Jay Leno Explains the Indian 101 Scout Motorcycle
In late September of last year Indian rocked the flat track racing world by hiring three of the elite riders in the championship – Brad Baker, Jared Mees and Bryan Smith. Between them that trio won the last five Grand National No. 1 Plates. It was obvious that Indian was serious about winning the 2017 title.
Not only did the team get the best riders, but Indian also scooped up arguably the two best teams in the Howerton Motorsports team, which won the championship last year with Bryan Smith on Kawasakis and Mee’s powerful squad with the machines being prepped by legendary flat track tuner Kenny Tolbert. Most pundits believed after the announcement, that the Indian squad would be practically unbeatable.
Harley-Davidson responded last month by announcing its own very strong squad with Kenny Coolbeth and Jake Johnson (both multi-time champs) and Brandon Robinson, a rising star in the series.
Another semi-shocker was that Harley announced the factory team would race the new liquid-cooled XG750R exclusively, with development being done by Vance & Hines. That was a big move by Milwaukee, especially considering the venerable Harley-Davidson XR750 has been the team’s racing machine almost exclusively for 46 years! And as long in tooth as the XR seems, it’s still probably the best overall flat track race bike on the planet, bolstered by years of refinement.
But while the move away from the old-school, air-cooled, pushrod two-valve XR750 seems a bit risky, with the advancement of the Kawasaki EX650-based machine and the apparent head-turning speed of the new Indian, the XR was being pushed well beyond the design limits and as a result the bikes were breaking at an alarming rate.
Indian brings a truly international program to the track. The engine was designed in conjunction with Swiss Auto, a company that has built both Formula One and Motorcycle Grand Prix race engines.
To give you an idea of potentially how good the new Indian FTR750 is, Joe Kopp, a 47-year-old retired rider, hopped on the bike in last year’s season finale and actually led the race early on! Not bad for a debut run. Jared Mees helped develop the FTR and he’s very enthusiastic about the prospect of racing it in 2017.
On paper it seems the battle for this year’s championship is going to be strictly between Harley and Indian, if for no other reason than the sheer talent of the two teams. That may well be, but it also seems to be a window of opportunity for other squads to use the already proven Harley XR750 or the Kawasaki EX650 and possibly pull a major upset over the factories.
The state of professional flat track racing is still an open question. Certainly, it seems that since the DMG sold road racing to MotoAmerica a couple of years ago, that more resources are being directed at flat track. Nearly half of the races on the schedule are being promoted by an arm of the DMG, so they have a major incentive to put butts in the seats.
On the plus side, the DMG has new and visionary leadership. It’s hired a large PR agency to promote the series and there’s been big time exposure like never before in national magazines and newspapers. You’ve got Indian coming in a big way, Harley is stepping up its game and rumors persist that both Yamaha and Honda are considering joining the fray in the not-too-distant future.
On the other hand, flat track’s fan base is among the oldest of any motorsport and there does not seem to be enough young fans coming in to replace them. Fan’s Choice TV’s excellent live coverage has proven to make it a tough decision for some fans to justify coming to watch the race live, when they can see everything from the comfort of their family rooms.
There are just a few races that have proven to be able to draw big crowds year after year and even the strongest races on the calendar like Springfield, Peoria and Sacramento, have seen inexplicable ups and downs in attendance in recent years. And consider races like the Indy Mile, which could not sustain itself without the help of being on the same weekend as MotoGP.
In spite of the challenges, which to a large extent, all forms of motorsports are trying to overcome, there is an undeniable buzz about American Flat Track. The series is no longer opening on the sidelines, at the small Daytona Short Track venue, but the Thursday, March 16 season debut of the Daytona TT (with the big twins) promises to be a massive, high-profile launch in front of the main grandstands at Daytona International Speedway.
This momentum and renewed factory interest is either going to work or it’s not. We won’t be able to tell for a couple of years, but you cannot fault the organizers. They certainly seem to be reaching for the moon and it’s going to be fun to watch.
Springfield was also the home of Duryea Motor Wagon Co., the first American car company, launched in 1896. Gunmaker Smith & Wesson is still headquartered there. In 1901, retired bicycle racer turned manufacturer George M. Hendee, who had originally launched his company as a bicycle maker, exhibited his first motorcycle. Hendee Manufacturing Co. began volume production of Indian motorcycles the following year.
While it is commonly associated with art deco streamlining, especially the skirted fenders and a prominent swept-back Indian chief-in-headdress ornament, that styling didn’t arrive on the company’s Chief model until the 1940s.
