The History of Indian

The Indian Motorcycle Company of America was formed from the merger of nine companies, including IMCOA Licensing America Inc., which had been awarded the Indian trademark by the Federal District Court of Colorado, and California Motorcycle Company (CMC), an existing motorcycle fabricator. The new company began manufacturing motorcycles badged under the famous ‘Indian’ name in 1999 at the former CMC’s facilities in Gilroy, California. These motorcycles are often referred to as ‘Gilroy Indian’ motorcycles. The first model was a new design called the Chief. Scout and Spirit models were also manufactured starting in 2001. These bikes were initially made with off-the-shelf S&S engines, but used the all-new 100cubic inch Powerplus engine design from 2002 to 2003. The company went into bankruptcy again in late 2003, after a major investor backed out.

On July 20, 2006, the newly formed Indian Motorcycle Company, owned largely by Stellican Limited, a London-based private equity firm, announced its new home in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, where it has restarted the Indian motorcycle brand. The new Indian Chief motorcycles are produced in limited numbers, with the focus on outstanding quality, performance, and exclusivity. The limited production 2009 Indian Chief features a redesigned 105 cubic inch (1,720 cc) Powerplus V-Twin powertrain with electronic closed loop sequential port fuel injection. A new charging system provides increased capacity for the EFI.

Engine cylinders are Nikasil plated, eliminating the need for cast-iron liners. A new crankshaft eliminates “scissoring”The exhaust system is a new design with integrated 3-way catalytic converter and heated oxygen sensors. All body parts are e-coated and the frame and swing-arm are e-coated and powder coated for enhanced corrosion protection.

A six-speed transmission delivers power through the belt drive to 16 inch wheels out back. Stopping is achieved via Brembo 4-piston calipers, with 11.5 inch dual rotors at the front. Standard 5.5 US gallon tank helps extend cruising range. Seats are all-leather and built to exacting specifications.

Indian had announced its plan to have 50 dealerships within the US by the end of 2012, 25 of which have already been named. The flagship store, Indian Motorcycle Charlotte, located in Gastonia, North Carolina held its Grand Opening on October 4, 2008. International Dealerships in Canada, France , Japan, Korea, Switzerland, Russia, Monterrey,& Spain are operating with Australia-N. Zealand forecasted to open in 2011.

The Indian Dakota is a “Four” (4 cylinders in-line or “straight 4”) with shaft drive, 5 speeds, disc brakes and electric starting. This machine was designed in Sweden and later refined and put on sale in Britain as the Dakota by a former punk rock star and biker Alan Forbes This modern reincarnation of the fabled Indian Four it has a Volvo car crankshaft con rods & oil pump ( air cooled with performance enhancements) transmission is their own manufacture  and the wheels, differential & shaft drive are BMW motorcycle. Volvo is Swedish and original Indian designer Oscar Hedstrom was from Sweden too. Production of the Dakota began 2000 by “production” is meant built-to-order rather than mass-produced. The Dakota 4 received a very favorable road test review in Classic Bike magazine a few years ago. It was available for sale in the USA (price about $30,000 which was low for a hand assembled machine). It is a genuine Indian since it is a product of Indian Motorcycle Ltd., based in the UK (specifically Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain), which is a different entity than the Indian Motorcycle Company based in King’s Mountain, North Carolina, USA (which was producing the V-twins described above). The US company bought the intellectual property rights from the Gilroy company’s bankruptcy trustee, but these rights do not apply to England.  Click on highlighted  link for more information

On April 19, 2011  Polaris (Victory Motorcycles) announces a takeover of Indian motorcycles with a new range within 12-18 months King’s Mountain plant will be closed down with production moved to Spirit Lake Iowa.Yet another page of Indian History continues stay tuned for future instalments!

The Indian’s That Might Have Been 1949- & How the Indian-Vincent was Resurrected

This story has two beginnings, one in 1949 and one in 1970. We shall start in 1949. I am fortunate to have a copy of the original letter from Ralph Rogers – (Indian Motocycle Co), to Philip Vincent – (Vincent and HRD motorcycles).

