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President - Starklite Cycle

Starklite Cycle History

Bob & Gary Stark 1969
Bob & Gary Stark 1969 (Gary’s First Indian)

Bob Stark has been involved with Indian motorcycles throughout his entire life. Bob’s father became an Indian dealer in 1918, after returning from military service during World War I. Bob still has a photo of his mother riding in a sidecar in 1923. Since Bob was born in 1934, his parents were involved with Indian cycles long before that.

     At the age of 10 Bob started staying around his fathers shop, and developed quite an interest in the Indian cycles. The mechanic considered him a pest, but allowed him to do minor items, such as changing oil & polishing cycles.
      By 1946 Bob was riding his own Whizzer motorbike, and in 1947 graduated to a Cushman scooter. By 1950 he had learned quite a bit more about the cycles and got his first Indian, a 741 Scout with skirted fenders. He bought the cycle for $50.00 without his fathers permission and had it for 4 months before his father knew it was his. By 1951 Bob purchased the ’48 Chief which he still rides. In addition, his father deemed the $50.00 741 Scout to be unsafe. so he traded a new Triumph 650cc even up for it. That was the best cycle deal in Bob’s life. 1951 also was high school graduation, and the start of college. Some extra money was obtained during the next 3 summers by working on cycles. Bobs father had sold the Indian shop in 1952, so the work was done in the “ex” chicken coop at home. 1955 was the big change, graduation from Case Institute of Technology, Akron Ohio ( Now called Case/Western), with a degree in mechanical engineering. This was a year of working days at Goodyear Tire & Rubber and nights on Indian motorcycles.
     A short time was spent in the army during 1956 & 1957. The off hours were spent at Herb Reiber’ s Indian shop in Washington D.C.. The ’48 Chief (purchased in 1951) was kept about 2 miles from Fort Belvoir.
After an army discharge in the fall of 1957 Bob returned to Goodyear Tire during the day and worked on Indians at home during the evenings. By 1957 he reopened his fathers shop part time. Selling the Royal Enfield built Indians, servicing them, and servicing the older Chiefs & Scouts. By 1958 Goodyear Tire was no longer in the picture as Bob quit to spend full time at the cycle shop. In 1959 health reasons mandated a move to Florida, and more building of cycles at home, while working at Martin Marietta Corporation. 1961 was a move to California, and the nominal home workshop for night work. Later 60′ s meant trips back to Florida as part of the launch crew on the first 2 moon shots from Cape Canaveral. Gary was born during this time frame and started riding between Shorty & Bob by age 2. In 1970 Starklite Cycle was formed and Bob was back to full time work on Indians. Again Starklite took on the Indian dealership, this time for the Taiwan/Italian built models. This was different, but the main business was restoring the older Indians and manufacturing parts for them. By now Gary was riding. He got his first Indian at age 5, and his second one at age 7. He was given a ’47 Chief at age 5 and he finished his restoration of it at age 16.
     As the years have progressed, Indian parts have become increasingly scarcer. This has led to the need to design and build increasing amounts of Indian parts. In 1989 Gary graduated from California State University of Long Beach with an Engineering degree in Manufacturing Engineering. The engineering has helped both Bob and Gary in the production of what we believe to be the best quality of Indian parts available.
     The line now stands at over 3000 items. Shorty has done her part by putting up with all of this for nearly 30 years, as well as handling most of the work in connection with the Indian Motocycle Club. Gary has started helping her the last couple or years with much of the mailing and typesetting, as he has become very proficient on the computer.
      In the fall of 1988 Starklite moved from Fullerton to Perris. The shop in Fullerton was left in the hands of Wilson Plank, who was employed there for 14 years. He is currently operating it under the name of American Indian Specialists and is running it very successfully working on Indians.
As you can see from this brief background, The Stark Family has three generations involved in Indian motorcycles from 1918 to the present with virtually no interruptions. Starklite is a family owned business involving Bob, Shorty, and Gary, as well as others. Gary is the third generation to be involved.
     The most gratifying part of the business has been the amount of nice people we have met. We consider them friends, not just a customer.

Iowa All Over: Museum is a motorcycle mecca


ANAMOSA — Motorcycles have been on the road since the mid-1800s. And at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, you can witness a wide array of their history and influence on American culture.

Step through its doors of the 36,000-square-foot venue and see row after row of motorcycles lined up — are red, yellow, black, silver, gray and orange. Some have thin tires, others are much thicker.

Some, such as the 1927 Brough Superior SS100, black with silver finishing, are elevated on a pedestal.

