The recent resurrection of Indian Motorcycle by Polaris conjures memories of the originals and engenders comparisons of the classics to the new generation.
Larry Van Horn’s 1947 Indian Chief Roadmaster is subtly better than the originals.
The recent resurrection of the Indian motorcycle name by Polaris conjures memories of the originals and engenders comparisons of the classic Indians to the new generation.
At the top of the original Indian product line in its closing years from 1947 to 1953 was the Indian Chief Roadmaster.
It was the model that out-accessorized the base Clubman and mid-range Sportsman variants offered that year. Since the Chief was the only model offered that year, and total production was only 11,849 units, finding a serviceable example can be difficult these days.
But, once found, if you know what you’re doing, as Larry Van Horn of Monroe, Wis., does, you can not only save that great bike, you may be able to make it better than the original.
Larry Van Horn is a former Suzuki Motorcycle dealership owner and also has many years of experience with automotive body and paint work. His love for classic motorcycles and skill in making machines look beautiful combined when he saw an Indian Chief still in action earning its keep on farm.
Van Horn checked into acquiring the bike and when the deal was done in 2006, he went to work getting it back to its original glory—and a little more.
Original Indians — even the top-of-the-line Roadmaster — lacked a few things that modern motorcycles have. Some affect safety, such as turn signals; some affect rideability like an electric starter; some affect bike longevity and operating status like a tachometer and engine oil temperature gauge.
With some careful reengineering during the bike’s restoration process, Van Horn managed to add all these things, and did so skillfully in a subtle way, so the bike did not lose its original character.
Adding the electric starter was more than just a convenience upgrade; Van Horn explained that he was getting to the age where using the kickstarter made getting the bike going for a ride was more of a challenge than he wanted. Tucked down low and working through the transmission, the electric starter is barely noticeable.
Adding a tachometer was a matter of personal preference. “I don’t push the bike all that hard, but I’m used to having a tachometer, so I added one,” he explained. Again, a Drag Specialties model with a small case tucked down behind the windshield makes the modern upgrade something you have to look for to notice.
“Having to rely on hand signals bothers me. I wanted turn signals, but they had to be consistent with the bike’s design and not overly noticeable,” he said. Again, using vintage style units, sized to blend with the bike’s lines filled the bill.
While those upgrades were carefully melded into the bike’s restoration to go virtually unnoticed to preserve its authenticity, the aesthetic restoration was done to be full-on gorgeous.
The bike was stripped to the frame and all the painted surfaces stripped smoothed and completely re-done with the help of friends and local artisans. A stunning two-tone paint job with hand-painted pin striping, script and graphics makes this Indian a piece of rolling classical art.
Period fringed leather bags and seat are complemented by amazing hand-made studded leather fender skirts front and rear, taking the hallmark deeply valenced fenders one step further.
The 80 cubic-inch, flat-head 42-degree V-twin motor was tuned and thoroughly cleaned, but did not require major mechanical overhaul. The major mechanical components, carburetor and ignition system were cleaned, lubed and tuned to spec, but not replaced with electronic ignition or other modern components.
Van Horn has named his breathtaking Chief Roadmaster “Indian Summer,” a name befitting not only it origins, but its late-blooming beauty and staying power.
Australia’s debut motorcycle show organized by Troy Bayliss – Moto Expo – will feature something truly unique this year – the “Million Dollar Row.”
This Million Dollar Row showcase will feature over $5 million worth of unique and custom motorcycles at this weekend’s inaugural Moto Expo presented by InsureMyRide.
Located in Hall 2 at Melbourne Showgrounds, the Million Dollar Row will contain 10 motorcycles, including a 1941 Crocker worth over $450,000 courtesy of Harley City. Other special bikes will be the Y2K jet-powered motorcycle and the Virus courtesy of Antique Motorcycles’ John Straw.
The event is organized by Troy Bayliss – a known name in the world of Ducati and World Superbike.
Speaking of the show, Bayliss says “The variety of bikes within MOTO EXPO will capture the eye of motorcycle enthusiasts coming from all over Australia.
“I am really excited about the collection of bikes featured within Hall 2. Million Dollar Row, the Great Race display of Harley-Davidsons and Indians, Simon Davidson’s photo exhibition and cafe racers will create an incredible display.
“The custom Yamaha motorcycles on the Gasolina stand along with the custom Harley Davidson motorcycles on the Kustom Kummune stand along with best bikes from the recent Oil Stained Brain display will also be a major feature within this space.
“One day in the future we may see some of the new bikes being released at MOTO EXPO have the same prestige as the bikes on display within this hall.”