These are the styling cues that anchor the new Indian Roadmaster Classic, a heavyweight highway cruiser fitted with abundant leather, a large touring saddle, two-tone paint, loads of chrome and, of course, valanced fenders.
“The Roadmaster Classic is an undeniably beautiful motorcycle that our riders have been asking for,” says Indian Motorcycle marketing director Reid Wilson.
It was the smaller, lightweight Scout that was Indian’s most endearingly popular model. The Scout was the machine that won the very first Daytona 200 motorcycle race in 1937, and it won over riders as one of the world’s first sport bikes. Many of us got our first glimpse of an Indian Scout race bike in the 2005 Anthony Hopkins film The World’s Fastest Indian. But management mistakes doomed Indian to financial collapse in 1953.
Today Indian, a 20th-century hero, is back from the dead, reanimated with modern technology. Outdoor powersports company Polaris Industries Inc. took over ownership of the long-contested rights to the Indian brand name in 2011 and introduced a new top-of-the-line Indian Chief to the public in 2014.
As before, however, a lightweight model is a key component of Indian’s plans, so the company unveiled a new Scout in 2014. It’s a bike that incorporates more modern technology than the traditionalist Chief, and naturally, the new Scout is hitting the racetrack, too.
Today’s Scout model is available as the regular 100-horsepower Scout and the entry-level 78-horsepower Scout Sixty, models that appeal to an entirely different group of customers than those who prefer the massive, old-school Chief in its fully skirted Indian dress.
These new Scouts preserve Indian’s tradition of V-twin engine designs, while updating them with liquid cooling and overhead camshafts for the muscle a Scout deserves.
“We’re really proud of the Scout because it has a great sales performance and has had a great impact on the market,” Wilson explained.
Indian has also introduced the Scout FTR750, which is contesting the AMA Flat Track (AFT) series for the first time since the factory-led “Wrecking Crew” team raced in the 1950s. The company’s stylists toiled to produce a bike that effectively bridges old and new, but any good motorcycle needs to also serve as a suitable canvas for customers to personalize their machines.
Illustrating the Scout’s limitless potential as a custom bike foundation, Indian challenged its dealers to create their own versions of the bike in the Project Scout contest. Interest was so high that fans crashed Indian’s website as they rushed to see the creative results of the shootout.
The customs that emerged from that event should not only inspire prospective owners but also point the way to variants we’ll likely see coming from the factory. “Those designs inspired us,” Wilson says. “We can’t do it next month, but years into the future you’ll see bikes come out based on some of those designs.”
If Invercargill man Hamish Alan idolises anyone, it would be the Indian Wrecking Crew, a group of three motorcycle racing champions who rode their Indian Scouts to victory against Harley-Davidsons in the 1950s. Alan tells reporter Hannah McLeod how images of one of them racing inspired him to build his very own Indian racing bike.
I’m the only gearhead in my family but my love of bikes probably began when I was a kid, riding a little Benelli, or with my dad’s old Indian motorcycle, which was in our garage under a bit of canvas.
My brother, sister and I would pull the sheet off and sit on it, bouncing up and down, pretending we were riding it, as kids do.
I think that old motorbike was a bit of an impulse buy of Dad’s. It never ran during my lifetime, until I was about 18, when I decided to restore it.
I had to outsource a lot of the work because I simply didn’t have the skills.
But a few years ago I saw 1950s race photos of another Indian motorbike, which I decided I wanted to build.
Fortunately, in my 20s, I quit my day job and started an adult apprenticeship as a fitter-turner, purely so that I could develop my skills to work on motorbikes.
I’ve built a 1948 Daytona Scout. The body’s almost entirely original, but the engine is reproduction. I’ve managed to do most of the work on this myself, with a little bit of help from local man Ray McCulloch.
I hate to think how much it’s cost me. There’s a pile of receipts I haven’t even looked at, but that’s not the point.
This weekend, I’ll be racing it for the first time at Teretonga as part of the Burt Munro Challenge. I’ve had a couple of test runs, and I’ve already figured out I’ll never be satisfied.
I’ll probably rebuild this bike three times over to reach my goals of developing the engine and getting to a good top speed.
Racing in the United States. these bikes could do 120mph, but they had been rebuilt in aluminium, not steel.
This bike won’t get up there – it has brakes!
But, eventually, I’ll probably start developing my own skills so that I can work with aluminium and continue working on this bike.