Ralph Rogers, manager of the Indian factory in Springfield was met by Philip Vincent in view to Vincent Motorcycles being distributed in the USA by Indian Motocycles. Apparently the two got along very well and in fact a joint proposition was put forward that possibly a Vincent could be made to suit more American tastes. This unbeknown to Vincent would help pull Indian out of a failing sales slump due to their lack of developing an O.H.V. engine to compete with Harley Davidson on more equal terms. For Vincent this would give access to a massive dealer network in which to sell his product including the supply of engine units. Unfortunately for Vincent, he never realised that Indian at this time Indian was close to being broke. Both men seemed happy with this agreement. It was decided two prototype be engineered, one in a standard Indian Chief frame, the Vindian, which much has been written about and the other one to be Vincent framed, the Indian-Vincent, with electrics, converted to left hand gearshift. Not many people realise this model even existed.

Works Build Sheets

In 1949 a crate arrived at Stevenage from Springfield containing a complete Chief. Also included were the relevant bits to make the Indian-Vincent. Phil Irving (an Australian born engineneer, with Vincent) mentions in his autobiography that a machine was taken from the service department F10AB/1/3492 which in fact is a misprint as this was not made till late 1950. The machine used was F10AB/1/2492 and this is easy to prove from the original photos which thanks to todays technology can read the engine number quite clearly. As Phil mentions in his autobiography this eventually became the machine with a Blacknell sidecar attached that he returned to Australia within 1949. It was easy to track the Australian registered number (VIC 53148) and confirm the engine number & I now have a copy of Phil’s original registration certificate dated 07/03/50 (US – 03/07/1950).

The story on the Vindian has been well documented and the photo of Phil Irving astride this machine are common (see below). The Vindian after the photos were taken, the machine was stripped the engine returned to its Vincent frame. The Indian-Vincent assembled with parts Indian supplied from an Indian vertical twin was returned to standard Vincent Series C specs & the parts returned back to Springfield with the remnants of the Vindian . This included a Delco generator and regulator, park light for the front guard off a early version not the famous Indian head type, tailight assembly, base mount chrome G.E headlight, ignition/light switch, stop switch, horn and dipswitch buttons. The machine F10AB/1/2492 in fact was a Series C touring Rapide, so was already fitted with touring mudguards, crashbars (safety bars)wide handlebars and 3.50 x 19 front wheel and 4.00 x 18 rear wheel. As a 1949 model it had a plain motor. This was the transition period between H.R.D and Vincent trademarks and the motor was H.R.D. Ground off crankcases were being used in the mean time so it had a later diecast kick start cover and Vincent timing cover fitted. Surprisingly plain rocker caps were fitted because these were not available at the time. Another strange thing was a handful of engines were manually stamped Vincent, as in America the name and place of origin had to be cast or stamped on the crankcases as well as the manufacturer. An example of this is shown in MPH (Vincent Owners Club Magazine) (see below)

These handful of engines existed between numbers 2000 & 3000 which again proves Phil Irving’s printing error as 3492 was cast Vincent on the crankcase, as shown in the original pictures.

The proposed orders from Indian were 50 Vindians and 20 Indian-Vincents a week. This was a fairly good deal for Vincent but unfortunately never came to fruition. Vincent had in fact bought and ordered the material to produce these machines but never recieved an order from the cash strapped Indian corporation. This put Vincent in a bad position, so bad they were placed in the hands orf the receiver, E.C. Baillie. Meanwhile the photos were taken of the Indian-Vincent. It was close to standard specs but it was not road tested as thoroughly as the Vindian, after the orders were cancelled. Philip Vincent gave orders that the Chief be returned to the Indian Factory complete with it’s original Indian engine and the extra pieces supplied for the Indian-Vincent.