The collection features rusted antiques and motorcycles manufactured in Iowa. It also boasts display cases with tiny motorcycle drivers on toy motorcycles in every color.

Founded in 1989, the museum in total is home to 400 motorcycles — lining the walls from floor to ceiling — that span more than 100 years of history.

The museum first opened in Sturgis, S.D. John Parham, founder of J & P Cycles in Anamosa and president of the museum’s board, later moved it to Anamosa, where it opened in 2000.

The motorcycles come from around the world, Director Bill Barber said. More than half the collection is on loan. The rest has been donated, said Mark Mederski, special projects director at the museum.

While everyone has his or her favorite, and Barber’s is the Flying Merkel board tracker. The original board track bike hasn’t been restored, Barber said. The antique cycle is orange and features a fully-visible engine in the center and white tires.

Actor Steve McQueen’s 1947 Indian Chief Chopper motorcycle is on display. The vintage cycle even has McQueen’s sleeping bag folded and resting near the handlebars, and an entire section dedicated to stunt rider Evel Knievel.

But the museum offers far more than just motorcycles. There is a section of graphic art, featuring more than 1,100 pieces. Now on display is a fine-art show that features work from artists from across the country.

The artwork has been on display since May 2015. Due to its popularity, Barber hopes to keep the collection up for more than a year.

“A lot of people come in here, maybe their wife doesn’t care about motorcycles, and I find them here wandering through the art,” Barber said. “They like the art.”

The other temporary exhibit documents American custom motorcycles. It features choppers and Honda, Harley and Triumph bikes as well as Von Dutch and Ron Finch.

Visitors can walk through a restored 1920s gas station and take a look at items that would have been sold during the era.

There is an early motorcycle repair shop and even a bright red shiny motorcycle with a matching sidecar. The motorcycle has three lights on its front and a red cover over the front tire. The side car glistens red, with three decorative stripes.

The museum attracts about 20,000 visitors annually, Barber said, and is open year-round. In 2015, it was named an Outstanding Attraction during the Iowa Tourism Conference in Fairfield.

Barber, who lives in Anamosa, has been director since September. He previously worked at J & P Cycles for eight years.

“It’s a constantly changing display,” Barber said of the museum. “I have 451 motorcycles on the floor today, probably another 250, 300 in storage.

“We constantly get more loans in (and) we change the main displays every year. It’s never the same.”

If you go

• What: National Motorcycle Museum

• Where: 102 Chamber Dr., Anamosa

• When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday during winter

• Admission: $10 for adults, children under 12 free when accompanied by an adult

• Call: (319) 462-3925 or go to nationalmcmuseum.org

Source: Iowa All Over: Museum is a motorcycle mecca

How to Value your Antique Indian Motorcycle 2021


   It’s time for an update on values for our Indian Motorcycles. We last published this article in October 2014. Since our last value review we have had a recession with a slow recovery. Let’s see how the bikes are doing value wise. These articles have created a few letters from our members stating that we were creating price inflation, and at these published prices they would no longer be able to afford an Indian. This article is not intended to inflate any values. Our purpose is to report an accurate value of various models. These values have been averaged by interviewing sources on both the East and West coasts, magazine ads, and auction results.

   Since our last update values on all Indians have increased. During the past year Indian prices have remained in an upward trend. The past few months show that the upward movement of values is continuing. The most desirable bikes are unrestored projects. People are enjoying the challenge of restoring bikes, and these unrestored bikes are in high demand. The biggest change in values continues with the Four Cylinder Indians. In February 2004 a new record was set for the price of an Indian Four. At the Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction, a 1941 Indian Four sold for $58,000. This same bike will sell for over $70,000 today. This shows they are very much in demand and with very low production numbers they can command a premium price. The next greatest movement in prices is the last motorcycles built in Springfield, the 1952 – 1953 Chiefs.

   Every day on the phone we receive numerous requests regarding, “How much is my motorcycle worth ?” This is a very ambiguous question. There are several factors which determine the value of a motorcycle.
1. Condition of the machine.
2. Popularity of the machine.
3. Quantity Produced.
4. Professionally restored.
5. Current Market Price.

 First of all, the condition of the machine is of the utmost factor in determining it’s value. The better the condition, or more recently the restoration, the better the value. Also, originality has great importance. The greater the originality, the greater the price. To help determine the condition of the bike a standard has to be set. This standard involves rating the bikes on a 4 star scale with 1 star being the best condition.

