The "Indian Motocycle Co." was
founded as the Hendee Manufacturing Company
by George M. Hendee and Carl Oscar Hedström.
Both Hendee and Hedström were former bicycle
racers who teamed up to produce a motorcycle
with a 1.75 bhp, single cylinder engine in Hendee's
home town of Springfield. The bike was successful
and sales increased dramatically during the
1901, Prototype and two production
units successfully designed, built and tested.
Work began on these in previous years. 1902,
First Indian motorcycles, featuring innovative
belt-drives and streamlined styling, sold to
public. 1903 Indian co-founder and chief engineer
Oscar Hedstrom sets world motorcycle speed record
In 1904, the so-called diamond
framed Indian Single, whose engine was built
by the Aurora Firm in Illinois, was made available
in the deep red color that would become Indian's
trademark. By now, the production was up to
over 500 bikes annually and would rise to its
best ever 32,000 in 1913.
In 1907, Indian built its first
V-twin, and in following years made a strong
showing in racing and record-breaking. One of
the firm's most famous riders was Erwin "Cannonball"
Baker, who set many long-distance records. In
1914, he rode an Indian across America, from
San Diego to New York, in a record 11 days,
12 hours and ten minutes. Baker's mount in subsequent
years was the Powerplus, a side-valve V-Twin,
which was introduced in 1916. Its 61ci (1000
cc), 42 degree V-twin engine was more powerful
and quieter than previous designs, giving a
top speed of 60 mph (96 km/h). The Powerplus
was highly successful, both as a roadster and
as the basis for racing bikes. It remained in
production with few changes until 1924.
Competition success played a big
part in Indian's rapid growth and spurred technical
innovation, as well. One of the American firm's
best early results came in the Isle of Man TT
in 1911, when Indian riders Godfrey, Franklin
and Moorehouse finished first, second and third.
Indian star Jake De Rosier set several speed
records both in America and at Brooklands in
England, and won an estimated 900 races on dirt
and board track racing. He left Indian for Excelsior
and died in 1913, aged 33, of injuries sustained
in a board track race crash with Charles "Fearless"
Balke, who later became Indian's top rider.
Work at the Indian factory was stopped while
De Rosier's funeral procession passed.
Oscar Hedstrom left Indian in
1913 after disagreements with the Board of Directors
regarding dubious practices to inflate the company's
stock values. George Hendee resigned in 1916.
Inter-war era - Scouts,
Chiefs, and Fours
The Scout and Chief V-twins, introduced
in the early 1920s, became the Springfield firm's
most successful models. Designed by Charles
B. Franklin, the middleweight Scout and larger
Chief shared a 42 degree V twin engine layout.
Both models gained a reputation for strength
and reliability, which led to the old Indian
saying: "You can't wear out an Indian Scout,
or its brother the Indian Chief. They are built
like rocks to take hard knocks; it's the Harleys
that cause grief."
In 1930 Indian merged with duPont
Motors. duPont Motors founder E. Paul DuPont
ceased production of duPont automobiles and
concentrated the company's resources on Indian.duPont's
paint industry connections resulted in no fewer
than 24 color options being offered in 1934.
Models of that era featured Indian's famous
head-dress logo on the gas tank. Indian's huge
Springfield factory was known as the Wigwam,
and native American imagery was much used in
In 1940, Indian sold nearly as
many motorcycles as its major rival, Harley-Davidson.
At the time, Indian represented the only true
American-made heavyweight cruiser alternative
During this time, the company
also manufactured other products such as aircraft
engines, bicycles, boat motors and air conditioners.
The first 1922 model Chief had
a 1000 cc (61ci) engine based on that of the
Powerplus; a year later the engine was enlarged
to 1200 cc (73ci). Numerous improvements were
made over the years, including adoption of a
front brake in 1928.
In 1940, all models were fitted
with the large skirted fenders that became an
Indian trademark, and the Chief gained a new
sprung frame that was superior to rival Harley's
unsprung rear end. The 1940s Chiefs were handsome
and comfortable machines, capable of 85 mph(136
km/h) in standard form and over 100 mph (160
km/h) when tuned, although their increased weight
In 1950, the V-Twin engine was
enlarged to 1300 cc (80ci) and telescopic forks
were adopted. But Indian's financial problems
meant that few bikes were built, and production
of the Chief ended in 1953.
The Indian Scout rivaled the Chief
as Indian's most important model. The Scout
was introduced in 1920 with a 596 cc (37ci)
engine. The engine size was increased to 745
cc (45ci) in 1927 in response to the popularity
of the Excelsior Super X. The most famous version
was the 101 Scout of 1928, which featured improved
handling from a new, lower frame.
In 1932, cost cutting led to the
Scout's using the heavier Chief frame, which
was less successful.The negative reaction to
this Scout led to the creation of the Sport
Scout of 1934, with a light frame, Girder forks,
improved carburation and alloy cylinder heads.The
Sport Scout won the first Daytona 200 in 1937.
Many Scouts were used in the Second
World War, but the model was dropped when the
civilian production restarted in 1946. In 1948,
Indian built just 50 units of the Daytona Sports
Scout, one of which took Floyd Emde to victory
in that year's Daytona 200 mile (322 km) race.
Smaller 500 cc (30.5ci) Scouts
were also built between 1932 and 1941, known
as the Scout Pony, Junior Scout and Thirty-Fifty.
Indian purchased the ownership
of the name, rights, and production facilities
of the Ace Motor Corporation in 1927. Production
was moved to Springfield and the motorcycle
was marketed as the Indian Ace for one year.
