Indians reach end of the road?
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  1. #1
    Moderator Alan S's Avatar
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    Indians reach end of the road?

    Looks as though another icon is about to fall off the perch.
    Those old enough to remember the days when English bikes ruled the markets, BSA, AJS, Triumph, Norton and Aerials will also remember that we used to have the occasional rider turn up on what was considered in those days to be a monster in every sense of the word.
    These were either Vincent HRD, a real animal of a performer and of course the Yankee favourites; Harley Davidson and Indian.
    The Yank machines were the ideal long distance bike but an absolute mongrel around town with rigid frame sprung only by exposed springs on the front frame where they ran down to the bar pivot but compensated by a "saddle" the size of a lounge chair which had a series of coil springs uder it ti cushion the bumps.
    To drive it (as opposed to 'ride it') it had a left hand throttle that operated from down to up, not the other way as everybody else does, a clutch pedal, left foot operated, and a gear lever which came up on a long stick and was hand operated on a slide with notches to hold it into the selected gear & fitted to the side of the petrol tank.
    On a cold morning a small pump was fitted to a recess in the tank and it looked like a brass hypodermic. The end was pulled up to fill it with petrol which in turn was pushed into a small fitting on the heads so as to prime the cylinders before any attempt was made to start it. The kick start was also on the LHS and not the right and due to it's weight, it had a side stand and not a centre one. Using usually two people, it could be hauled up on the rear stand; eventually, however after dropping the things a few times, most owners removed the rear stand. The mudguards were of the wrap around variety so did a good job, they had foot rest plates instead of pedals and came with a windscreen as standard equipment.
    Pillion seats weren't fitted & when fitted as an aftermarket attachment, the pillion rider sat head & shoulders over the rider. They were a sluggish performer with woeful fuel consumption but seemed to last forever and were a favourite for anyone doing long distance trips although if you happened to "drop" one you'd possibly have to wait until help arrived to get it back on its wheels.
    Seems the future of the company is in doubt as apparently they've carried on producing bikes, no doubt modernising as they went, but Harley went on to become a cult bike whereas these seem to have just stayed at novelty value. Had Indian merged with Harley like Citroen did with Peugeot it may have been a different story & shows the wisdom of the Pug/Cit merger back in the seventies.
    I suppose as Cit owners we can almost say "there but for the grace of God go I."

    <a href="http://www.sacbee.com/content/business/story/7468132p-8410708c.html" target="_blank">Indian in crisis</a>

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    Hope you find that interesting...and different.

    Alan S
    If it ain't broke, use a 12" shifter.....that usually does the trick!!

  2. #2
    Gone Fishin' Ray Bell's Avatar
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    Alan S:
    .....Aerials.....
    Not this problem again?

    Aerial = antenna or something in the sky
    Ariel = pommie motorbike best remembered for having four cylinders, two of which ran cool, the other two overheated.

    A sad end if that's indeed what it is, but it's been a long time in the making according to that report. Forty years of dormancy can't be overlooked...

  3. #3
    Moderator Alan S's Avatar
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    Ray Bell:
    Alan S:
    .....Aerials.....
    Not this problem again?

    Aerial = antenna or something in the sky
    Ariel = pommie motorbike best remembered for having four cylinders, two of which ran cool, the other two overheated.

    A sad end if that's indeed what it is, but it's been a long time in the making according to that report. Forty years of dormancy can't be overlooked...
    Whoops; and I know better too. The old joke had whiskers when TV came out. Come around tonight so we can watch TV; we need an Ariel mallet

    Alan S cheers!
    If it ain't broke, use a 12" shifter.....that usually does the trick!!

  4. #4
    Budding Architect ???? pugrambo's Avatar
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    are ariels still made in india ???
    last i heard they were
    i know of a friend that has a '29 indian with wicker basket side car
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  5. #5
    Gone Fishin' Ray Bell's Avatar
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    Not as good as a 4-cyl inline Scott... water cooled, and the inline means 'in line with the frame'!

    Motorcycles have advanced over the years!

