Indian Motorcycle History
Check out the timeline below of America's First Motorcycle Company, Indian Motorcycle.
America's First Motorcycle Company.
The Indian Motocycle company was born.
The company is named after the Native Americans, that Christopher Columbus mistakenly called "Indians".
During the nineteenth century, the term "motocycle" was used to describe any motorized vehicle.
Indian Motorcycle was born from the bycyle industry. George Hendee of Hendee Manufacturing Company was a bicycle manufacturing company, which was founded in 1889.
Hendee was a successful in racing bicycles, winning 302 of 309 races. Hendee retired from bicycle racing in 1886 and begin selling bicycles.
In comes Oscar Hedstrom, an apprentice watchmaker, who tinkered with gasoline engines, which led to improvements with internal combustion engines practical. Hedstrom applied his improved engine to a motorcycle to be used as a pacer for bicycle racing in 1899. Hendee saw the potential in mounting an engine of Hedstrom's design into one of his bicycle frames and marketing it to the public as a means of transportation.
Indian Motorcycle History - 1901
Full scale production began at a space on the top floor of a building located at 216 Worthington Street in Springfield Massachusetts and George Hendee called the new motorcycle the Indian, after his popular line of export bicycles. Native American phrases and imagery were very popular at the time within the United States and abroad. Due to the space being inadequate, Indian subcontracted with others to build subassemblies, including the Hedstrom designed engines. By the end of the year, 143 motorcycles were produced.
The production of the Indian Motorcycle more than doubled, reaching 376. The Indian Motorcycle Company was on its way to becoming the largest and most important motorcycle manufacturer in the world. The growth came, in spite that American was flooded with hundreds of motorcycle manufacturers. This year, they saw a couple of young men in Milwaukee build the very first Harley-Davidson motorcycle, creating what would become Indian's biggest rival.
Indian began building its 1907 models in late 1906 in its massive new factory, known as "the Wigwam", located in Springfield Massachusetts. This new factory, over 74,000 square feet gave Indian the capacity to produce its engines in-house. One engine in particular would give Indian a huge advantage over its competition: a V-Twin with the V set at the 42-degree angle, which was introduced for the 1907 model year.
Introduction of the new V-twin, 39 Cubic inches engine which generated five horsepower. At this time, with over 2,176 motorcycles built, Indian was the leading motorcycle brand in America. It was one of the world's premier motorcycle manufacturers. Indian had to compete with local US motorcycle makers, to include builders from around the world. This motivated Indian to take the lead when it came to forward thinking technology.
Indian dominated the world racing, winning the most prestigious race of them all, the Isle of Man Senior Tourist Trophy. By the end of the year, Indian motorcycles had set 121 recognized racing records and sales shot up to 9,763 units.
The sales success of 1912 was nothing compared to the 1913 model year. Indian made improvements to its lineup. Indian painted all of its motorcycles red, which had replaced blue as the standard color. Replacement of the dangerous hand-crank starting system with a kick start system similar to Harley-Davidson "step-starter". 1913, also marked the debut of the cradle-spring frame, which provided the bikes with a rear suspension consisting of a swing arm, damped by leaf-spring mounted behind the seat. The cradle-spring was the last contribution from Oscar Hedstrom. Hedstrom retired on March 1, 1913. On December 1, 1913, Ford Motor Company introduced the world's first moving assembly line for the production of automobiles. This made for a dramatic increase of the company's popular Model T cars. Ford's production jumped to 170,211 units and the price fell to $525.00. This was a problem for Indian, because of the competition now from the automobile manufacturers.
In 1914 sales fell to 25,000 units, and George Hendee retired. Indian fell to 21,000 units. Indian continued to improve its motorcycle. It introduced a bike with an electric generator. This allowed for functional electric lighting system. Indian also introduced a three-speed gearbox, making the bike much more drivable in a wide variety of conditions.
Production increased to 501,462 units and the price of a Model T fell to $345. That same year, the price of a new Indian Motorcycle could exceed $375, depending on the model. Although facing pressure from the automobile industry in 1916, Indian saw its sales and profits improve that year, due to the innovation of a new engine. Experimenting with new cylinder head designs in 1913, the engine could generate more horsepower by squishing the charge of fuel and air toward the side of the engine. These stronger engines were produced in 1916
The Indian Four was a motorcycle built by the Indian Motocycle Company. It was based on the Ace motorcycle, which Indian bought as part of assets of the Ace Motor Corporation in 1927.
Indian purchased the ownership of the name, rights and production facilities of the Ace Motor Corporation. 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. 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 crankshaft
In 1929, the United States fell into the Great Depression, the worst economic calamity in the country's history. This was a difficult period for all motorcycle manufacturers and many didn't survive. Indian would have followed suit, had it not been for the intercession of brothers E. Paul and Francis du Pont who gained a controlling interest in Indian Motorcycles in 1929.
