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A Born-Again Indian Motorcycles Is Here to Dethrone Harley-Davidson

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Legend tells of a time when there existed a big American motorcycle company other than Harley-Davidson. It holds that there was an even older bike maker, one founded at the turn of the century in Springfield, Massachusetts, in what was then the nation’s industrial heartland.

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.”

Source: A Born-Again Indian Motorcycles Is Here to Dethrone Harley-Davidson

Part Two: A Closer Look at Indian Motorcycles – CraveOnline

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A Closer Look at Indian Motorcycles

We wrap the ride today with the input of a veteran bike industry analyst.

October 30th, 2014 John Scott Lewinski

As part of our ongoing automotive and motorcycle coverage, we’re taking a couple days to take a close up look at Indian Motorcycles and the business of challenging an industry giant like Harley-Davidson. Today, we check in with an industry expert for an objective look at Indian’s operations.

Basem Wasef, motorcycle journalist, author and industry expert explained that Polaris’s resuscitation of the Indian brand has been both “brilliant and painfully obvious.”

“Polaris has applied considerable financial investment toward bringing back a legendary nameplate, creating relatively reliable modern motorcycles that pay homage to bikes which were arguably better in nostalgic retrospect than they were in reality,” Wasef said. “But at its core, Indian is less about the motorcycles themselves, and more about the power of a brand.”

Menneto evidently agrees: “We can’t build to match Harley’s capacity, but we can build a brand that’s popular as an alternative — that’s popular with a dedicated customer base with which we can build a relationship. Rather that match the size and capacity of Harley-Davidson, we’d rather compare with premium brands like BMW or Ducati.”

Wasef stressed that challenging Harley-Davidson’s market share would have been unthinkable if Polaris had created a new brand altogether.

“When it comes to brand perception, established Japanese manufactures like Suzuki, Yamaha, and Honda still can’t touch Harley-Davidson in the areas of authenticity and that inscrutable sense of cool,” Wasef added. “But by adopting a nameplate that’s older than H-D and happens to be associated with larger-than-life personalities like Steve McQueen and Burt Munro, Polaris has taken on a serious challenge and dipped their toe into a potentially lucrative business.”

Indian’s slow build is still in effect. For three years, all Indian Motorcycles built were the Chief and Chieftain models — ranging in price from about $19,000 to $23,000. For the first time since the company made its return to business, it introduced new bikes this year — expanding its line at the top and bottom with the $27,000 Roadmaster and the $10.000 Scout.

The latter is especially important as it reaches out to less affluent buyers with its smaller price tag. If Indian wants to compete with H-D, they’re now trying to get to riders when they’re young and equipped with less disposable income.

Steven D. Menneto, Vice President for Motorcycles at Indian, admitted that Indian is still not building to full capacity as that all-important five year business plan unfolds. The next phase for Indian looks to be expanding to more international markets in Europe and South Africa to diversify that brand loyalty. Only time will tell if this classic American make will stand the test of time in a new business era of high-tech and international competition.

Wasef insisted it will still take significant amounts of time to make a dent against the Harley-Davidson juggernaut.

“But, considering the aggressive product development that has occurred since the new Indian models were revealed one year ago, Indian looks like it will be a serious force to be reckoned with moving forward.”

Source: Part Two: A Closer Look at Indian Motorcycles – CraveOnline

The Return of the Iron Redskin

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As we follow the travels of the latest Indian Revival, let’s look back at the history of Indian Revivals, with this reprint from 1968.
   INDIAN! That magic name recalls the days when All‑American motorcycles, ridden by Red‑Blooded American men, accepted victory as their due at the Isle of Man TT, the GPs of Belgium and Argentina, the sands of Daytona Beach, and every board bowl and marbled flat track from Reading to El Centro. The distinctive bark of the flathead twin became part of the heartbeat of generations of American boys. There was no other Indian but the red Indian from the Wigwam at Springfield, Mass.,glowing redly, frame sharp black, smell­ing of heated metal and fuel, eager for the challenge of throughway or crooked lane. Indian!
If General George Armstrong Custer himself had been put in charge of the Indian works, the post‑World War II massacre of Indian hopes, plans, production, and racing victory could not have been more complete. The Indian tribe died 14 years ago. Yes, the name limped along with some Britishers masquerading in tawdry beads and trade blankets, but Indian, the Indian died.
Ordinarily, it would be safe to state flatly, “The Indian has gone to the Happy Hunting Ground.”
But has it? Those who decry the passing of the Great Red Motorcycle haven’t reckoned with the greatest Indian agent of ‘em all, Sam Pierce. In 43 years of riding, repairing, and haranguing at length on the real and fancied proclivities of Indian motorcycles, Sam, in profile view, has come to resemble the familiar hook‑nosed redman, emblem of Indian. With longer, darker hair, and some feathers entwined therein, Sam could stand as his own trademark signature illustration for the American Indian Motorcycle Co., his company, the outfit that has breathed new life into the once‑expired Indian.
Yes! Indian lives! Where Spanish Padres over a century ago built a mission for settlement of American aborigines, there now exists a neo‑Indian, an American Indian, built by Sam Pierce’s hands as a prototype machine, tribal leader for the American Indian Motorcycle Co. of San Gabriel, Calif.