   However, not everyone is always in agreement on where a machine falls on this scale. Care must be taken to rate a machine properly. A lot of machines will be advertised as 1 star machines when in actuality they are a high 2 star motorcycle. A 1 star motorcycle should be as close to the way it came from the factory as possible. All components down to the fasteners should be original or exact reproduction. All painting and plating should be in perfect condition and the proper color. All wiring should be routed per factory specs. This bike should be able to compete in the Antique Motorcycle Club of America and receive a 95 point grade or higher. To obtain this high score usually takes a high percentage of time and money. It can easily take 1 1/2 times as long to restore a 1 star bike than a 2 star bike.

   Based upon the above criteria, you will find the majority of bikes to be very nice 2 star restorations. There is nothing wrong with this. The ability to ride and enjoy your motorcycle is usually more valuable than owning a 1 star motorcycle. A three star motorcycle is one that is in average condition / older restoration, runs well, good paint, or nice rider bike. A four star motorcycle is one that needs work. The bike should be complete, not necessarily running, but completely together with all the parts required. This bike should not be a basket case. A basket case would be a bike completely disassembled usually found in boxes. This type of a bike is hard to value. Usually many parts are missing. Even if you think all the parts are there, you will find as you go to put it together that all the small parts that you missed usually add up to a high dollar amount. If you can avoid it, purchase a four star machine over a basket case any day.

   The popularity of your motorcycle and the quantity produced will also determine it’s value. For example: If you have a ’37 Jr. Scout and a ’37 Sport Scout, the Jr. Scout had less quantity produced, but was not very popular, so the Sport Scout is actually worth more. On the other hand, Four Cylinders were popular, still are popular, and were produced in low volumes. This has created a shortage of Indian Fours and has caused the price of this model to enter the stratosphere. The ’53 Chief also has this same scenario. With ’53 being the last year of production, many investors are looking for ’53’s and paying top dollar for them. On the other hand, another good example of the popularity reflecting the value of the bike is the 841 military Scout. This model was produced as a limited edition prototype, with only 1,000 machines produced. However it was never very popular. Therefore this bike does not command a premium price even though it is very rare and difficult to restore.

   Professional restoration or home restoration will also make a difference in the final value of the motorcycle. Usually a professional restorer knows a few tricks to update the engine and chassis while still obtaining the original appearance of the parts.

Finally, the current market price is the biggest factor on the value of your motorcycle. The past several years have seen overseas buyers, and investors purchasing bikes for far more than the average motorcyclist could afford. This trend was also helped along by a favorable exchange ratio from the foreign currency into U.S. Dollars. We have also seen this go in reverse, where a motorcycle was shipped overseas then brought back to the States by another buyer. All because of favorable exchange ratios. The past few years have seen the value of the US dollar skyrocket compared to other foreign currencies. We are now seeing many bikes being shipped back to the US so they can obtain top US dollar for their machine. On the other hand, this has driven several models out of the price range of many people. Such as the Four Cylinder models. This has created demand in other model lines. Most notably the last few years have shown more people restoring the 149/249 Vertical Twin models. No market price can take into account the steal of the century, when you unearth that 1940 Chief in the farmer’s barn for $500. But, finds like that are limited or nonexistent any more.

   Our table on lists current market prices for several models of Indians. Remember, these are only averages/estimates. It is not the intention of this article to “Set prices”. The prices should be used as approximations only! The buyer and seller ultimately decide the market price/value for a given motorcycle, and some bikes will sell for higher amounts and some lower, since the listed prices are averages.

Antique Indian Motorcycle Value Chart – Condition / Value

1928-1931101 Scout 45″36,50027,75019,75011,500
1932-1937Standard Scout31,50027,50018,5009,950
1934-1939Sport Scout38,50035,50024,50011,750
1938-1939Four Cylinder74,50064,50049,00030,500
1940-1942Sport Scout32,50027,35021,90010,300
1940-1942Four Cylinder70,75062,50049,00029,500
1941-1942741 Army Scout22,75018,50016,9008,350
1941-1945Military 74 Chief39,90033,90027,90012,900
1949Arrow 149 13ci10,7509,2505,5003,750
1949Scout 249 26ci15,50010,2507,5003,900
1950-1951Warrior TT 30.5ci16,50012,9508,5005,000

Former motorcycle factory converted into affordable housing


A55,000-sf, five-story former manufacturing mill facility for Indian Motorcycle has been converted into 45 apartment units for low-income residents in Springfield, Mass.

Originally built in 1890, the new Mason Square Apartments II at Indian Motorcycle now comprises one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. Units range in size from 570 sf to 1,150 sf. Amenities include on-site laundry facilities, heat and hot water included, and 24 hour emergency maintenance.