The new oil pump is visible in this illustration, the horizontal tube on the engine case just behind the rear brake level. Such a classic.
By 1933, the world was entering its fourth year of economic chaos, which showed no signs of slowing down. Many manufacturing companies were on the rope. Studebaker filed for bankruptcy that year. Indian survived, but just barely. Under the Hosley-du Pont regime, Indian had made great strides in product improvement and development. Total Indian production feel to 1,667 motorcycles and the factory was operating at just 5 percent of its total production capacity.
In spite of barely being in business, Indian managed to introduce a significant product upgrade for the 1933 model year: recirculating oiling systems.
Indian also brought out a new model: the Motoplane. An inexpensive to produce motorcycle to fill the gap left by the demise of the 101 Scout.
The Indian Motorcycle fenders were introduced across all model lines in 1940 on the Chief, the Four and the Scout. Although those fenders are generally considered iconic now, they were not well received at the time. The valanced fender bikes make up only a very small portion of hundreds of thousands of Indians ever produced. These fenders were used from 1940 through 1942.
War tends to be good for companies that manufacture equipment that can be used as tools of war--and Indian sold 18,428 motorcycles in 1941, the year the United States finally entered the conflict WWII
Indian Motorcycle Factory
The Indian Motorcycle fenders were introduced across the models, Chief, the Four and the Scout. They were introduced in 1940 and were used through 1942.
Although those fenders are considered iconic now, they were not well received at the time. The fact is, that despite their lofty and recognizable status among the general public, the valanced fender bikes make up only a very small portion of hundreds of thousands of Indians Motorcycles ever produced.
The World War II Indians all had utilitrian fenders, per the requirements of the US War Department, and there was no precious, expensive metal to waste on decorative bodywork, in any case.
The valanced fender resumed usage with the 1946 Chief, and were on the 1947,1948 and 1950-1953 Chiefs. There was no 1949 Chief, and they were not used on any post-war models aside from the Chief. So, there were only a total of nine years that the iconic fender were used, and then not on all models.
The same is true of the famed warbonnet fender light. The lighted warbonnet first appeared on the 1946 Chief fender.
Indian produced a high-performance version of its 1947 Chief called the Bonneville. The Bonneville versions of the Chief used traditional hot-rodding tricks like a magneto ignition, high-lift cams, and polished ports to extract more power from the aging side-valve engine designs.
Indian's original "Wigwam" factory was closed in 1953. Today, much of it is gone, though this portion was converted into apartments.
The Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company was a motorcycle manufacturer in Springfield, Massachusetts. Indian is America's oldest motorcycle brand and was once the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world. The most popular models were the Scout, made prior to WWII, and the Chief, which had its heyday from 1922-53
Indian Motorcycle went bankrupt and ended production.
Production of the new Indian Motorcycle began in Gilroy, with the Limited Edition Chief in 2000, the company introduced the Millennium Chief model, and in 2001 it brought out a Scout and a bike called the Spirit. All of these were variations of the same bike, with slightly different styling.
The firm ceased production at its Gilroy California, facility in September 2003.
In 2004, the private equity companies Stellican and Novator, led by lifelong motorcycylist enthusiast Thor Bjorgolfsson, acquired the rights to the Indian trademark and started producing Indian Motorcycles with 105-ci V-twin engines from Kings Mountain, N.C. The production lasted from 2009 until 2011, when Indian was acquired by Polaris.
Kings Mountain NC
In April 2011, the motorcycling world was struck by a shocking announcement: Polaris Industries had purchased the Indian Motorcycle brand from Stellican. The annoucement was shocking because it meant that for the first time since at least the end of WWII, and realistically before the beginning of WWI, the Indian Motorcycle brand was finally owned by an organzation with pockets deep enough to make Indian a viable motorcycle manufacturer.
Polaris Industries. Spirit Lake Iowa
Purchased my first Indian Motorcycle Chieftain. I have been riding for over 40 years and have rode a few different bikes. You can not go wrong with the Indian brand.
The Indian Scout Bobber.
Strip it down. That was the inspiration Indian Motorcycle used when developing the latest model in its iconic Scout lineup, the new Indian Scout Bobber. A low slung, blacked-out, minimalist motorcycle that proves less is definitely more.
New line of Chieftains hit market for 2018 and 2019 models. Chieftain, Chieftain Dark Horse, Chieftain Classic and Chieftain Limited
Introduction of the FTR 1200. The original Indian Motorcyle Wrecking CrewTM
became icons of American flat track racing with championship wins in 1951,52 and 53. And now, the new Wrecking Crew is living up to their legend with back to back championships in 2017 and 2018.
With true flat tracker style and the performance to back it up—this is the street-legal motorcycle you've been waiting for. Aggressive street style, loaded with weight-saving carbon fiber from tip to toe, and a throaty custom exhaust system to let the powerful V-Twin announce your arrival.