorcycles have always been well received by magazine types but not so much by the motorcycle buying public. Police departments were particularly fond of the various Indian models, including the one we are talking about today.
Indian motorcycle stopped production in the original Springfield Mass.factory. From 1955-1959 Royal Enfield’s were marketed as Indians. Production finally ended in 1960. In 1961 everything went back to Royal Enfield.
The 700cc Indian is actually based on the Royal Enfield Constellation twin was at the time was described as the first ‘Superbike’. In 1959 Indian motorcycle took the ‘Constellation’ and stretched out the frame and built up a much stronger gear box…that’s why the cops loved them so much. Sturdy and steady.
There is so much in Indian history that is so fascinating. Harley Davidson maybe the American ‘Lifestyle’ motorcycle but Indian is truly the iconic American Motorcycle. What is great at this time is that finally Indian Motorcycle has found a home (Polaris Industries, makers of Victory motorcycles) that will give the love and respect that this brand deserves. And maybe, just maybe, Indian will now be with us for another 100 years.
I found this really nice 1962 Indian Chief on ebay the other day and and I think it’s a great bike to add to anybody’s collection. As long as you go out and ride it!! Now, there is an interesting thing I found out about this motorcycle, it is titled as a 1962 but…it is probably a 1959 model? If you remember, back in the late 1950′s and the early 1960′s many motorcycles were titled the year they were sold, not the year they were actually made. This is the model that has the stretched frame and the ‘New and Improved’ gearbox. It only has 5504 miles on the clock and the clock is the optional 150 MPH speedo…a little optimistic but really cool to have. This bike has been stored inside for more than the past twenty years of it’s life…So, it looks it’s age but is in easily restorable / rideable condition. There were only about 800 of this particular produced so it falls into the ‘rare’ category really nicely.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info about this really cool motorcycle. This is one the bikes that make me really want a bigger barn. And…a bigger bank account.
I was never much into mini moto-cross (pesky little kids) until last years World Superbike race in Utah. Team Motoworld was there to interview WSBK racers, take a lot of pictures and, have a really good time. We saw old friends, made some new ones, got great interviews and expanded our moto-journalism horizons. We got into mini motocross.
One of the great things about going to Miller Motorsports Park in Utah is the luxury accommodations located right next door to the track, the Deseret Peak Park. Not only are the accommodations top notch, so is the entertainment. After a fairly busy day at the track we decided to check out the local moto-cross action. A short 100 yard walk put us right at trackside. It was family night. Mom’s, dad’s, the kids…everyone was there. We had an absolute blast watching the little kids racing. Some of these mini racers were so small and young that parents had to hold them up at the starting line then give them a little push to get them started. Made me wish I could have started my kids at that age…I do have a grandson now, so maybe….
While running through ebay this morning I found a neat little vintage MXer, a 1974 Indian 75cc MX74. It may not be up to current standards and your junior racer would get smoked at the local track today but you know what, this is a neat little bike. Put junior on it and go trail riding, teach him or, her, some good riding skills or better yet…have one of the coolest pit bikes at your local track. Another good thought, a great little bike to hang on the bumper of the motorhome?
This little Indian is in really great shape, mostly restored and parts are available all over the place. These little bikes are so easy to maintain and they’re hard to kill…that’s why there are so many around still to this day. There is a lot of good information, forums, resources and more on the net about these bikes. You don’t have to go through all the Indian history (unless you want to), but you will find that this was a very interesting time in the Indian Motorcycle Company legacy. If you’re looking for a neat little vintage dirt bike for young Throckmorton…get ‘em started drinking the vintage kool aid early is what I say, check out this little Indian MX74, money well spent. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.