The building’s existing masonry was repaired and the massive interior timber beams were retained. The large window openings were also preserved as approximately 1,300 new, high-performance, double-hung units from Diamond Windows & Doors were installed. The aluminum window frames were painted black to resemble old steel-framed factory windows from the early 20th century.

Mason Square Apartments II at Indian Motorcycle acts as a gateway to the American International College and is located on a major bus route that allows easy access to the surrounding area.

Source: Former motorcycle factory converted into affordable housing

Restoring Vintage Indians for Decades


Bob Stark loves vintage Indian motorcycles.

He loves them so much, he will sometimes spend months to years restoring them from scratch. He loves them so much, he has written a short story about his favorite one, a 1948 Chief that Stark purchased barely used for $325. That bike has about 240,000 miles on it, and Stark still rides it today.
And he has even created a museum, the Stage Depot, as the centerpiece of his 15-acre Gavilan Hills property devoted to showing off Indian motorcycles and historical memorabilia associated with them.
It would not be a stretch to call Stark, 71, the world’s foremost expert on Indians.
“Bob has a wealth of information in his background,” said Chuck Myles, who owns and operates an Indian parts business in New York state. “I think Bob has the greatest volume of knowledge. I certainly appreciate his dedication.”
Visitors have come from all over the United States and from foreign countries in Europe, Asia and Oceania to see Stark’s impressive collection. In the museum, there are about 100 motorcycles dating back to 1933 and they still run. To make sure they stay operational, Stark rides each of them once every six months.
The pieces include a 1940 California High-way Patrol motorcycle and two U.S. Army World War II-era bikes, one of which was specially made for the North African campaign, Stark said.
Perhaps the most impressive bike is a 1953 model, from the last year the motorcycles were produced, that Stark built himself. It took Stark 37 years to construct it, he said. Guests can see it all for no charge.
“I just love the bikes,” Stark said. “If you take all the bikes I’ve restored through the years, threw everything together, I think I’ve broken even. I don’t think I’ve made any money on them, I don’t think I’ve lost any. I do this because I love it, not to make a whole bunch of money on it.”
Stark rode his first motorcycle when he was just 9 years old and has been working on Indians for six decades. He picked up his love of Indians from his father, who from 1918 to 1952 distributed the bikes in the Akron, Ohio region.
Stark then passed on his love and some of his encyclopedia like knowledge to his son, Gary, who rode his first motorcycle when he was 4 — a 50cc Mini-Mini — and had five bikes by the time he was 16. In fact, Bob allowed Gary to ride with him on the freeway by the time he was 10.
“I’ve never ridden a cycle that has handled any better than they do for the size of the bike,” Stark explained. “They’re just enjoyable to ride. I can take my hands off and ride for miles without touching the handlebars.”
Today, the two run Starklite Cycle out of the Gavilan Hills property, which is likely the largest supplier of Indian parts in the United States. There are 12 buildings used to store millions of motorcycle parts dating back to the 1930s on the property, and Gary runs the mail-order parts business out of Riverside.
For years, the Starks had a monopoly on the parts business for Indian motorcycles. That’s no longer the case, but the business appears to be doing decently based on the Stark’s property, which at its summit has a clear view of both Lake Perris to the east and Lake Matthews to the west.
“Most of the people that do it today don’t even know what half the parts are; they just do it as a money-making proposition,” Stark said. “I’ve got that advantage, that I know exactly what every piece is.”

Three weird motorbikes you’ve never heard of….


From the Willy’s Jeep of motorcycles to a slice of Cake…

So, you think you know motorcycles, do you? From the legendary Brough Superior SS100 to the beautiful Ducati 900SS; the original ‘widowmaker’ Kawasaki H2 to the £70,000 BMW HP Race, countless machines have made their marks on history and its inhabitants, offering exhilarating ways to see the world.

But some of the less mainstream motorcycles have fallen by the wayside, and been unceremoniously buried in the past. We’ve dredged up a few of the weird and wonderful models that have actually made it to production, but not much further… How many of these can you name?

Indian 841

While you may not have expected to read the words Nazi-fighter in this list, the Indian 841 has earned its place in the history books for its unusual, and often forgotten, provenance.

Early in the Second World War, it became apparent that the Allies would require a machine equal to the German’s BMW R71, with which to fight them on the deserts of North Africa. With the task put to tender in the United States, the two stalwarts of American motorcycling – Indian and Harley-Davidson – came forward with propositions.

While Harley proposed the XA – an evolution of its WLA, with a reverse-engineered BMW R71 engine, transmission and shaft drive – Indian went further with the 841, which featured a new, longitudinally-mounted V-twin, designed specifically for military use, with a low compression ratio of just 5.1:1, which allowed it to be run on low octane fuel.

