Great short documentary on the Wall of Death – Riding Vintage Indian Motorcycle 101 Scouts!
If you ever get a chance to see the performance, it’s amazing, with the sites, sounds, and smells of this thrilling display!
If you ever get a chance to see the performance, it’s amazing, with the sites, sounds, and smells of this thrilling display!
Something’s wrong with the new Scout.
When you unearth a beloved name with a strong heritage, whatever follows must be worthy. The Indian Scout came about in the early 1920s, and it made its mark on the American motorcycle scene as an innovative, lightweight bike that could take a beating.
Over the last few months, I’ve heard the same thing again and again and again: “I don’t really like cruisers, but, man, that Scout. …” The 2015 Indian Scout is a knockout beauty, but not in that perfect, Charlize Theron way. It’s the Uma Thurman kind of beauty, where “elegant” is too soft of a term and “butch” too hard. The 2015 Indian Scout’s smooth curves are finished with hard edges that beautifully envelope the triangular cast-aluminum frame. The full fenders, the prominent lion-tooth fuel tank, and the brown leather-upholstered seat play well together.
The 2015 Indian Scout is a good value, has great sex appeal, and, most important, it’s easy to ride. The bike’s weight is effortlessly managed in both tight and wide-open corners, the ratios of the six-speed transmission’s gears deliver a broad, easily managed spread of performance, and the big engine is a predictable pussycat that won’t bite unless you taunt it.
Of course, my romantic thoughts about the value of tradition don’t really fit in a world where even motorcycle people see heritage as trendy, not hallowed. And, truth be told, I loathe people who look up the road for some imaginary ghost when they already have something wonderful and real at their feet.
|Price as tested:||$11,549|
|Engine:||1.1-L DOHC 8-valve V-2|
|Power:||100 hp @ 8,100 rpm|
|Torque:||72.2 lb-ft @ 5,900 rpm|
|EPA Mileage:||33 mpg combined (est)|
Source: 2015 Indian Scout Review
When the new Crocker motorcycle was unveiled at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering last May, Michael Schacht, who owns the Crocker name and built that first prototype, told me I could have a test ride next time I was in L.A. That would mean I’d be the only person besides Schacht to have ridden the new bike. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that, so I met him at his warehouse/assembly shop, where sat the rough makings of the next 15 Crocker V-Twins.
Yep, Schacht is already making a limited run. As he put it, “Whether I have orders or not, I’m just going to build them.” He has invested heavily in cash, time and reputation to make the patterns and cast the parts necessary to build a whole motorcycle, and that first Crocker Big Tank discussed in Cycle World last May was made from the same batch of rough metal seen in these photos.
A deconstructed motorcycle is an excellent teaching device, and Schacht pointed out the changes that Al Crocker incorporated during the evolution of his big Twin between 1936 and 1942, when WWII restrictions put an end to civilian motorcycle production. Schacht doesn’t reproduce the first hemi-head engine, which powered the rare original models Crocker built in 1936. Although the hemi variant commands the biggest prices from collectors, issues with rapid wear on the valve gear means the later parallel-valve heads are more suitable for the modern road. Those first hemis had open rockers, springs and valves, whereas the valve gear in the later engine was totally enclosed. Because of these issues, the hemispherical cylinder head is the only option not available when ordering a new Crocker V-Twin. The early Small Tank frame with different steering-head lugs and unbraced gearbox/lower-frame castings is ready to assemble, as is the later Big Tank style, which most newbies love, since they’re more glamorous. Aficionados prefer the smaller tank, which really shows off that fantastic big Twin engine.