I’ve owned fast road bikes before, a Honda and a Ducati.
Problem was, I was getting faster and faster on the road, and I was probably pushing legal limits.
While I certainly respect and appreciate Burt Munro’s achievements and his Munro Special, his Indian was a land speed bike, not a racing bike.
Mine looks like an everyday motorcycle but it’s built for the track.
You can do things there that you can’t do on the roads legally
It’s selling a lot more bikes, but the powersports vehicle maker is cutting off an important profit source.
Since reintroducing the Indian Motorcycle brand to the market in 2013, Polaris Industries(NYSE:PII) has been stealing large swaths of sales and market share from industry leader Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG). Its rival may still own the majority of the heavy bike industry, but Polaris has been able to challenge its supremacy all across the board, both on the road and on the track.
Part of Polaris’ success has been a result of introducing a bike in each market and at every price point. From touring and cruisers to sportier models, too, there’s an Indian Motorcycle that can rival a Harley.
Though sales of the actual motorcycles bring in the biggest bucks for the bike makers, there’s another component that’s often overlooked but, many times, is just as lucrative, if not more so: the sale of parts, garments, and accessories.
When you buy a motorcycle, you might also buy a helmet, a new leather jacket, chrome handlebars, or new exhaust pipes. Beyond the safety components necessary to ride a bike, many buyers want to look the part, too. In fact, you’ll find many consumers will buy gear before they even own a bike, just for that reason.
Across all of Polaris Industries’ segments, parts, garments, and accessories, or PG&A, totaled $224.4 million in the third quarter, or 19% of the $1.19 billion in total sales it recorded for the period. That makes these ancillary items a bigger contributor to the powersports vehicle maker’s performance than the motorcycles themselves, a division whose sales came in at $183.2 million — inclusive of its respective PG&A sales.
Such sales are also just as lucrative for Harley-Davidson. For its third quarter, PG&A totaled $296.6 million, or almost 38% of the total $789 million it reported in motorcycle sales.
However, because Polaris also sells ATVs, snowmobiles, and utility vehicles, these parts and accessories sales are not equal for each division. Polaris generates the most money from its off-road vehicles and snowmobiles — $923 million last quarter. As a result, it sells more stuff into the PG&A category for that division than it does for motorcycles or UTVs.
Still, as the motorcycle segment becomes a larger component of its overall business, PG&A sales will grow, and therein lies a problem.
The motorcycle industry is changing. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, the median age of the typical motorcycle owner in 1990 was 32, and the typical owner was a married male who had a high school diploma. Today, the typical owner is still likely to be married, but he’s got at least some college education under his belt, maybe a college degree — possibly even post-graduate. But the median age has climbed significantly, to 47 years old. Just 17% of riders today are under 30, compared to 41% 25 years ago.
That’s a big swing for the industry, and it highlights how it needs to begin attracting younger riders again for the overall health and future of motorcycling. Both Harley and Polaris say they are reaching out to this demographic.
A couple of years ago, Harley-Davidson introduced its Street 500 and 750 models, which were geared to new and urban riders as well as to females, blacks, and Hispanics. Polaris answered that first with its Indian Scout, and then with the Scout Sixty. Both have enjoyed considerable success — perhaps too much.
According to CEO Scott Wine, Polaris is “selling disproportionately more” of its Scouts, Scout Sixtys, and even Victory Octanes, another model targeted to that demographic — but those bikes actually don’t sell as much in PG&A goods as the bigger bikes do, so its segment sales fell for the quarter even though motorcycle retail sales were up.
Even though Polaris has suffered a collapse in ATV sales as safety recalls impacted RZR sales — off-road vehicle sales plunged 23% for the period — PG&A sales were off only 3%. In contrast, while motorcycle retail was 3% higher in the third quarter, PG&A sales tumbled 10% because of the product mix. As this is the market Polaris (and Harley) is increasingly targeting, it could carry with it the unwanted side effect of losing on higher-margin parts and accessories sales.
The motorcycle industry is in the midst of a slowdown that’s affecting everyone, but as Polaris Industries gains traction in the heavyweight bike class, it’s selling more smaller models, so it will lop off an otherwise profitable piece of business. It’s a small one still, but investors should recognize the collateral damage the company will suffer for getting a bigger slice of the overall market.
