Post 1953 Indian Motocycle History

Since the 1953 closure of the Indian Motocycle factory in Springfield , Massachusetts numerous motorcycles have worn the Indian name plate. Here is a brief history with photos.


Royal Enfield Indians

Among the first motorcycles to wear the Indian name, that weren't built in Springfield, were the Royal Enfield / Indian models. The subject of Indian's demise and how an English company came to own the venerable marque is a topic that can not be adequately addressed in this brief overview. Harry Sucher's book the Iron Redskin covers the events in depth that led to Indian's hostile takeover. Also the Indian Motorcycle Buyer's Guide by Jerry Hatfield ( MBI publications 800-826-6600 ) has a chapter about these imported Indians. Basically, after Brockhouse Lmtd took over Indian , they closed the Springfield factory, imported Royal Enfields with Indian badges, and sold them through the Indian dealer network. An excellent website devoted to the Royal Enfield / Indians is at the Enfield Archive. Here is an example of a 1959 chief from that site. This is the 1955 Indian / Enfield sales brochure page 1, page 2, and page 3.

Brockhouse also introduced this little scooter with the Indian badge on it, called the Papoose ( front and side ). While this machine sold well in England , this was not the case in the US. These photos were copied from the now defunct Indian Motorcycle Illustrated magazine May 1995. Back issues may still be available from TAM Communications at phone # 203-425-8777.

This is an Indian-Matchless ad from around the late 1950s.

Here is a site with some info about the Enfield - Indians.

This site has an excellant post 1953 history

Look here for Enfield Indian and Clymer Indian Parts and History


Around 1949 Indian also sold this Briggs and Stratton powered scooter called the StyleMaster. It was actually built by Lowther Mfg. of Joliette, Illinios. They also offered a Spartan and a Vagabond model. They did not sell well and are rarely seen today. This photo is from the Spring 1993 issue of Indian Motorcycle Illustrated magazine.


Sam Pierce

Here is a front and rear photo of a Pierce Shop t-shirt courtesy of Doug Burnett.

This is a Sam Pierce "Super Scout" sales brochure, ( front and rear ), also from the Doug Burnett Collection. These are some of the Scouts shown on the inside of the brochure. # 1 right and left, # 2 right and left .


The Floyd Clymer Indian

During the 1960s, magazine publisher Floyd Clymer owned the rights to the Indian name. His attempts to revive the Indian marque included arrangements with Royal Enfield and Velocette. Both the Indian Velo 500 (see below) and the Indian Royal Enfield 750 were produced in late 69 and 70. The 500cc bikes have production figures of less than 200 and the 750cc models may be less than 75. Cycle World editor, David Edwards, sent the following information on a late-'60s prototype using a German Horex 500cc vertical-Twin. "Like the Velo and Enfield Indians that Floyd Clymer had built, this cycle used Italjet running gear. Far as I know, only a couple of these were built and the model never actually entered production. (A Norton prototype was tried, too)".

Floyd Clymer's one-of-a-kind prototype 1967 Indian Papoose Electric cycle is on display at the Starklite Museum in Perris, California.


The Velocette Indian

This photo was submitted by proud owner Dr Jerry Schreiber. It is the Indian Velo 500 which was manufactured during 1969 and 1970. Only 140 of them reached the states and 50 stayed in UK. The Indian Velo 500 was a hybrid composed of a Velo Thruxton engine and an Italian frame, wheels, brakes, etc. It was a single (thumper) and the brainchild of Floyd Clymer (Less than 200 were produced.) He also produced the same bike with a 750 twin Royal Enfield engine which was even more rare.


The 2 Stroke Imports

1971 -1976

Alan Newman purchased Clymer's business from Floyd's widow and imported 2 stroke bikes while affixing the Indian name to them. According to Bob Stark, "Newman established a manufacturing plant in Tawain. Most of the engines were imported from Ital-Jet in Italy. One model used a Japenese type Hodaka engine. Chassis were built in Tawain for most models. Some were simply Ital-Jets with the Indian name and were entirely built in Italy. The company filed bankruptcy around 1976. " I found 13 different models illustrated in a 1975 Motorcycle Buyer's Guide published by Petersen Publishing Co. They range in size from 50 to 175cc. Here are two examples.

Indian JC5A and specs

Indian ME125 and specs

Dsntcmpute's website states  "Los Angeles attorney Alan Newman,acquired rights to the Indian name and continued importing minicycles made by ItalJet.Thinking big,Newman plans his own cycle plant,larger 125/175cc models and possible 400cc units come 1973/74.His assembly plant wound up in Taipei Taiwan,and 70/75/80/100/125/175cc engines would be imported.Japan (Fuji) supplied the 100cc engines (Morini 100s during the Clymer days),70/75/80/125/175s were courtesy of Minarelli in Italy.ItalJet models (MM5A,M5A,JC5A) used Italian Morini powerplants.Nothing larger than 175s were made,save for one 1000cc prototype Indian that was based heavily on a Ducati.It was merely for show,as Indians fortunes by 1975 were dwindling.1976 was a year of restyling for 100-175 models,however sales kept dropping and Newman bowed out.The word came out in Jan,1977:The Indian Motorcycle Company was done."