Michael Schacht has something to prove. He’s happy to regale anyone within earshot with tales of attempted intimidation from a few old-time Crocker collectors who take serious issue with his style, his business methods and perhaps the mere fact that he’s done what they said couldn’t be done. In a way, his tales mirror the difficulties Al Crocker faced after building a better bike than Indian and Harley, the last two American motorcycle manufacturers left standing following the Depression. After H-D allegedly threatened its wheel supplier (Kelsey-Hayes) with a massive loss of business if that company sold wheels to Crocker, Al suddenly found he couldn’t buy wheels for his bikes. Solution? If you wanted a Crocker, you had to supply your own wheels.
Such tales are meat and drink to Crocker lovers, who have embellished the reputation of their favorite marque to such effect that you’ll need $300K to buy an original. Schacht is asking half that for his new machine.
How does it compare to the originals? Schacht’s test machine is completely paint-free to show the world how it was built and that it’s indeed all-new. It’s a Big Tank, with those lovely cast-aluminum panniers customizers have been copying for 70 years now. Same with the taillight, as seen (ironically) on thousands of Harleys and bobbed Triumphs through the decades. Like George Brough, Al Crocker was a masterful stylist; unlike GB, he was also a trained engineer, and with the help of Paul Bigsby (inventor of the “whammy bar” on electric guitars), he built his own engine and gearbox. Those designs were an advance on anything available in the U.S. at the time, even after H-D introduced its Knucklehead six months after Crocker got the jump on big
Crocker & Indian Shared a history – Let’s read about the revival….
After nearly twelve years of hassles and legal setbacks, a brand-new Crocker Big-Twin motorcycle has emerged from a hangar in SoCal. Learn more at Cycle World now.
After nearly twelve years of hassles, legal setbacks, a change of countries, and one nasty recession, a brand-new Crocker Big-Tank motorcycle has emerged from a hangar in SoCal. Michael Schacht is at no loss for words in describing the ordeal he’s overcome to reach the point of turning a key, kicking over the 80 cubic-inch V-Twin, and hearing an engine he literally built from scratch rumble into throaty life. His first complete Crocker sits unpainted, brazed joints bright and cast iron dull, spun metal fenders covered with a zillion tiny scratches, the big aluminum tanks resplendent in their own bare-metal shine.
Schacht was a staunch Indian man a dozen years ago, and still rides a 1929 ‘101’ Scout nearly every day. His restored Indians brought him to the attention of a branding company who owned the Indian name in Canada. His machines were used for promo work and he gradually became ‘involved’ with the company, which was mostly interested in T-shirt sales at that time. When talk began of making an Indian motorcycle by re-badging a Ural, Schacht ran away. The idea of resurrecting an important American motorcycle marque stuck with him though, and while looking over two Crockers at a friend’s restoration shop, the big light went on and his destiny was set. “The Crocker name is so pure, nobody had tried to make a new one, even though several people tried to claim the name. It took some work, but I was finally able to secure the name with the intention of starting production of Crockers.”
Few people have made an entire motorcycle from scratch. Schacht admits he knew little of making castings, metallurgy or even production machining before he embarked on his dream. “I was lucky, and hired some incredibly talented people. I moved my facilities from Canada to Southern California, so that the Crocker would be made 100% in the U.S.A. It was important to me that such a historic name was built, again, in the country it started from. This is an all-American deal.” Schacht also wasn’t an expert on Crockers, but enlisted the help of collectors who are, such as Chuck Vernon. “These guys are the keepers of the flame. They know everything about these machines and helped me tremendously to sort out exactly how the original Crocker was made.” While the new Crocker is as faithful to Al Crocker’s original machine as possible, a few of the materials have been upgraded. “Better steels are available now, stronger and lighter, and while the appearance is identical with a 1939 bike, what’s inside is better.”
The Crocker Motorcycle Company does not, Schacht insists, produce ‘replicas’ of the motorcycles last produced in 1942. “These are continuation machines, built by the legal owner of the Crocker motorcyclename.” The new engine is certainly more powerful than a standard 61-inch Crocker from the 30s, pumping out a whopping 85 horses from the 80-inch V-Twin to push the same 500 pound machine. “We’ve just finished it, and there are a few minor bugs to sort out, but basically, she’s the best sounding motorcycle I’ve ever heard, is really, really fast, and handles beautifully. That was one of my biggest surprises about the Crocker; this is a serious performance machine.”