Additional information courtesy of Moto Expo:
Hall 2 will also host Peter Arundel’s 1924 8 Valve Indian Motorcycle, displayed alongside an exhibition of images taken over on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and on Lake Gairdner in South Australia by renowned Australian photographer Simon Davidson.
Arundel set a World Speed Record in 2002 riding the motorcycle on Lake Gairdner, South Australia with a speed of 158.73mph.
The Great Race will display 40 vintage Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycles including a special selection from the coveted Arundel collection.
The Arundel collection boasts the most comprehensive list of Australian racing Indians motorcycles.
Over 20,000 motorcycle enthusiasts are expected to attend MOTO EXPO Melbourne over the three-days of the event.Burt Munro’s record-breaking replica of the world’s fastest Indian is expected to be a show-stopper. The motorcycle will be housed as part of the Indian display.
Entry into the show also includes access to the Baylisstic Scramble presented by InsureMyRide and Motul and the Australian Motorcycle Finance Head-2-Head EnduroCross presented by Yamaha.
Visitors can expect to see some of Australia’s most successful motorcycle athletes along with entertainment including live street bike stunts, ATV, side by sides (UTV), mini moto, Freestyle Moto X, Trials and more
Mike Wolfe is known as an American picker. He’s a TV star, author and entrepreneur.
But mostly, he’d tell you, he’s an Indian Motorcycle® enthusiast. He loves them for their history and heritage, and for their ride. His “best pick – ever” (and what got him in the business full-time) was when he scored a treasure trove of Indian® motorcycles at a Pennsylvania farm.
Mike called the farmer about his classified ad, then drove 800 miles and slept in his van in the farmer’s driveway. The next day, the farmer opened two barns, revealing 10 vintage Indian® motorcycles and tons of parts. Mike Wolfe discovered heaven on earth.
In his picking business, Mike encounters antiques of every kind. But his greatest picking passion is Indian® motorcycles. He collects them. Gets them running. And mostly, he rides. He loves dings, dents, scratches and rust. Forget cosmetics or fresh paint. Just ride. After all, it’s an Indian®.
Indian Motorcycle is excited to be working and riding with Mike Wolfe. He’s helping us bring back the passion this iconic brand deserves, and is energized to ride with us into the exciting next chapter of Indian Motorcycle® history.
In 1901, bicycle racer and builder George Hendee teamed up with engineer Carl Oscar Hedstrom to build a 1.75 hp single cylinder motorcycle prototype with a revolutionary chain drive. This motorized bicycle met with immediate success, and the 1933 Indian Motorcycle. Indian Motocycle Company was soon formed in Springfield, Massachusetts.
In the 1955 Indian started to import English built motorcycles, and branded them Indian Motorcycles. This was under a five year contract with Royal Enfield, which ran from 1955 – 1959 inclusive. After 1953 the Indian name survived only as the Indian Sales Corporation. The Indian Sales Corporation primarily imported Royal Enfields. These bikes were branded as Indian motorcycles for the American market. The imported motorcycles ranged in size from 150cc to the largest 750cc twin model. One model they imported was the Royal Enfield Bullet. This model was called the Indian Woodsman, and Westerner for the US market. Amazingly this same bike is still in production and is being imported into the United States as the Enfield Bullet.
Now one may ask, how can this be when Royal Enfield went out of business in 1970 ? It is not generally known that the Royal Enfield – after the closure in England – nevertheless went on in another place where the classic already had been manufactured for years. The Royal Enfield was also being manufactured in India. This was owing to the fact that the Indian government had set about purchasing a large number of motorcycles for its police and army in 1955. They needed a solid, economical, maneuverable and reliable motorcycle in order to cope with the miserable roads of the mountainous regions, the heat in the deserts and the humidity of the tropical rain forest. After doing a lot of testing of various brands, the Bullet of the Royal Enfield company was chosen as the most suitable. Thus the Indian government ordered 800 of the 350 cc model in England.
The Royal Enfield company was not able to keep up with the sizable orders coming in from India and a decision was made then to form an independent Indian firm (Enfield India) with British tools in Tiruvottiyur, Madras. There, various Bullet models were manufactured similary to those from England during the 1955 model year. After the closure of the Royal Enfield company, Enfield India was alone in manufacturing the Bullet.
During the 1980’s, the Bullet started being exported to foreign markets, among others, to it’s native country, England, and by the mid 90s the gradually refined classic was for sale in more than 20 countries including Canada and the USA among others. To this day more than half a million Enfields have come out of the modern production line in India, where six different models are being manufactured. On all the models, old traditions like the hand painted golden pinstripes on the tank and the mudguards are maintained. Where on earth did you ever see the like of it?