Putting a relatively low power of 25PS (which could be upped by increasing the compression ratio) out though a four-speed gearbox and shaft drive, the 240kg motorcycle ticked all of the US Army’s boxes, who handed the manufacturer $350,000 to Indian to produce 1,000 units. However, by now, the Willys Jeep had evolved to be comparable to the R71, and the motorcycles were ultimately never implemented. The fleet were sold off, and many converted to Indian’s more recognisable spec.

You’ll rarely see an 841 nowadays, and the original US Army-spec models are rare as rocking horse exhaust fumes. But if you’re ever wanting for a weird and wonderful workhorse, you won’t get much better than this.


This one took some Googling… Designed by Malcolm Newell and Ken Leaman in the early-‘70s, the Quasar was a bizarre, semi-enclosed, foot-forward motorcycle, powered by an 850cc repurposed Reliant Robin engine and gearbox and capable of speeds in excess of 100mph.

With the rider sat inside rather than astride the machine, and a streamlined roof sloping down to a dramatic point, it could easily have been mistaken for a Thunderbirds Shadow motorcycle.

Production was a slow process, but eventually began in 1975, with the first model selling the following year. Quasar production then proceeded to pass through various manufacturers, with a grand total of 21 Reliant Robin variants produced. Several more were built with motorcycle engines, and even some with a Bob Tait-designed hub centre steering system. While production ultimately ceased in 1982, the Quasar left a legacy for foot-forward, enclosed machines, with many equally bizarre prototypes following.

Bimota Tesi

The Bimota Tesi (Thesis in Italian) has been a stalwart of any weird and wonderful motorcycles list for decades, thanks to its unique hub-centred steering design. With swingarms at both front and rear, the Tesi dispels any argument that you need forks to really feel the road, instead relying on a system of hydraulic steering and anti-dive technology. The result was a radical feel and incredibly agile cornering, plus the separation of braking forces on the front suspension and steering.

The 1D, the OG, was released in 1990, powered by a Ducati 851 engine, however the design can be traced back to a university project of Bimota designer Pierluigi Marconi in the mid-‘80s. One hundred-and-twenty-seven  units of the 1D were produced in a year, followed by the modified 904cc 1D 906 from 1991-92 (20 bikes) and the 1D SR from 1992-93 (144 bikes). Further special editions followed, always selling in limited numbers, and Bimota has quietly developed the design since. The streefighter-styled Tesi 3D emerged in the late noughties after a decade of uncertainty for the manufacturer, while a failed collaboration with Vyrus saw the brand develop their own evolution of the Tesi. Kawasaki purchased a 49.9 per cent share in the company in 2019, allowing Bimota to launch the supercharged Tesi H2 last October, with just 250 built, costing from £59,000 OTR.

While other manufacturers have toyed with the idea of mass centralization (such as Honda’s Elf race project), none have quite managed to achieve the Tesi’s success.

Source: Five weird motorbikes you’ve never heard of | GRR

How to Install Indian Rod Races


How to Install Indian Rod Races

You just purchased a set of replacement Rod Races, and you received three shiny pieces of metal. But what are you supposed to do with them? Many of our customers have recently inquired about the proper way to install rod races. This same procedure holds true for any engine with a male/female rod combination. The dimensions may vary but not the procedure.

For our example we will use the dimensions of the Chief or Scout “45” rod races.

The rod races are designed to protrude beyond the sides of the female rod. The races are what is to contact the flywheel thrust washers, not the sides of the female rod. When the sides of the races wears down, it should be replaced. The width of the of the female races is .400 inch. The width of the male race is .800 inch. We replace all of the races if any one is worn more than .005 inches on its width.

  1. Remove old races. Female rod requires pressing from inside the slot toward the outside. The rod must be fully supported around the entire circumference.
  2. Examine new races, make sure the outer edge is not sharp. It should have a slight taper to prevent shaving metal from the rod when it is pressed in.
  3. Using “Red Loctite”, press male race into male rod. Support the outer circumference, as you did in step 1. Make sure the race is centered in the rod. Measure and measure the rod to verify the race is centered.
  4. Using “Red Loctite”, press the two female races into the female rod from inside the slot toward the outside of the rod. Support the rod around the circumference as in step 1. The races normally end up flush, or nearly flush, with the inside edges of the rod.
  5. Measure the distance across the outer edges of the female races. This distance should be 1.610 inches. (The 2 female races are .400” each and the male is .800”. The clearance of the male between the 2 females should be .010 inches. This all totals up to 1.610 inches). If this dimension is different, the male race rod will not fit properly in the female rod slot. If it is over 1.610 inches, the rod end play will be too low, or may not even go in. The 1.610” dimension should measure the same all of the way around. If it varies, this means the races are not installed parallel to each other and adjustments are necessary.
  6. To insure a perfectly round race, the races should be honed to fit standard .2500” bearings, after installation. However, if you wish to bypass this honing procedure, .2495” bearings should fit with the proper clearance.