Stay tuned to Cycle World for additional information about production plans for these machines and a potential modern “retro-bike” in the works.
High on the list of truths universally acknowledged must be the fact that the Indian Motorcycle, as a legend, a logo and a symbol ranks up there with the golden arches and the three-pointed star, with power and value beyond calculation. On the other hand, naming your daughter Baby Ruth doesn’t ensure she will hit 60 homers a season against big-league pitching. To collect on the promise of legend and esteem, you gotta have a product.
We are concerned here with the Indian, originally spelled Motocycle by the founders, as currently offered by Polaris Industries. To fully appreciate this, we’ll have to look back 60 years, to an undisputed tragedy.
At the close of WWII, a prosperous and product-starved public was ready to buy just about anything. The car and motorcycle makers had learned a lot during the war, but they were canny enough to offer the old versions while testing and refining the new. The 1947 Harley-Davidsons, Fords, Chevys, Dodges, etc., were identical to the 1941 models, while the improved models—the ohv Oldsmobile engine and the telescopic-fork Hydra-Glide—didn’t get here until 1949.
But at the Wigwam, as always, things were different. E. Paul DuPont, who owned Indian and kept the brand in business through the Great Depression, sold his shares in the company. The new owners had new ideas—vision, one could say. The firm’s chief engineer had designed a radical line of really new machines, modular in that there would be a Single, a Twin and a Four, all using the same basic design, all overhead valve, foot shift and hand clutch, suspension fore and aft, with the writing on the tank being the only clue as to what was what.
Further, the new president embarked on a revolutionary ad campaign. As the Japanese say, he reckoned to enlarge the pie, rather than fight over slices. The completely different motorcycles were launched in 1945, with a completely different campaign endorsed by baseball, show business and movie stars.
But wait: Doesn’t this sound like Honda in 1959, meeting the nicest people and all that? Yes. But for one thing, Honda’s dealer network was based on new people who mostly ran hardware or sporting-goods stores, and for another, Honda’s engineering raised the bar worldwide.
Indian’s new bikes—the Single and Twin (the inline-Four never got past the prototype stage)—were disasters. When they didn’t blow up, they broke down. The motorcycling community was small, and everybody knew how bad the new models were. Add to that, the old dealer network, the guys who’d raised a stink when the evergreen Scout was abandoned and stormed the boardroom demanding a new one, wasn’t always that happy with the new people.
Suffice it here to say that everything that could go wrong did. The money ran out and Indian’s new owners begged for help. The English brands were doing well, so Indian asked to distribute several makes. A partnership was formed, and before you could say the camel’s nose was in the tent, the Indian visionaries were out, the English owned Indian and production of the new models was immediately stopped. The final production run of the final genuine Indians, the Blackhawk version of the side-valve 80-inch Chief, came in 1953.
There followed a run of Royal Enfields and later, Matchlesses labeled Indian, but fooling nobody. Next, a puzzle and struggle over ownership of the script, name and symbols. There were Matchless-Indians, then a run of Italian Indians backed by entrepreneur Floyd Clymer, first road bikes and then motocross.
Next, a series of failures on a different stage: promoters with big plans and no money, who never made any motorcycles. A serious effort appeared in 1999. There was a major market at the time for full-dress Harleys and look-alike rivals from the major brands. Indian of America had a factory in Gilroy, California, and produced a viable machine, a big Twin styled like the old Chief and powered by a version of a Harley clone. But the funding wasn’t enough, sales did not meet hopes and the firm went bankrupt in 2003. Three years later, another group of investors picked up the baton and began building the same sort of repro-Indian Chief, this time with modern engineering as in EFI and a bigger V-Twin than Indian Motocycle ever dreamed of—all of it just in time for the bottom to drop out of the market.