American Moped Associates 1977 - 1982

Around 1977 American Moped Associates purchased the Indian trademark from bankruptcy court for $10,000. They then proceeded to have 50cc 4 stroke mopeds built in China. Much to the dismay of loyal Indian fans, these bikes were marketed as the "Indian Four ". EZRYDRTN@aol.com sent in this photo of his 1979 Indian Moped.

Paul writes "American Moped Associates had planned a 2-speed transmission for the 1981 redesigned INDIAN mopeds,but it never came to be. American sold out to Carmen Deleone and his DMCA (Derbi) group in 1982. I dont understand why American sold out in the first place...as they were always touting being completely sold-out of machines all the time. They made it sound like INDIAN mopeds were kicking it all over Puch, Motobecane...etc. When in fact,they must have been a hard sell. The tumultuous 1970s saw INDIAN affixed on Italian mini bikes, Taiwanese dirt bikes and then Taiwanese mopeds....the long time "hardcore" 50s INDIAN fan must have been totally dismayed at all the activity. Deleone only bought American Moped out for the use of the INDIAN name, as the mopeds were sold down and not produced. Plans for a new INDIAN moped and full size INDIAN (for 84) failed miserably. Only a few Manco go carts were sold with INDIAN "4-stroke" stickers affixed. Then the name was sold off to an "interest" who wanted to bring in Portugese NATO 4x4 trucks....with the project "INDIAN" name. Thank goodness that failed to surface... "


Carmen de Leone

Carmen Deleone bought the company in 1982 and placed the Indian name on Manco Go-Karts.


1990s Revival Motorcycles

During the 1990s there several attempts to revive the Indian name. Their success ranged from just selling Indian apparel, to producing a proto-type motorcycle with a mockup wooden engine. Finally in December 1998 a Federal bankruptcy court in Denver, Colorado consolidated the North American claims to the Indian name, and it appears at this writing that an Indian motorcycle will be available for sale in 1999.

Here are a couple photos of the wooden engine bike gleaned from the now defunct Indian Motorcycle Illustrated magazine. The entrepreneur behind this attempt was Wayne Baughman. Here are two photos of his Century Chief side view and rear view

Another attempt during 1998 was by the Eller Group. Here is a photo of their prototype from the right and left sides.

There is a V-8 Indian motorcycle currently being built in Germany by a company that holds the rights to the name in that country. Here is what that bike looks like. You can visit their web site at http://www.indian.de/

This is the 1999 Indian that was marketed by IMCOA, a partnership of a Canadian company and several American companies. It is powered by an S&S v-twin engine.
Update June 2001........Here are two spy photos of the prototype engine for the Gilroy Indian from the July 2001 issue of Thunder Press newspaper. Notice the rounded cylinders and the left sided carb.
Update September 19, 2004  At 2:15 on Friday 9/19/04, Indian CEO Lou Terhar, called a meeting of Indian's 300 employees in the factory's courtyard in Gilroy. He stated Indian was out of money, and that Indian Motorcycle was ceasing operations. The employees were then escorted back into the building in small groups, to pick up their personal belongings. The local newspaper, the Gilroy Dispatch, chronicled the ongoing events over the next several months. Click here to read Peter Crowley's ongoing coverage.

Kawasaki  introduced two new 1999 models using their V-twin engine. The US version is called the Drifter 1500. The bike is liquid cooled, with digital fuel injection and ignition, hydraulic valves, shaft drive, 5 speed, and gear driven balancer. There is an 800cc version also. Here is Tod Campbell's 800cc Drifter (Photo 1 and 2 ) that is customized to look more ike an Indian.

The new Viking in-line four being built in Sweden (home of Oscar Hedstrom). Visit their website at http://www.wikingmotorcycles.com/

The Tomahawk, anew OHV Indian top end developed in Australia in 1999.

Parker Indian's New Apache motorcycle from Australia


Prototypes & Specials

In the years since the Springfield factory closed there have been many prototypes and special one-of-a-kind Indian motorcycles built. Here is a sampling of them. If anyone has any photos to ad to this collection, please send me a copy.

This 1960 Indian Matchless with 1947 Chief Engine is possibly a factory prototype or a factory back door machine. photos # 3 and # 4. This bike is owned by Indian Don.