In 1928, the Indian Ace was replaced
by the Indian 401, a development of the Ace
designed by Arthur O. Lemon, former Chief Engineer
at Ace, who was employed by Indian when they
bought Ace. The Ace's leading-link forks and
central coil spring were replaced by Indian's
trailing-link forks and quarter-elliptic leaf
By 1929, the Indian 402 would
have a stronger twin-downtube frame based on
that of the 101 Scout and a sturdier five-bearing
crankshaft than the Ace, which had a three-bearing
Despite the low demand for luxury
motorcycles during the Depression, Indian not
only continued production of the Four, but continued
to develop the motorcycle. One of the less popular
versions of the Four was the "upside down" engine
on the 1936-37 models. While earlier (and later)
Fours had IOE (inlet over exhaust) cylinder
heads with overhead inlet valves and side exhaust
valves, the 1936-37 Indian Four had a unique
EOI cylinder head, with the positions reversed.
In theory, this would improve fuel vaporization.
In practice, it made the cylinder head, and
the rider's inseam, very hot. Dual carburetors,
fitted in 1937, did not help. The design was
returned to the original configuration in 1938.
Like the Chief, the Four was given
large, skirted fenders and plunger rear suspension
in 1940. In 1941, the 18" wheels of previous
models were replaced with 16" wheels with balloon
The Indian Four was discontinued
World War II
Chiefs, Scouts, and Junior Scouts
were all used for various purposes by the United
States Army in World War II. However, none of
these could unseat the Harley-Davidson WLA as
the motorcycle mainly used by the Army.
During World War II, the US Army
requested experimental motorcycle designs suitable
for desert fighting. In response to this request,
Indian designed and built the 841.
The Indian 841 was heavily inspired
by the BMW R71 motorcycle used by the German
Army at the time, as was its competitor, the
Harley-Davidson XA. However, unlike the XA,
the 841 was not a copy of the R71. Although
its tubular frame, plunger rear suspension,
and shaft drive were similar to the BMW's, the
841 was different from the BMW in several aspects,
most noticeably so with its 90-degree longitudinal-crankshaft
V-twin engine and girder fork.
The Indian 841 and the Harley-Davidson
XA were both tested by the Army, but neither
motorcycle was adopted for wider military use.
It was determined that the Jeep was more suitable
for the roles and missions for which these motorcycles
had been intended.
Post-war - decline and
In 1945, a group headed by Ralph
B. Rogers purchased a controlling interest of
the company. On November 1, 1945, duPont formally
turned the operations of Indian over to Rogers.
Under Rogers' control, Indian
discontinued the Scout and began to manufacture
lightweight motorcycles such as the 149 Arrow,
the Super Scout 249, both introduced in 1949,
and the 250 Warrior, introduced in 1950.These
bikes suffered from poor quality and a lack
Production of traditional Indians
was extremely limited in 1949, and no 1949 Chiefs
are known to exist.
Manufacture of all products was
halted in 1953. Brockhouse Engineering and Royal
Enfield bikes were imported from England and
badged and sold as Indians through the rest
of the 1950s. After this the Indian name passed
to the company that imported Matchless motorcycles
into the US, however it did not attach the name
to any motorcycles, and it went into liquidation
From the 1960s entrepreneur Floyd
Clymer began using the Indian name, apparently
without purchasing it from the last known legitimate
trademark holder. He attached it to imported
motorcycles, commissioned to Italian ex-pilot
and engineer Leopoldo Tartarini, owner of Italjet
Moto , to manufacture Minarelli-engined 50cc
minibikes under the Indian Papoose name. These
were so successful that Clymer also commissioned
Tartarini to build full-size Indian motorcycles
based on the Italjet Grifon design, but fitted
firstly with Royal Enfield Interceptor 750cc
parallel-twin engines, then with Velocette 500cc
After Clymer's death in 1970 his
widow sold the alleged Indian trademark to Los
Angeles attorney Alan Newman, who continued
to import minicycles made by ItalJet, and later
manufactured in a wholly owned assembly plant
located in Taipei (Taiwan). Several models with
engine displacement between 50cc and 175cc were
produced, mostly fitted with Italian two-stroke
engines made either by Italjet or Franco Morini,
but the fortunes of this venture didn't last
long. By 1975 sales were dwindling, and in January
1977 the company was declared bankrupt. The
right to the brand name passed through a succession
of owners and became a subject of competing
claims in the 1980s, finally decided in December
1998 by a Federal bankruptcy court in Denver,
Gilroy Indian Motorcycle
A new company with facilities
in Gilroy, California began manufacturing motorcycles
badged under the famous "Indian" name in 1999
after purchase of the Indian trademark. These
motorcycles are often referred to as "Gilroy
Indian" motorcycles. The model was based around
a newer version of the Chief. Scout and Spirit
models were also manufactured starting in 2001.
These bikes were made from off-the-shelf S&S
engines, after the completion of an all-new
engine design that ran from 2002 to 2003, the
100ci Powerplus, the company succumbed to bankruptcy
again in late 2003, after a major investor backed
New Indian Motorcycle
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 plans to resurrect
the iconic Indian Motorcycle Brand (refer to
the "July 20, 2006 - Press Release - Indian
Motorcycle Company Announces New Home"on the
official website). New Indian has goals of producing
a new Chief using a modern fuel-injected 100ci
V-Twin engine which they are building in-house.
The new Chief will have the classic valanced
fenders. However, New Indian plans to offer
several variations of the Chief including a
more modern style without the valanced fenders.
New Indian also plans on offering an accessory
line for both the New Indian and the Gilroy
Indian motorcycles built from 1999 to 2003.