But the true revival, one can only hope, came in 2011, when Polaris bought the struggling brand. What’s the difference this time? The lesson since the debacle in 1945 is clear: It’s a heap more difficult to produce a viable motorcycle than all those dreamers and promoters realized. They all had the script and the logo and the legend, but not one had a product to match the hype, good intentions or no.
In contrast, Triumph, with a logo and badge nearly as good, was revived and still thrives simply because it had 1) the capital to invest; and 2) a properly engineered machine that created its own market. It didn’t revise the classic Bonneville Twin until the big Triples proved that the product matched the promotion. Knock wood, those Indian dealers who stormed the boardroom demanding a new Scout in 1947, may soon get their wish. Except there is a very good chance it will be a Chief.
I don’t hear anybody complaining.
Albuquerque’s new Indian Motorcycle dealership opened at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
By 11:30 a.m., Alex Quintana already had bought one of its bikes and was aching to take his shiny new 2015 Indian Roadmaster out for its inaugural spin.
“I may ride to Santa Fe to visit my sister,” he said from the showroom at the 9,000-square-foot dealership on Alameda NE. “I don’t know, (but) I’ll go somewhere.”
The retired State Police captain and motorcycle enthusiast was among the first-day crowd that filled the parking lot of the state’s first authorized Indian Motorcycle dealership. Customers milled the wood-floored showroom, where an array of bikes sat parked in their gleaming chrome glory.
The dealership won’t stock the least expensive of the maker’s 2015 rides — the $10,999 Indian Scout — until early next year, though it is accepting pre-orders. Its current inventory includes the Chief Classic, Chief Vintage, Chieftain and Roadmaster — bikes with MSRPs that range from $18,999-$26,999.
Indian — the country’s oldest motorcycle brand — is in the midst of a renaissance. A storied name with a strong racing legacy, the brand changed ownership several times since its 1901 founding and stalled out on multiple occasions. Polaris Industries, a Minnesota-based motorsports company, purchased Indian in 2011 and relaunched it with new bikes last year.
Albuquerque fans seem eager to join the revival. Curious onlookers prowled the local dealership for days before it actually opened its doors.
“We had a crowd here (Monday). We had 42 nose prints on the window — we counted them,” said the dealership’s marketing manager, Big Scotty.
Quintana was among those who stopped by Monday and had to settle for a peek through glass. But he came back early Tuesday and quickly worked out the details of his purchase, including the trade-in of one of his Harley-Davidsons.
Cousins and New Mexico natives Mike Gaillour and Louis Herrera own the dealership. Gaillour said Tuesday that they spent more than 15 months getting everything in place. Asked about the customers who turned out opening day, he said “We’re blessed.”
The dealership’s service and retail operations are open Tuesday through Saturday.
Motorcycle Restoration part of nostalgia trip
BOULDER (AP) — A growing band of once nearly extinct Indians is being resurrected in Boulder, some restored from rusting graveyards while others quietly survived the decades until their time had come again.
Not the red-blooded variety of hostiles these, but iron and steel Indian motorcycles built at the old Wigwam factory in Springfield, Mass., before the firm went bankrupt in 1953, leaving Harley Davidson as America’s lone motorcycle manufacturer.
“Save a piece of America — restore something,” is how machinist and tool-and-die maker Jeff Grigsby explains why he got into his growing business of restoring the old Indians to better-than-new condition.
Grigsby, born the year Indian went broke, says his customers are a “well-to-do crowd” since his inside-out restoration jobs run $7,000 to $9,000 on the Chiefs, the big 74-to-80 cubic inch V-twin Indians.
Back in the 1950s after Indian went broke, a dollar-short generation of young riders bought up those big, graceful but distressed Chiefs for $150 to $300. They hacksawed the full-skirted fenders into bobtails and destroyed them in street-drag duels with the quicker, lighter British bikes then flooding the market.