Here is a very interesting bike I found in Petersens 1975 Buyers Guide. It is called the Indian 900. Looks like a Ducati engine to me, although Ducati only offered a 750cc bike that year. The specs for this bike are vague.

Luigi Rivola the editor in chief of www.motonline.com  emailed the following info regarding the Ducati-Indian prototype in May 2004.
 "In 1975, Ducati produced a 860 twin, and that is exactly the engine of the bike that I saw for the first time your pages.
But it was not the only prototype built with the name Indian on the tank and the Ducati engine.
Floyd Clymer in the seventies was friend of italian Leopoldo Tartarini, boss of Italjet Motorcycles in Bologna.
I know very well Tartarini ( I saw him few days ago) and I remember that in the second half of the seventies I went to Italjet and I asked Tartarini what he was going to show in the next Milano International Motorcycle Exhibition. He showed me a picture of a special Ducati 500 parallel twin. I asked him: "May I publish it?". "Yes - he answered - but you must put on the tank the name Indian, because this will be sold with this name".
So I changed the name in my dark room...
Never did see one later... but it was really fine and for sure finer then the Ducati original model. I suppose that also the Indian Ducati 900 was designed by Leopoldo Tartarini, as well as Velocete and Royal Enfield."

This next bike is owned by James Clark. It is a Chief engine in a AJS frame. Here is the story he got when he purchased the bike in 1998. "This was an attempt by someone at Indian to modernize the Chief. I don't know if this work was done inside Indian or by someone outside the company during off hours. I can testify that the work is flawless and was performed by someone with an engineering background. It's one of a kind." I found another AJS/Indian hybrid in my files which was identified as built in 1957. I don't know if this is the same bike or not.

Here is a four cylinder prototype ( left and right ) that was developed during the 1940s using Indian's modular Torque engine. A variation of the engine did see production in the form of the single cylinder Arrow, and the vertical twin Scout and Warrior. This machine is owned by Dr. John Patt of Pennsylvania. The photo is from Buzz Kanter's book "Indian Motorcycles".


Customs

Here are three photos 1, 2, 3  of a Simplex / Indian custom built by Bob Decker who wrote "The scooter came to be when I noticed that the Simplex frame and gas tank profile resembled the Indian profile. We stretched the frame 1.75 inches in front and 3.25 inches in the rear for a total wheelbase of 53 inches . Wheels are 18X3.  For fenders we rolled 4 inch tubing to wheel circumference, cut out the bottoms and welded in 16 GA skirts. The leaf spring is from a snow mobile. The 6 HP OHV Tecumseh engine fits the frame well without modification and it's slant design allows a low center of gravity. It is compatible with a Comet TAV Torque Converter which offers a wide range of ratios. We used stainless exhaust and Indian colors. The scooter is not for sale and I don't intend to build another one.

Although actually pre-1953, these magazine covers show some other uses for which Indian motorcycle engines were employed. Here are the covers of the June 1950 issue and the July 1951 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine featuring an Indian powered Midget Racer.

This is another pre-1953 use of an Indian engine. The Model B Eliason Motor Toboggan, ( photographed at Kiwi Indian, Ca.), was manufactured in the 1940s with an Indian engine. Cindy from the All American Indian Motorcycle Club contributed the following descriptive article from the Jan-Feb 1945 Indian Motorcycle News pages 1, 2, and 3 and the cover of the Nov-Dec 1944 Indian Motorcycle News featuring the Toboggan.

I first saw this six cylinder Indian cycle at Daytona in 1997.  Herb Ottaway built this six cylinder, 80hp Indian Six back in 1959.  As you can imagine it took two Indian 4s to make this bikes.  The photo was submitted in April 2001 by Herb's nephew Dennis Nelson who wrote,  "The bike was able to do 130mph. It has Harley front forks, wheels, fenders and seat.  It is also equiped with a radio, speedometer, ammeter, tachometer, hours meter, manfold pressure gauge, oil temperature and pressure gauge.  Mr Ottaway was my uncle by marriage . He owned a large amusement park in Wichita Kansas called Joyland, and it had all kinds of rides and live steam trains. He's still alive and has a machine shop and motor cycle museum. Nice guy. I was born and raised in Dodge city Kansas, where they had the longest held (in a row) dirt track races in the world. I moved from their in the 70,s and I believe they stoped having  them shortly after that.  I rode the wall of death when I was 14 yrs old.  No big deal, my brother did it when he was 12."

This is another unusual contraption I came across on that Daytona trip. A one wheel Indian drag bike. The driver perches on the rear skid and two bikes race each other. The "drag strip" is about 100 feet long with hay bales dividing the two lanes. I believe one wheel drag bike racing is an East Coast phenomenon, as I have never seen it out here in California.


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