Indian Motorcycle History

Overview

An icon on the road and at one time the leading manufacturer of motorcycles world wide. However, strong racing wins and a famously loved road style could not save Indian from doom … life simply ran out of the brand. A few enthusiasts are trying to revitalize the Indian brand of days gone by.

Indian Motorcycle History

Started in 1901 by two bicycle racers George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom, who produced a small bicycle/motorcycle with a top speed of 50 km/h (30 mph). The first bike was a huge success and by the year 1913 over 32,000 motorcycles were produced annually. Indian bikes unmistakable deep red color later became one of their trademarks.

In 1907 Indian built a V-twin engine that later made way for the Powerplus in 1916. This model had a quieter engine and remained a success with only minor changes until 1924.

Indian had both engineering success and racing success enabling the company to grow at a tremendous rate during the early 1900s. By 1920 Indian could say it was the largest motorcycle manufacturer.

The most popular models of the Indian company were yet to appear, and by 1922 the most famous Chief model was introduced. Together with the Scout these models became the icons of the Indian brand. The Chief’s design was based on the powerplus from the years before but quite a few improvements were made to the chief original 1922 model. In 1927 the Scout was also introduced.

By this time Indian was a well known brand (the factory was known as the Wigwam). All models received the classic large skirted fenders, the cool Indian head logo on the tank, and a dark red color that became an absolute icon on the road.

Indian was producing beautiful bikes in the 1940s and offered a more comfortable ride than big rival Harley Davidson due to the sprung frames of the Indian bike.

Indian bought the Ace firm and produced a series of Indian four models. The model was very famous and recognizable, but no real success came to the company. Problems with the ‘four’ seemed to put extra pressure on a motorcycle brand that was already having a hard time toward the end of 1950s.

Indian tried to survive by selling other bikes with an Indian logo on it (Matchless & Enfields), but by the 1970s Indian had died away. There are attempts to restart the brand with development of a few new Chiefs.