Only a few Indians survived.
Grigsby says there are more than 20 of the Indians running around the Boulder area now, ranging from well-worn to concourse condition. They include the rare Indian 4-cylinder machines, mostly the big V-twin Chiefs, and even a 1915 Power Plus twin.
One of those Indian riders is Eldon Arnold, 58, who bought his 1950 80-inch Chief 23 years ago and now has about 60,000 miles on it.
“You can’t wear them out. With a little extra care they’ll run forever. As the years went by, the Indian got more valuable and I hated to go out on the road with it. And at one time, parts were hard to come by. But they’re being duplicated again now,” Arnold said, summing up the nearly three decades since Indian went broke.
Ninety percent of American motorcycling today is done on Japanese bikes. Grigsby thinks increasing interest in the old Indian bikes is because they were American-made and represent a vibrant, classic era in motorcycling.
“It’s a study of history, of American engineering,” Grigsby said of the Indian bikes who battled Harley, Excelsior, Henderson, Pope and Cyclone for race track and sales supremacy during the golden age of American motorcycle production.
Indian began production in 1901, won the nation’s first motorcycle race (a 10-miler at Brooklyn, N.Y.) in 1902, then entered international Gran Prix racing and swept Britain’s Isle of Man 1-2-3 in 1911.
Every U.S. national motorcycle championship in 1928 and 1929 was won by an Indian.
“A Harley rider looked on an Indian rider like a racist thing. It was blood for blood back then and Indian still held all the speed records — and that determined the sales of a lot of motorcycles,” Grigsby said.
“The Indian is a rarer breed (than Harleys a desirable unit. People that rode these bikes when they were young now realize they can get one in better than new condition.
“I guess it’s a compensation to give up a gas-eatin’ hog for a piece of classic transportation that gets 60 to 65 miles to the gallon on regular,” Grigsby added.
At 27, Grigsby is an 11-year veteran of motorcycle mechanics. He dropped out of school at age 16 to attend a Harley Davidson factory mechanics school and then took a job at a Los Angeles Harley shop.
He took his four-year machinist’s apprenticeship in Boulder with Ed Gitlin at the shop where Grigsby still does his machining trade.Grigsby had balanced, tuned and blue-printed Harley V-twins for several years before “I fell into a large investment of close to 40 Indian motorcycles three years ago.”
Since then he has restored five of the Indians, with three more underway for completion in March. He hopes to expand to 12 at a time for the next batch. “Everybody that sees ‘em, wants ‘em.”
Partner in the effort is Jim Arnold, Eldon’s son, who restores the Indians’
instruments, speedometers, switches and does all detail work.
Grigsby says his Indians go through five stages of complete dismantling and reassembly. The final finish and fit is more like that of a hand-built Italian Ferrari than the original, production Springfield Indians.
Grigsby replaces plain bronze bushings with needle bearings wherever possible, Teflon-coats engine parts, mirror polishes combustion chambers and improves on the original lubrication system.
If the Indian was such a classic, why did the firm go belly up?
Cycling historians say loss of World War II government contracts when the military opted for the Jeep instead of courier motorcycles and a fatally flawed new British-style engine marketed after the war — it consistently blew main bearings — led to Indian’s defeat.
Now, 27 years later, restorers like Grigsby and Arnold at shops scattered across the country are bringing the last remnants of the old Indian line back to showroom condition as America’s nostalgia kick moves into the motorcycling arena.
And after so many moons, the end of the trail for Indian has become a new beginning.
Editors Note:This reprint is from 1980. Jeff is still active with building musem quality Indian Motorcycles. He is one of many rebuilders who have kept the brand alive!