America’s first motorcycle company, today announced its Scout Inspired Custom Series; a chronology of the rich, century-long history of the Indian(R) Scout(TM) motorcycle. Throughout 2015, Indian Motorcycle will unveil a series of custom Indian Scouts designed and crafted by some of America’s leading custom bike builders — each designed to celebrate an important Indian Scout milestone or achievement since its debut in 1920. Each of the custom Scouts will be accompanied by vignettes to share the legacy of the Indian Scout.
To kick-off the series, Indian Motorcycle today launched the Custom Military Scout in a vignette narrated by Mark Wahlberg. The Custom Military Scout is a tribute to the company’s nearly 100-year history of supporting the U.S. Military and to celebrate Indian Motorcycle’s partnership with USO. The Custom Military Scout was designed and built by world-renowned custom builder Klock Werks Kustom Cycles of Mitchell, South Dakota.
“Klock Werks Kustom Cycles is honored to partner with Indian Motorcycle on a project that pays tribute to the USO and their outstanding work on behalf of the dedicated men and women of our U.S. Armed Forces,” said Brian Klock, founder of Klock Werks. “Indian Motorcycle has a long and impressive legacy of supporting the U.S. Military dating back to WWI and all of us at Klock Werks are humbled to play a role in this important and historic endeavor.”
The Custom Military Scout is built on the award-winning 2015 Indian Scout platform, sporting a matte green paint indicative of a vintage military bike that was perfectly applied by Brad Smith of The Factory Match. It utilizes taillights that are modern street legal reproductions on a custom bracket to mimic the original military-style lights. The Custom Military Scout features Genuine Indian Motorcycle Accessory leather saddlebags, a Klock Werks “Klassic” seat kit and leather wraps for the base of the Indian accessory quick-detach windshield — all upholstered using matching leather hides. A custom gun scabbard mount holds a Thompson sub-machine gun with a custom gunstock by Boyds Gunstocks of Mitchell, SD etched with both the USO and Indian Motorcycle logos.
“Today we are proud to launch our Scout Inspired Custom Series with our inaugural episode dedicated to the USO and our mutual support of the U.S. Military and their families, and we are grateful to brand ambassador Mark Wahlberg and our friends at Klock Werks for their support and fine craftsmanship,” said Steve Menneto, Polaris Industries vice president of motorcycles. “The Indian Scout has built a long and storied legacy of racing wins, world records, engineering innovations and industry firsts, and along the way it has won the hearts and minds of fans around the world. Those achievements have materially impacted our current and future direction for the Indian Scout marque, and we look forward to telling some of those important stories through our Scout Inspired Custom Series.”
The Custom Military Scout and accompanying video vignette narrated by Mark Wahlberg can be found by visiting www.indianmotorcycle.com, along with upcoming stories in the Scout Inspired Custom Series.
ABOUT THE USO The USO lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families millions of times each year at hundreds of places worldwide. We provide a touch of home through centers at airports and military bases in the U.S. and abroad, top quality entertainment and innovative programs and services. We also provide critical support to those who need us most, including forward-deployed troops, military families, wounded warriors, troops in transition and families of the fallen. The USO is a private, non-profit organization, not a government agency. Our programs and services are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff.
ABOUT KLOCK WERKS Located in Mitchell, South Dakota, Klock Werks has grown from humble beginnings to an internationally recognized brand. Achieving status as “Air Management Experts,” Klock Werks credits this to the success of the original patented, Flare(TM) Windshield. Also supplying fenders, handlebars, and other motorcycle parts, Klock Werks proudly leads the industry through innovation in design and quality of materials and fitment. Team Klock Werks has been successful for years designing parts, creating custom motorcycles and setting records on the Bonneville Salt Flats. You will find motorcycles, family, and faith at the core of Klock Werks, along with a commitment to caring for the needs of enthusiasts around the world who enjoy their products.
ABOUT INDIAN MOTORCYCLE(R) Indian Motorcycle, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Polaris Industries Inc. is America’s first motorcycle company. Founded in 1901, Indian Motorcycle has won the hearts of motorcyclists around the world and earned distinction as one of America’s most legendary and iconic brands through unrivaled racing dominance, engineering prowess and countless innovations and industry firsts. Today that heritage and passion is reignited under new brand stewardship. To learn more, please visit www.indianmotorcycle.com.
With 10 minutes to go until the main event of the Cleon Graber estate sale late last week — the sale of a rare, 1904 Indian Camelback motorcycle — Lindy Graber admitted he was “a little nervous; a little emotional” as he watched the public buy bits and pieces of his father’s vast collection.