This article may also be downloaded as a printable PDF by clicking the link at the end of the article. If this helped you with your restoration please leave us comments below!

By carefully following these directions you will get the best results installing your rod races. All Starklite Cycle rod races are manufactured to surpass original factory specifications. If you have any questions please feel free to call or write. Our goal is to provide you with the highest quality parts to get your INDIAN back on the road. Thank You

WARNING: All modifications are done at the consumers own risk. Starklite Cycle urges that all modifications be done by a qualified mechanic to insure proper installation.

Max Bubeck does the ton thirty five


Max does the ton thirty five

Records are made to be broken, especially in motorsports. Every season, people try to shave lap times, horsepower figures and absolute speed records. Most folks are happy to establish a new record, even if it is broken soon thereafter. But to hold a record for over 52 years is simply amazing.

In the summer of 1948, Max Bubeck established what is still the highest speed for an unstreamlined, normally-aspirated 80 cubic-inch, side-valve (Indian) motor–135.58 mph. Max achieved this with his “Chout,” the large Chief engine wedged in the smaller Scout frame. Think of an Evolution motor stuffed into a 883 Sportster frame. What follows is an interview with ‘Mad Max.’

Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly: How did you get involved with speed trials?

Max Bubeck: I got out of high school in ’34 and I shagged in downtown L.A.–pick-up and delivery.

M.M.M.: On a bike?

M.B.: On my 1930 Indian Four.

M.M.M.: So it’s something you did for fun?M.B.: Yes, and enduros. I rode about a total of 300 enduros altogether.

M.M.M.: Were you trained as a machinist or metallurgist?

M.B.: No, sorta’ a natural mechanic. I started out workin’ on my own stuff, right away. Mainly because I was interested in it. I’m the kind of guy that can figure out what’s wrong with things, and fix it. There was a lot of things I couldn’t do, but after the war, when (fellow enduro rider) Frank Chase and I started up the saw sharpening business, and I knew nothing about it–Frank had worked at it, all during the war. We didn’t have that much business, and I was no good at sharpening saws. Next door, Rollie Harper had a motorcycle shop there, just a general motorcycle shop that did everything. He had his own mechanics, but they’d have slopover, and he’d give me engines to work on. We’d been hoppin’ up Chiefs for quite a while. Started back in the late 30s already. By 1940, when Frank Christian arrived on the scene from back East, he came up with the idea of the stroker Chief.

Indian finally made some good flywheels; ‘Z-metal’ they called ’em. Meanite, which was a cast steel, instead of cast iron. Cast iron flywheels had a tendency to explode (waves hands in a blast pattern) cast iron being very brittle. (chuckles). When Christian came out with that idea, we immediately went to strokers. I had been fooling around with porting; you know, working on the heads and the top end and stuff, and Frank Chase would setup the lower (end.)

As I say, I was kinda’ the do-nothing around there; I had to do something, and so I started working on the motorcycle engines. We started building stroker Chief engines for people. Pop Shunk was grinding the cams for us. Fred Shunk, they called him ‘Pop.’ Where he got the name, I don’t know…

M.M.M.: What kind of prep work would you do?

M.B.: (starts sketching) Its attention to detail. Example: we were running 5/8″ spark lead, which means, when the piston’s 5/8″ from the top, it would fire. I got to thinkin’ about this and finally, with the heads off and setting up the timing, settin’ the mag (magneto) up; you’d set the front one at 5/8ths, and the rear one would be a half or 3/4. So what’s wrong? The cam on the mag. You take the one that’s firing too soon, and you carefully, with a little Dremel grinder, go in there and grind the lead off of that breaker cam. Now you get both of them firing (in) the same place.

M.M.M.: Did you ever experiment with shorter stroke/big bore, like everyone does today?

M.B.: You can’t on an Indian. When we got to 30 over, we’d throw ’em (the cylinders) away. If we didn’t, we’d blow ’em off–the cylinders are that thin at the bottom. Harley’s always been big. You can bore ’em, you can stroke ’em, do all kinds of things to them. But the Indian was always skimpy on cylinder wall size. Anyway, this was all seat of the pants stuff. I came up with this stuff on my own, and apparently it worked. There were always a lot of people that were building things that were gonna go quicker than we were, but they never did. And they haven’t yet today. (chuckles)

M.M.M.: Let’s talk about your porting. Was that strictly trial and error?