The beautifully designed, smooth-riding Indian Scout had me at hello
It is compact in size, all matte finish with very little of chrome, and
looks as lean as a fit Hollywood actor, though by no means does it
appear to be a weakling. I am talking about the Indian Scout. It is a
retro cruiser in spirit, but you wouldn’t be out of place riding it in a
modern city. What is refreshing to find is that unlike most motorbikes
in the cruiser segment, the Scout does not imitate the venerable
Harley-Davidson. But then, the Indian comes from the oldest cruiser
maker in the world and it has a style all its own.
The Scout is actually the antithesis of a cruiser. What makes it
practical and easier to ride is its straighter seating stance, unlike
the usual laidback posture of the regular cruiser. You have to stretch
your legs, yes, but the foot pegs aren’t at an exaggerated distance. For
us Indians, who are not the tallest people in the world, this is
something to be thankful about. Normally, riding cruisers, I would be on
the tip of my toes while using the brakes and gear shift. Not in the
Scout. Another admirable quality of the Scout is its simplicity. There
is no bling and its ramrod straight design makes it a unique vehicle.
The Scout’s low center of gravity hints at easy maneuverability even in
city traffic. Fire up the engine and the liquid cooled V-twin 1,133cc
engine roars to life. It is not as loud as I would have liked, but then
that is like preferring a certain genre in music, a personal choice. The
exhaust notes will not rattle your neighbor’s windowpanes, but people
will certainly know the Scout has arrived.
The engine responds like a street bike’s; there is no lazy “give me a
second to settle down” pick-up. You would actually need to be slightly
careful and alert because the Indian machine has the cojones to shove
you back abruptly. My advice is: don’t think you are riding a cruiser,
else be prepared for a shock treatment. The Scout is like a young
stallion always ready to gallop recklessly. The higher you rev it, the
more it feels at home. The power response is so addictive that it left
me loath to get off the bike.
Crossing the three-figure mark is child’s play for the bike, and it is
while going in excess of 150 kmph that it starts warming up. Honestly,
my mind had a hard time figuring out what to call this bike. Is it a
cruiser? A city bike? A sports bike? Eventually, I decided not to pursue
the matter further. It is the Scout, let it remain the Scout.
If the hunger of its 100- pony engine was impressive, then its handling
capabilities were even more praiseworthy. The Scout weighs 253 kg,
virtually the same as the Harley-Davidson SuperLow.
It, therefore, easily waltzes its way through traffic. This bike never
ceases to amaze as its refinement and build quality are almost flawless.
Whether it is making its way through painfully slow traffic or cruising
at high speed, you will feel no vibrations, something that not many
high-end bike makers can promise to buyers. The quality of the Indian
bikes has always been unsurpassed. Because of this, it was expected that
the motorcycle would cost almost double what other expensive brands
cost. But the Scout is Indian’s entry-level bike, and while it is by no
means cheap, no corners have been cut while determining the price tag
either. That speaks volumes about the commitment Indian, or rather the
parent company, Polaris, has for its products.
What usually cripples a cruiser is its turning radius. One has to watch
the traffic, calculate the space you have and then finally make a move.
But in the case of the Scout, it takes curves with ease and the tyres
provide a lot grip.
If I had to crib about something, then it has to be the instrument
cluster and the speedometer. They are too basic and look under-designed.
Plus there is no fuel gauge, which is simply unpardonable. Many riders
may also complain about its being a single seater. However, this hiccup
can be resolved with additional accessories.
Ummm, I still can’t figure out how to categorise the Scout. Is it a city
bike or a cruiser? I guess I’ll never figure out the exact answer. My
encounter with the Scout was nothing short of love at first sight. Its
clean-cut designing, lack of chrome, the matte finish and its compact
dimensions had me at hello. The Scout has a beautiful high-revving
responsive engine that is extremely refined and the build quality is
flawless. What is even more impressive is the lack of vibrations. Though
it is Indian’s entry-level machine, it is certainly the most practical
bike in its line-up and if I had the money, I would buy it with my eyes
closed. I would not even bother about accessories because it is perfect