Indian Motorcycles

The first Indian motorcycles were produced in 1901 in Springfield in Massachusetts by Hendee Manufacturing Company. In 1923 the name was changed to Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company. The Indian motorbikes were impressive from the start, but, by taking the first three places in the 1911 Isle of Man TT, popularity soared, and Indian became the most popular motorcycle brand in the world. The most desirable models were the Scout, made from ’22 to ’53. After that, the Indian Company closed its doors and a few attempts to revive it failed until Polaris Industries took over and have successfully launched new models without compromising the iconic style everyone had come to love.

Initially, the prototypes were produced with a 1.75 bhp single-cylinder motor which proved successful, and the bikes became many sorts after. With Oscar Hedstrom in the saddle, the world speed record of 56mph was achieved and production in the first decade of the 1900s, 500 units per year, and, with the excellent reputation they had earned, the production had risen to over 32 000 per year by 1913!

In 1905 the V-twin was produced and with this motor Indian made inroads into racing, and many records were broken. In 1907, the designs made for the racer and the V-Twin were passed onto the road bikes, which also had twist-grip controls. Erwin Baker rode an Indian across America in 1914, in just over eleven and a half days. He also toured the Powerplus which hit the road in 1916. The Powerplus was side-valve twin with a 1000cc capable of nearly 100kph. Jake DeRosier won over 900 races in the USA and Great Britain.

In 1916 Indian brought out a 221cc single-cylinder, two-stroke which was called the Model K Featherweight, but this was superseded in 1917 by their Model O which was a four-stroke flat twin with a newly designed frame, and this was produced until 1919. When the US Army bought nearly all of Indian’s production, there were not enough bikes to supply the public, and many Indian supporters changed to other bikes, mainly Harley-Davidson. Due to the Indian never fully recovered its market share.

Popular Models

In early 1920 to 1949, the new Scout and the Chief became the most famous Indians. In 1930 Indian combined with DuPont Motors – car manufacturers who discontinued cars and concentrated on the bikes. These models had the iconic Indian war bonnet on the fuel tanks. Sales increased until 1940 when Indian production nearly equalled the opposition, Harley-Davidson. The Scout reached its 100th anniversary and is still a winner. The Chief, the Scouts big brother, was built until Indian closed down in 1953. It was the basis of the 340-B, a machine with a sidecar, which was designed for the army who ordered 3000 and the French Army received 5000 before being overrun by the Germans. After the Second World War, the only model being produced was the Chief. At this stage, before closing down, Indian also went into other products such as aircraft engines, bicycles and air conditioners.

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