M.B.: We had no flow benches, no dynos, no nothin.’ When Indian came out with the Bonneville Chiefs and Scouts in 1938…

M.M.M.: That was a cam and what else?

M.B.: They had a factory cam in ’em too, but (Pop) Shunk was a far better cam grinder than that. You see, there is nothing that the factory does that somebody can’t improve on. Even today.

M.M.M.: What about 4-valve heads vs. 2-valve heads?

M.B.: Well, that’s more breathing. I looked at the way Indian was setting up their Bonnevilles, and the way they shaped their intake ports, and then I went ahead on some other things. On the Chout, when we first built that stroker thing, even in a Chief frame it ran 128 1/2 mph. Somehow, that seemed to be the barrier, you’d never get past that. (laughter) (It’d) go between 125-128 mph every time we went to speed trials. I just desperately wanted to go 130 mph, so we geared for 130 mph. We had it on Frank Christian’s dyno, and we were puttin’ out 65 horsepower at 44 hundred R’s – This with two carbs, one for each intake port.

M.M.M.: On the crank, or on the rear wheel?

M.B.: Rear wheel. We figured out the sprockets we wanted. We had a 30 (tooth) on front, and a 36 on the rear and then the ratio between the primary made the difference. 2.60:1 gear ratio, anyway. When I finally ran 135 1/2, it was turning 4600, which was over the horsepower. So if it’d had some more gear, and we didn’t have any more available, well, we coulda’ run faster. Hindsight is great. After that, well that’s the last time we ever ran, we put the thing in a, Pop Shunk had an old board track frame, and we put it in that. (We) didn’t bother puttin’ braces on the cylinders, and blew a cylinder off on the dyno. Then I says, ‘Hey we’re in the saw-sharpening business. We gotta get outta foolin’ with motorcycles.’ We shoulda’ gone the other way (more laughter) but we didn’t, so we practically quit then, you know.

M.M.M.: Does that make you feel good, or is it just-?

M.B.: Yeah it makes me feel good! When I realize what we did with what we had, I mean we had no flow benches, we had a dyno when we finally finished up, but that’s just end result. We didn’t keep goin’ to the dyno, we didn’t have time, or the funds to do that. We just did (what we could with) what we had, and it seemed to work.

M.M.M.: Did you ever play with valve size or springs?

M.B.: Oh we used Bonneville springs, which were double. Exhaust valve, you leave alone. Intake valve, was flat (sketches valves) and tulip-shaped here. I’d put ’em on a big 10″ grinding wheel, mostly to lighten (the) valves.

M.M.M.: Tell me about your early hydraulic forks.

M.B.: The last job I had before I decided I’d better get into something other than riding the damn motorcycle around the city all the time, I was shagging for Economy Blueprint, out in North Hollywood. One of the stops that we had was at Bendix. Bendix had an engineering building along a dirt road, Empire, which at that time was not paved, and full of potholes and everything. Usually, those engineers would be out there waiting for these prints. They were always in a hurry for them, you know. You know, Indians had a leaf spring on the thing and rigid rear and everything, And the guy says, ‘My God, those things do a lot of bouncin’.’ and he let it go at that.

The next time I took something out there he said, “Would you be able to let us use that machine for a couple of days and take some measurements? We’re thinking about building some hydraulic forks for the front end.” Bendix was making aircraft landing gears at the time, you know. Anyway, I arranged to borrow somebody else’s machine and they had it for a couple of days, and I got it back. Believe it or not, this was in August, 1939. Every time I’d see the guy (Bendix Engineer) he’d say, ‘”Yeah, we’re getting along well. We should have those forks in a couple of months.” Get all the drawings done, and everything.

Early September, ’39, of course the war broke out in Europe, and they didn’t have to worry about what the hell to do anymore (chuckles). Immediately the US started building airplanes by the thousands, and Bendix was very busy with their landing gears. That killed my Bendix fork arrangement for the Four–but that’s how close I came to probably having the first American machine with hydraulic forks on it.

M.M.M.: Tell me about the Vard story.

M.B.: In 1946, I’d put on Vard forks, and Vard was an outfit in Pasadena that made drafting equipment. They made these things that draftsmen use that got all these mickey-mouse arms on them. During the war, they used their facilities for all kinds of different things, and they happened to have four Pasadena Motorcycle Club members working there. Of course, in their spare time, they were always comin’ up with something new, and when the war was over, they already had thought a lot about some of this stuff, so they built these forks, which were the forerunner of the Harley Hydra-Glide forks. Vard made these forks extra-wide Because Harley front ends were a lot wider than Indian front ends. They were made so they’d fit Harley or Indian, either one. Anyway, (Ed) Kretz got the wholesale price, $50.00, which was what he charged me.

