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Classic Vintage Motorcycles: Indian

Vintage 1915 Indian Twin 1000

The Indian Motorcycle Company

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The "Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company" was founded in 1901 by George M. Hendee (1866—1943) and Swedish emigrant Carl Oscar Hedstršm (1880—1960), Both Hedstršm and Hendee had begun with the "Hendee Manufacturing Company" which produced bicycles in Springfield, Massachusetts, and both men had a background in bicycle racing, which led to their mutual interest in the motor-driven bicycle.

Indian was the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world during the early part of the 20th century, and the "Indian" brand was America's oldest motorcycle company, until its demise in 2003.

1906 Indian 'Camel Back IOE Single
Zoom: 1906 Indian 'Camel Back' IOE Single

The company built its first production motorcycle in 1904, the diamond framed "Indian Single." The engine for the Indian Single was built by Aurora in Illinois. The Indian Single's deep red color became a signature of the brand. The single-cylinder motor was modeled after the de Dion-Bouton vŽlocipde engine, which produced 1.75-horsepower. The Indian Single could reach a top speed of 25 miles per hour.

1911 Indian 580cc TT Racer
1911 Indian 580cc TT Racer

1915 Indian Twin 1000cc with side car
1915 Indian Twin 1000cc with side car

Indian built its first V-twin engine in 1907. In 1916, Indian added the so-called "Powerplus" 1000 cc engine, which was a side-valve, 42 degree v-twin that was capable of a 60 mph top speed.

1914  Indian Twin 1000cc Motor
1914 Indian Twin 1000cc Motor

1914 Model F Boardtrack Racer Motor
1914 Indian Model F Boardtrack Racer - 30.50ci IOE Engine

Both of the principles left the company early in its history. Oscar Hedstršm resigned in 1913 after disagreements with the Board of Directors, and George Hendee resigned three years later.

1914 Indian Twin Speedometer
1914 Indian Twin Speedometer

1915 Indian Twin Speedometer
1915 Indian Twin Speedometer

1915 Indian Twin Throttle Linkage
1915 Indian Twin Throttle Linkage - Zoom

The Indian Four (1928 to 1943)

The 'Indian Four' began production in 1928 with the Model 401. The Indian 401 Four had an longitudinally-mounted 1265cc inline four-cylinder IOE, or "Inlet Over Exhaust" engine design that produced around 30 horsepower. In the 1936 to 1937 models, Indian changed the engine design to an "EOI," or "exhaust over inlet" cylinder head configuration. The EOI models produced around 40 horsepower, but Indian returned to the IOE design in 1938.

1940 Indian Four
1940 Indian Four Inline-Four

The design and layout of the Four's unique powerplant was the natural result of Indian's purchase of the Ace Motor Corporation in 1927. The experimental four-cylinder motorcycle engines that were created by Ace founder William G. Henderson, and designer Arthur O. Lemon were legendary for their high performance and technological advancements. The Indian Four's were known for their smooth, car-like power delivery and sound.

William Henderson was also the founder of the American Henderson Motorcycle Company and its Model F and Model G inline-fours, although Henderson was purchased by Ignaz Schwinn in 1917, and discontinued by Schwinn in 1931. After Indian purchased Ace, designer Arthur Lemon went to work for Indian developing the Indian Ace 934, and Indian 401/402 models.

1941 Indian Four IOE Engine
1941 Indian Four 1265cc IOE Engine

With its elegant skirted fenders and long wheelbase, the Indian Four was an large, and expensive bike by current standards, limiting its marketablility. 1943 was the Indian Four's last year of production.

The Indian 841 (1920 to 1945)

The 750cc Indian 841 'Military' version was a somewhat revolutionary departure for the American company. Designed for the US Army during WWII, its 90¼ V-twin engine was transverse-mounted, similar to the Moto Guzzi V-twin engine layout.

The overall design of the 841 was derivative of the German Army's BMW R71 transverse-mounted 'boxer' engine, which also influenced the transverse-mounted 1942 Harley Davidson XA 750. Very few models of the 841 were built, making them extreamly rare collector bikes.

Indian Chief (1922 to 1953)

The Indian Chief began production in 1922, and by 1923 the Chief was fitted with a 1200cc Powerplus engine. The Chief's signature 'skirted fenders' were added in 1940, and along with the fringed saddle, they became symbolic design features of the "Indian" brand.

1947 Indian Chief
Zoom: 1947 Indian Chief 1200cc V-Twin Engine

The Indian Chief was discontinued in the late 40s, brought back by popular demand, then discontinued again when all Indian production was terminated in 1953.

1953 Indian Chief Police Special
Zoom: 1953 Indian Chief Roadmaster Police Special

Indian Scout (1920 to 1945)

The Indian Scout was introduced in 1920, having a 596cc engine which was later upped to a 750cc version. From 1920 to the mid 1940s the Scout was one of Indian's best selling models, but production was discontinued in 1946.

1928 Indian 101 Scout
Zoom: 1928 Indian 101 Scout

The Scout was designed by Charles B. Franklin, Indian's Isle of Man winner in 1911, and the Scout was known for its lighter weight and nimble handling.

1948 Indian Big Base 648 Scout
Zoom: 1948 Indian Big Base 648 Scout

1948 Indian Big Base 750
1948 Indian Big Base 750

Indian Arrow (1945 to 1953)

In another controversial departure for the company, Indian discontinued the popular selling 436cc Scout V-twin, for a smaller single-cylinder motorcycle called the "Arrow." The Arrow had a 218cc OHV engine, which was not well received by Indian's larger-displacement V-twin loyalists.

Throughout the late 1940s, and early 1950s a series of unpopular products were introduced under the guidance of Ralph B. Rogers, who purchased controlling interest in the company in 1945. This reversal of direction is attributed to Indian's final demise in 1953.

Vintage Indian Motorcycle Links

Indian Motorcycle - Pride of the American Road

Classic Indian Motorcycles, 1901-1953

Indian Chief Motorcycles 1901-1953

The Indian Classic American Motorcycle

Back To: Vintage Motorcycle Photos

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Books on The Indian Classic American Motorcycle
Standard Catalog of American Motorcycles 1898-1981
Books on How to Restore Your Motorcycle
Books on Vintage Motorcycles
The World's Fastest Indian
Books on Harley Big Twin Motorcycles