The Enfield Bullet comes in two versions – a 350 cc and a 500 cc. At the moment Enfield Bullet is available in three variant types: Standard, Deluxe and a Army model. The only difference between the standard and the deluxe models is that the deluxe model has a chrome plated tank, chrome plated mudguards, and chrome air cleaner.
The standard model comes in the colors grey, green, and black. The deluxe model is available in black, red and blue. It is possible to obtain the motorcycle in other colors as well. For both models, an option is available to convert the foot shift to the right side, instead of the British Left Side.
It can be said that everybody stares at the Bullet. Only a few own one. Everywhere you go, you will be turning heads, as people look at your new classic motorcycle. The 1999 Bullet is still a 1955 motorcycle. It’s a rickety ride compared to anything modern. It has huge amounts of character. For just under $4,000, it’s a reasonably priced bike. The Enfield India does have modern hand controls, mirrors, shocks and a seat that works, although, purchasing one of the accessory seats may be more comfortable. The motor is very peppy and has a high amount of torque, for a single. The quality is good, remember they now have 40 years experience building this motorcycle ! Most reviewers relate that overall the bike is very reliable, as well. In an age when we seem fascinated with what is classic, the Royal Enfield works. It’s a classic, hands down. You’ll be the first on the block with one of these. All that is needed, is to add the Indian Script to the tank, and you can claim it is an “Indian Enfield.”
Engine 4 stroke, air-cooled, OHV
Max. bhp 22bhp@5400rpm
Max. torque 3.5 kgm/3000rpm
Compression ratio 6.5:1
Transmission Four-speed gear box
– Top speed of 125 kmph
– Unique neutral finder lever
– Fuel consumption of 70 mpg
– Stunning black paint finish with gold line on fuel tank
– Tiger-head headlamp casing design
– Pilot lamp for parking
– Unique silencer beat
– Fulcrum lever on main stand for easy parking
– Adjustable rear shock absorbers
For more info please contact the U.S. Distributor:
Classic Motorworks PO BOX 917; Fairbault, MN 55021.
Phone: 800-201-7472. http://www.enfieldmotorcycles.com
One of the oldest of the antique motorcycles that sat arrayed on Spanish Street on Tuesday afternoon was a 1916 Harley-Davidson, just a shade lighter than robin’s egg blue with a wide leather seat and broad, rounded handlebars.
Navy, red and gold pinstriping curled finely across the bicycle-looking frame, and the long, boxy gas tank bore the moniker “The Frankfurter.” Across the street, lounging in the shade on a bench outside the Brick Street Gallery antique store was the bike’s owner, Thomas Trapp.
He was one of more than 100 vintage-motorcycle enthusiasts rolling across the country in the motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run. They started in Daytona, Florida, on Friday and made a pit stop in Cape Girardeau on their way to Tacoma, Washington.
Trapp runs a Harley Davidson dealership in Frankfurt, Germany, and says the run is the apex event for old-school gearheads such as himself. As he talked about the run, his blue eyes turned bright with the type of devotion to craft, bikes and lifestyle that motorcyclists are known for.
“Let me tell you,” he said in a round German accent, “I am riding vintage bikes for 40 years. I’m racing vintage for a long time. When you are into vintage stuff, I am always searching for the new thing, a new challenge.”
A 1916 Harley Davidson F owned by Thomas Trapp of Germany is displayed for the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run on Tuesday in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)
He explained Erwin “Cannon Ball” Baker’s legacy is one of the most potent allures of the run. Baker set more than 140 driving records in his day, and his reputation for marathon rides is what inspired the event.
“He made it [across the country] in 12 days,” Trapp said, “in 1914 on an Indian [motorcycle].”
The motorcycles turn heads, to be sure, but some followers had traveled a distance to see the classic machines. Dave Sickmeyer has been following the competition online since it left Daytona. He and his wife Cindy came from Steelville, Illinois, to see them. He said the engineering of the Hendersons are his favorite part.
“How long have I been riding? Oh boy,” he said.
“His whole life,” Cindy assured.
Ron Roberts of New Hampshire rides his 1936 Indian Chief across the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge for the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run on Tuesday in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)
“Yeah, I’m 63; I’ve been riding since I was 12,” he said. He shifted his weight to ponder the midnight blue four-cylinder Henderson in front of him.