There is speculation that Indian did in fact fit a Vincent engine back in this frame, as at this time Indian started distributing Vincents in America and therefore would have been capable of doing this. In fact this machine still exists and it is now part of the Du Pont family museum, previous owners of the Indian Motocycle Company.Phil Irving left England in October 1949 and brought with him the Indian-Vincent which had been returned to original specs. Phil eventually traded the outfit for a Vauxhall Wyvern car in 1953 and lost contact with the motorcycle. Ironically Vincent was distributed through Indian Sales Corporation in America with a small handfull of agents specializing in servicing & repairs such as Gene Aucott, average Indian franchises had difficulty in repairing complicated & sophisticated European designs unless the were previously trained in such methods therefore sales were never as good as initially expected.

1970 and On.

In 1970, Philip Vincent wrote an article for Motorcycle Sport Quarterly, an American Magazine, titled “The Indian That Might Have Been”. I bought this magazine as I was interested in Vincents and like most people were repulsed by the photo of the Vindian. I wondered why the Indian-Vincent had never been produced. Little of the technical specs were available but detailed shots of both sides of the two machines were included.

I bought a Vincent motorcycle in pieces that had been raced in it’s earlier years. It was basically all there and I remember thinking how much trouble someone must have gone to make up a die to stamp VINCENT on the crankcases as it was an excellent job. I was also amazed that the pictures in Motorcycle Sport Quarterly of the Indian-Vincent’s crankcase were stamped in the same manner. Months later in an article in M.P.H., the Vincent Owners Club magazine, I discovered that it was in fact a factory modification used on engines numbered between 2000-3000.I contacted Robin Vincent-Day, Philip Vincent’s son-in-law as he was advertising a Indian-Vincent tank decal and I asked him to send a photo. I also asked if he could send me any information about this little known Vincent. Robin was very helpful and in fact sent me not only the information but also four previously unpublished photos of the left hand and front shots of the Indian-Vincent. At this time, I casually mentioned the way the Vincent crankcase was stamped in the photos was the same as the machine I had. Could it be possibly be the same one? I told him of the numbers on my engine and he then sent me blow-ups of the crankcase numbers in the photos. We were utterly amazed when they turned out to be the same number. I remember running out to the garage as the enlarged photo came up on my computer screen checking and rechecking that the numbers were in fact the same. I am indebted to Robin and Deidre Vincent-Day for the help in confirming the history of my bike.This news put me into a dilemma as to how to restore the bike. I had two options. I could build, a Indian-Vincent or restore it to Phil Irving’s original outfit of a touring Rapide with Blacknell sidecar.

I decided Phil’s outfit would look just like any other Vincent with a Blacknell sidecar attached so this left the only option, to restore this piece of Indian history.When I was about half way through the restoration, the gear change conversion had proved to be tricky. The brake swap was achieved by using a Vincent Comet brake cable and the generator conversion by jack-shaft is strange. The ignition/light switch mounted in the centre of the handlebars is very weird considering it is a Lucas magneto, the taillight is a real bolt-on after thought and I can see why those lugs were cast but never used on the Girdraulic forks for the headlight, this is the lug used on the Indian application. I had to find a Blacksmith to fabricate the mount for the headlight. The horn mounts on the engine where the coil fits on a Series D. Pictures show the battery as a block of wood as apparently Indian never sent one of their batteries to Vincent. I have fitted 12v battery with the modified battery carrier for 21st century use.

Now you may ask would it have saved Indian. Well it would have had to have more development on the gear-change. The bike never had a formal road test like the Vindian because it did not change gears very well as the factory engineered it, the trouble to make it a R/hand rear brake to suit Indian Owners was not worth all the effort. The gear-change lever had about 5″ of lever movement throughout it’s arc, now I have halved this with rose joints instead of clevi’s that Vincent originally used. The original lash-up the factory used for the generator in the factory photos show the generator belt loose on the pulleys so I fitted a modern multi groove belt which works very well. The electrical system is now 12 volt instead of 6 volt. As previously mentioned the factory fitted a block of wood which was neither voltage.I think Indian did the right thing in the end by just importing standard Vincents. The Indian-Vincent would have been still unfamiliar to the traditional Chief/Scout owner.Possibly for Vincent it was easier to sell complete machines which would have been cheaper to produce than a hybrid of both manufacturers, but Vincent would have benefited more than Indian overall.”

Phil Pilgrim