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Indian Motorcycles: The 3 Best Bikes from Yesteryear

Jul 21, 2008
To say the least, anybody who is even remotely familiar with the Indian Motorcycles of the past knows full well that the "Gilroy" Indian, as it is oftentimes referred to, pales in comparison to the original --- especially when it comes to the Indian Chief, Four, and Scout of yesteryear. These were, without a doubt, the three most popular models that Indian ever manufactured.

The Indian Chief - the very first Chief was manufactured in 1922 and came equipped with a 1,000cc (61 cu. In.), which was enlarged the next year to 1,200cc (73 cu. In.). One of the many improvements that Indian focused on over the next few years was the design and use of a front brake. But the large skirted fenders that are typically Indian's trademark were never implemented until 1940.

That same year, the Chief was also rigged with a "sprung" frame in order to compete with the unsprung rear end of their rival, Harley-Davidson. Most all of the Chief models that were manufactured during the 1940's were not only what one would call handsome, but they were very popular due to how comfortable they were to ride. In 1950, the V-Twin engine was enlarged to 1,300 ccs, but Indian's continued financial issues caused the Chief to be discontinued in 1953.

The Indian Four - in 1927, Indian purchased the name and rights, as well as the production facilities from the Ace Motor Corporation and the production facilities were relocated to Springfield, MA and the bike was manufactured as the Indian Ace for one year. It was replaced by the 401 in 1928, and then the 402 in 1929. After that, the name was shortened to the Four.

This was a luxury bike, putting it mildly, and though there wasn't a huge demand for that kind of bike, Indian continued their development and manufacture. In the 1936-37 models, a less popular version of the Four, namely the "upside down" engine was the focal point. However, despite the advent of dual carburetors in 1937, its lack of popularity combined with a decrease in sales caused it to be discontinued for the original configuration.

In 1940, it was designed like the Chief with large, skirted fenders and a plunger type rear suspension. The next year, the 18" wheels were replaced with 16" wheels that were a balloon tire. In 1943, the Indian Four was considered a lost cause financially and production of the bike ceased.

The Indian Scout - for all practical purposes, the Scout was the Chief's main rival in the product line as far as being the most important model produced. It was introduced in 1920 with a 596 cc (37 cu. In.) engine, which was then increased seven years later to 745cc (45 cu. In.). The 101 Scout of 1928, with its lowered, sleeker frame was the most renowned version and featured improved handling.

Cutting costs in 1932 resulted in the Scout being built on the heavier chief frame, and to no one's surprise, turned out to be a costly mistake in that sales literally became non-existent. This eventually led to the creation and introduction of the Sport Scout in 1934, and in 1937 it won the Daytona 200. Although many Scouts were used during World War II, when the civilian production of 1946 caused the model to be dropped. In 1948, Indian produced only 50 of the historic bike and once again, it took top honors in the Daytona 200.
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