He also admitted he had a preference as to who might win his father’s rare and valuable motorcycle, an auction item that helped draw hundreds of onlookers to the Wieman Land and Auction building outside of Marion Friday, April 10.
“It would be nice if it would stay in South Dakota,” Lindy said.
Oh, it’s staying in South Dakota, all right.
It’s not even leaving the family.
In a surprising twist, Lindy and the Graber family bought back Cleon’s classic motorcycle with a winning bid of $100,000, making for a bittersweet conclusion to a sale item that had drawn considerable hype; both Jay Leno and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum had both reportedly showed interest in the artifact.
“We had a number that we didn’t want to let it go for,” Lindy told the Courier afterward. “We were hoping it would go for a little more than it did, but that’s the way it goes.”
He said the family buying back Cleon’s 1904 Camelback was always a possibility — “a slight possibility,” he said — and that the Grabers might try to sell it again.
“I’d like to take it to some shows, get it out in the public some more,” Lindy said.
Until then, the rare find will remain with the family it’s been with since Cleon bought the motorcycle in the mid-70s; it was a purchase that came about only because of Cleon’s persistence.
Lindy said his father, an avid collector who had a particular love for engines and transportation, was tipped off about the 1904 Camelback from a fellow collector in the community.
Cleon went to visit the motorcycle owner in the Springfield area, only to be turned down.
“Dad went back several times,” Lindy said, finally striking a deal with the owner after health issues prompted the owner to reconsider its sale.
With the Camelback Cleon’s, it took up residence in a machine shed on the Graber farm east of Freeman where it sat.
Other than some minor changes to its 1904 condition, the Camelback is original. The tires were in bad shape when Cleon purchased it and were replaced; the battery box is not original and the decompression lever used to start the motorcycle has been altered.
Lindy said the motorcycle hasn’t run since it’s been in the family’s possession; they tried to start it about five years after Cleon bought it “and it spit and sputtered a bit.”
But the motor is in such good shape, he said, “I don’t see why it wouldn’t run.”
Lindy believes one of the reasons his dad never worked harder to get it going was because he didn’t want to damage the motorcycle; “He recognized how rare it was.”
Its rarity was noted by Wieman Land and Auction at last Friday’s sale; a video presentation that included an interview with Lindy was shown before the live bidding began and online offers had started coming in up to two weeks before Friday’s sale.
Auctioneers called it “a chance to buy history.”
The opening live bid was $30,500 and quickly climbed to above $70,000 before slowing and eventually topping out at Lindy’s bid of $100,000 — despite the auctioneers’ pleas for somebody to come in at $102,500.
Rich Wieman told the Courier in the days following the sale that they really had no idea how much the 1904 Camelback would bring; research showed similar models going for between $50,000 and $85,000 and, in 2012, one model that was billed as the oldest unrestored Indian motorcycle brought $155,000.
“It was one of those things where you didn’t know for sure what it was worth,” Rich said. “Coffee talk had it going anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000, so we really didn’t know what to expect.”
“It could have brought more,” he said, “but it wasn’t a bad price in this market.”
And, he said, the motorcycle’s sentimental value to the Graber family is worth a lot; “Lindy has a lot of love for that sort of thing, anyway.”
As for being able to auction off something as rare as Graber’s motorcycle, Rich called it “a privilege and an honor” and said they enjoyed monitoring the online bids that came in from across the country starting at $100 and climbing up to $30,500 — the starting point on Friday. “It commanded a lot of attention and that’s what makes it so much fun.
“It’s always fun to sell something that is out of the norm.”
Rich could not verify or deny that Jay Leno’s buyers were among those bidding, but he said the Wiemans had reached out to the celebrity who has a taste for vintage motorcycles in a number of ways.
“I know there was talk that he had voiced interest in several different online forums,” Rich said. “But with online bidding, it’s pretty easy to remain anonymous.”
That Lindy ended up with his father’s 1904 motorcycle is fitting, he concluded.
“It’s a piece of South Dakota history,” said Rich.
Lindy couldn’t have said it better himself.
The 1904 Indian “Camelback” was put up for auction during the Cleon Graber estate sale. His son Linde, put in a bid of $100,000 to keep the bike. A similar Indian motorcycle sold for $155,000 in Maryland in 2012.
Cleon Graber was quite a collector and had a number of Indian motorcycles, with the 1904 being the oldest.
Linde Graber and his sister Teresa would like the motorcycle to eventually end up in a museum.