There it is, the Indian “Super Scout,” frame black as the inside of a mystic Kiva, tank red as warpaint ‑albeit metalflake red as a concession to modern times and this first of new Indians carries well the echoing names of its forbearers Prince, Chief, Warrior, Scout.
Indeed, the frame is Warrior, drawn from the vast stock of Indian motorcycle frames Sam Pierce has gathered from across the land over the years since ’53. Lithe as its namesake, fabricated of chrome‑moly steel in single toptube, single downtube configuration, the Super Scout frame carries Indian’s own telescopic, hydraulically damped fork forward, and rigid axle mounting at the rear. The fork is fitted with new seals and compound springs ‑ more modem practice ‑ but that rigid rear end is purely Indian. Sam plans to build rigid frame models for those who desire, plunger frame units for those who want them, and swinging arm Indians for the third group, though the latter may be custom fabricated.

“Forty‑five inches, forty‑five horsepower,” is how Sam describes his 45‑cu. in. flathead Indian engine ‑also built from stacks of cylinder barrels, a broom closet full of Timkin crankpins, drawers full of pistons, boxes of bearings, shelves of crankcase castings, and the hodgepodge of American standard thread nuts and bolts that make up the utterly indescribable ordered confusion that comprises Sam Pierce’s one Indian‑a‑day assembly plant.

Indian power need not be solely from 45‑cu. in. engines. For a thousand bucks, plus a few hundred or so more or less, Sam will recreate the Indian of his customer’s heart’s desire. The 30.50 (500 cc), or 600, 825 or 900 cc are available to the latter‑day Indian buyer. The engines are there, new or restored to mint condition, with freshly forged pistons and rods, glinting in the newness that abounded at the Wigwam 30 and 40 years ago.
Among the heads, liners, brakes, wheels, spokes, and tanks, is the collection of transmissions, some removed from defunct Indians, some discovered in a distant warehouse, embalmed in cosmoline, as if preserved especially against the day of resurrection in Pierce’s shop. The prototype Indian Super Scout is fitted with 4.02:1 Scout gearing, driven through the notoriously grabby‑when‑cold Indian assembly known to every schoolboy in the 1930s as the “suicide clutch.”

This left foot operated clutch, in conjunction to a left hand shift lever, complete with aluminum Indian head knob, comprises a gear change mechanism that is classic. Pierce, however, will locate the shift lever to customer taste, or, if present plans don’t go awry, fit more currently conventional left hand clutch, left foot change lever controls. However, Sam clearly regards this modification as something akin to leprosy, something unclean, un‑American, un‑Indian.

The red metalflake fuel/oil tank/seat combination is a molded fiberglass product of Don Jones and American Competition Frames. The sleek unit construction tank/ seat gives the newest of Indians a very healthy, competitive, contemporary appearance ‑ and contributes to the motorcycle’s lightweight, a mere 296 lb. without lighting equipment. Though Pierce minimizes the fact, in preference to redskin red, the tank/seat is available in any color.

Electricals are standard Autolite components ‑American as . . . as . . . as Indians. The chain driven generator for the prototype Scout 11 is clamped to the downtube, forward of the engine. However, if the buyer desires, this unit may‑be tucked neatly under the battery box and gear driven off the rear of the clutch housing. This simply is one more roll‑your‑own feature offered by Pierce’s American Indian Motorcycle Co.
Pierce has combed the U.S., from cliffdweller country to the land of the moundbuilders, for parts. He has bought out the stocks of numerous dealers who once sold and serviced the great red machines.

Why?

The answer to that question was laced with exquisite badmouth for the HarleyDavidson Motorcycle Co., its people, and the machines it produces, but when the answer did filter through, it was as clear as human conviction can be. Sam Pierce said: “I aim to build what I think is the best motorcycle ever.”

After that one concise statement, Sam said he believes his American Indian will appeal to the sport rider, the individual who desires a motorcycle that can be flipped end over end and continue on in the brush, or can cruise at 75 mph when called upon for a day’s tour of the turnpikes.

Folding footpegs and riser handlebars, alloy engine mounting plates of Sam’s own design, a hearty mixture of absolutely standard Indian parts, and “$25 per cu. in., with lights, and a guaranteed 100 mph” are part of the Super Scout of the 1960s.

“I’m setting up for 300 machines. I plan to build one a day ‑ and I figure to sell ‘em faster than I can build ‘em. And, I’ve got enough Indian parts to keep all the Indians in the world running for the next 2000 years.”
The old‑time motordrome rider, the flat tracker who showed numerous competitors the hind end of an Indian through a haze of dust and castor oil, exudes confidence that the American Indian Motorcycle, indeed, will live on for 2000 years and that he’ll be around to try for 3000.

The boast is brash. The boast is Sam Pierce. He will turn out 300 American Indian Motorcycles at $1000 per copy.
Even in the shadow of the full‑to‑bursting parts warehouse, the incubator of the new American Indian Super Scout, Sam Pierce, now 54 years of age, is forced into this admission: “I can’t go on forever.”

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