M.M.M.: How, did he have an in with-?

M.B.: Oh, he was a dealer. They were pretty basic, and they worked well, but they wore out pretty fast because they didn’t have any seals in ’em. They’d pump oil out pretty rapidly, and then the oil would mix with the dust and the dirt and help grind the (slider) bushing. The legs were not hard-chromed either, they were just plain steel. They had no protection from wear, so the first thing I did when I rebuilt my Four, I took the legs out and had ’em hard chromed. I then made a bushing to fit that, and then I put a seal on the top of the bushing. I’m still running the thing since 1986. I haven’t put any oil in ’em or anything else, and they still work very well. Anyway, back to the forks. Amazingly enough, Ed Kretz and I were good friends, they retailed for $72.00.

M.M.M.: So that would be a couple months pay?
M.B.: (softly) Well, no. Shagging I was making 25 bucks a week.

M.M.M.: So, three weeks pay?
M.B.: Yeah, still a lot of money.

Not content to rest, Max is building “Chout II.” Custom fabricated with modern aluminum, imported Australian cylinders and heads modified by Max. While the motor takes shape in Southern California, work progresses on an authentic 101 Scout frame. It will be straightened, and extra lugs removed–any and all excess weight removed. Cycle parts will be minimal. Smaller Junior Scout gas and oil tanks, no fenders, aluminum rims. Anything to reduce mass, aid airflow and help optimize Chout II’s potential top speed, and break his own record.

M.M.M.: How do feel about your chances with Chout II?

M.B.: I’m pretty sure we can run at least 145 mph, maybe quicker. ‘Cause now we know what to do about gearing.

M.M.M.: You gonna run her at El Mirage?

M.B.: I hate El Mirage! I’ve only ever gotten into two speed wobbles, period. And both times were at El Mirage.

M.M.M.: Because of the wind? or..

M.B.: No, the surface. Both times, it shook my feet off the pegs, and I was just hangin’ by the handlebars. (picture the photo of Rollie Free on the Vincent) Somehow, it managed to straighten itself out. One time, the worst one was at about, a little over 125 mph. I hit a big hole there, and it just shook the hell out of things, and all of a sudden, straightened out again. (When) I got back in, and we got to lookin’, we had this 19 inch, it was like a Triumph wheel or something in there–no front brake or anything–just what we called a spool hub.

M.M.M.: Sure. Like on a chopper.

M.B.: Yeah. Anyway, there were four spokes broken out of that. Couple of more wiggles, and the whole wheel woulda’ gone. That woulda’ been a pretty bad situation (smiles at memory.) They run (Dry Lake) Muroc, I think, at least once a year. Mostly by invitation, but we have some connections. Or we might go somewhere else. I just don’t know yet. We haven’t got the machine done yet.

M.M.M.: What does the Scout frame have that the Chief frame doesn’t? It’s lighter?

M.B.: Its lighter! See, the (reason that the) Chout was such fun to ride and everything, it was about 75 pounds lighter than a Chief. Dick Gross used to say, “Eleven pounds is a horsepower.” So we’re lookin’ at 6 and 1/2 more horsepower potential, available for acceleration.

M.M.M.: And your head work?

M.B.: The main thing is we’ve got access to flow benches, so we can check our flow in and out. Change the ports as necessary. You can fill ’em in with aluminum. We were fillin’ in the exhausts like mad because they are way too big.

M.M.M.: What about tuning the exhaust? Will you change the headers?

M.B.: Yes, they will be modified to fit the smaller exhaust ports. There’s so much new technology. That’s why I say, I can’t imagine why somebody hasn’t beat our time a long time ago. Most people don’t do well with technology, you know. Its just amazing that a lot of people don’t seem to have the feel for it.

M.M.M.: When do think you’ll try a record run? 2001?

M.B.: I hope sooner than that.

M.M.M.: Do you have a rider in mind?

M.B.: (Amazed) I’m gonna ride ‘er! I just want to go more than 135.58 (mph.) After that, we’ll see if Jim can get 145.

M.M.M.: Max, good luck with Chout II.

M.B.: Thank you.
Max Bubeck ran The Indian 4 Experience, specializing in Indian engine modifications and rebuilding until he passed away. Godspeed.

‘Mad Max’ by Sev Pearman (M.M.M March 2000)