“Boy, I’d like to be able to buy an old bike like this, but you’re talking around 50 grand right off the bat.”
“What intrigues me is that they come from all over the world,” said Cindy. She said she was impressed by the German bike and at how old some of them were.
At 98 years old, Trapp’s bike isn’t much different from Baker’s original Indian, and the similarities don’t stop at the antique V-twin engine. The rules of the run allow for modification in the name of safety, Trapp explained, pointing at another driver rolling off his Henderson four-cylinder to fix a flat.
“See? He’s changed the wheelbase to get modern tires and a front brake from a BMW,” he said. “Which is totally fine for safety.”
But as he detailed his ride’s specs, a smile cracked across his sunburned face. He hadn’t installed a front brake. He hadn’t altered his wheelbase. What he’d done is position himself to compete in the run as a purist.
“There is nothing more in the world than the Cannonball on a Harley Davidson,” he said. “We are just about five or six people whose bikes are 1915 to 1919.”
When he brushed back his weather-beaten white-blonde hair, the inside of his right forearm bore an intricately inked rendering of a motorcycle: a 1916 Harley Davidson with a V-twin engine and a long, boxy gas tank.
“Yes, it’s the same one,” he nodded, beaming with pride.
Richards and White are among a number of local enthusiasts,
mostly baby boomers, drawn to the Indian Motorcycle brand’s distinctive lines, described by one design expert as “horseback meets machine,” and famous for such retro features as curved fenders covering half of each wheel and Native American imagery like the “war bonnet” lamp in the shape of an Indian chief’s head. After a bumpy ride for much of its 113-year history – including multiple ownership changes and a pair of bankruptcies – Indian Motorcycle is making a 21st-century comeback. “Retro chic is making a big comeback in lots of areas of retail, because it feels authentic and harkens back to a time when it was easier to trust businesses and life seemed simpler,” Kit Yarrow, professor of business and psychology at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, said this week. Indian and the much larger Harley-Davidson have similarities, said Darrell Harry, chief operating officer of Team Mancuso Powersports, which has seven Houston-area locations and is the exclusive Indian dealer in Houston, selling the bikes at 10222 Gulf Freeway and 10430 Southwest Freeway. Harry said Harley did a better job of developing dealer networks. Since being acquired by Polaris, Indian is increasingly investing in its own dealer infrastructure. The company has signed licenses with 150 U.S. dealers and expects to have 300 in three or four years, wrote Robin Farley, an analyst at UBS Investment Research, in a recent note to investors. Indian Motorcycles come in three models: the entry-level Chief Classic; the Chief Vintage, which has leather saddlebags; and the upper-end Chieftain, named 2013 Motorcycle of the Year by RoadRunner Motorcycle Touring & Travel magazine.
11/17/2014 4:54 PM Gary Gray stands by his Scout.Over the November 8-9 weekend, stealthily but quickly, Indian motorcycle made history. A new production 2015 Indian Scout and the fabled Chief named “Elnora” tore across the El Mirage dry lake bed in the final Southern California Timing Association event of the season. It was the last chance for the factory to earn an SCTA certified run, and both machines proved their lineage and durability with strong debuts by the rookie land speed riders. Gray stretched the Scout’s legs to 128.447 mpg.The Indian Scout was ridden by none other than Gary Gray—the Director of Indian Motorcycle Products. Gary leads a team that interacts with both the design and the engineering groups to define the current and future products for the brand. Shepherding the product direction for such an iconic brand take somebody who isn’t afraid to get their fingers dirty. Gray spent several weekends in 2014 racing vintage Scout motorcycles in FIM and USCRA, and twisted the new Scouts throttle to a very fast 128.447 mph on the dusty mile and 1/3 course. The motorcycle Gary rode featured a stock engine, and was built to the P-P 1350 class and only modified the handlebars to race. This same motorcycle will be tweaked by the engineering team for a return to the venue just to go faster and “see what she will do”.Elnora was piloted by Indian Motorcycle PR Manager, Robert Pandya. The very same Chief that traced Cannon Ball Baker’s centennial route from San Diego to New York City in May, was re-fitted with stock fenders (though the back of the front fender was cut off) an accessory air cleaner, and a custom 2-1 exhaust pipe. Slotting into a modified class (A-PG 2000), Elnora featured custom 17” wheels and racing rubber, relocated footrests, and different handlebars designed to tuck the rider into the wind. She ran a stock Thunder Stroke 111 however, including the stock belt drive system, and despite being a hard-ridden development bike (ultimately destined for the crusher) she pulled out a 130.227 mph top speed.