  6. #6
    Fellow Frogger! glenn shaw's Avatar
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    officially, indian, as a true identity finished production in 1953. the only model in production by then was the big chief which was out to 1300cc.

    attempts were made to introduce lightweight parallel twins similar to triumph/bsa in the form of the warrior and brave models but these also had problems. royal enfield 700cc meteors were then brought in before floyd clymer tried to relaunch the indian-velo with the velocette motor in it.

    quite a few court cases have been fought over who does actually own the right to the indian name, a few forfeited the right through not producing a bike in a specific time frame. a few years ago new bikes were appearing using harley engines but not a bike in the same spirit as the original indian- most redskin enthusiasts will tell you that 1953 was the end of the story.

    my grandfather rode a succession of scouts and chiefs, he reckoned they were a lot better than a harley in build and oil tightness. you had to be careful jumping off a harley onto an indian with those back to front controls but it had advantages. on the big chief, he had the side car on the lh side so on a cold night he would climb into the side car to keep warm and be able to reach out and operate the throttle!

    dad remembers them also having f-head harley j models, vl side valve, 350 pup singles and the last harley they had was an ex police el knucklehead. he still reckons the aerial 500 vh? red hunter single was the best bike he had though.

    indian prices can scare you now. 2 chiefs were sold here at auction recently, a restored late 30's model and a dead original 1947 chief in roadmaster touring trim. the restored bike made $32,000 plus and the original 47 got well over $40,000. made dad cry when he remembered what they owned over the years. even rusty fuel tanks were up towards $700 not to mention what frames and engine parts brought.

    i'll just be happy with my franklin mint indian 4 and guiloy indian chief v twins in 1/10th scale...mind you, if indian could have overcome all the company takeovers through the years and stayed under one ownership, maybe harley would be just a memory today. harley themselves nearly went belly up in the early 70's under the amf ownership through slack build quality and personally, i think it's just a name you buy today apart from the v-rod which is new technology. ahh, if only the indian had survived a bit longer in their own right.

    regards
    glenn.

  7. #7
    Gone Fishin' Ray Bell's Avatar
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    Harleys also went to Italy for some new technology, didn't they?

    And they bought the Buell name back into their official fold after one of their employees had launched it and made it a success...

  8. #8
    1000+ Posts Damien Gardner's Avatar
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    I remember as a teenager about 1967, a friends uncle had a restored vintage bike, a Henderson as i recall, this bike was not only primative it was enormously long, the seat was about 4feet from the forks head with handle bars U shaped and 3feet long. Steering was a sideways motion instead of circular. cheers!
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  9. #9
    Fellow Frogger! glenn shaw's Avatar
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    very interesting topic this one, love the old bikes.

    ariel ceased production in the early 1970's although the healey company used the square 4 motor in their own frame while you can still buy a royal enfield bullett 350 single made in india.

    i've never heard of a 4 cylinder scott watercooled, knew they built 600cc watercooled parallel twins that went pretty well and even now i think you can still order that engine in 700cc form in a silk which is a low build special order machine.

    there have been a fair few 4 cylinder inline bikes from the early 1920's. ace, henderson and indian are the best known but the danish firm of nimbus did also and maybe the belgians also with the fn. indian brought the ace line out and called them indian ace for a few years but changed to simply indian 4 and used a frame of their own design. they changed the engine design to exhaust over inlet in about 1936 and called "the upside down indian" but was'nt too popular. they went back to the inlet over exhaust head design very quickly as it went better and a lot neater to look at.

    know what you mean by the big u shaped handlebars. i remember hearing about a guy who said as kids they used to ride a 101 sport scout with 3 of them on it. the handle bar grips wore through on the ends and one day the front wheel spun around and the handlebars tore his stomach open! tough little bugger though, his mum sewed him up on the kitchen table!

    we think of the early teens machines as primitive but the indian board track racers were something else with 4 valves per cylinder and over 100mph performance. no brakes, direct drive, pedals like a bicycle and about 100psi in the tyres to keep them on the rims! no wonder so many were killed on these board tracks. for a while, the cyclone was the bike to beat, it had over head cams in it's 1000cc v twin but indian were usually dominant with riders like jake de rosier. it was indian supremacy that forced harley davidson into competition after which indian had produced the new flathead motor which made more power than the 8 valve and cheaper to manufacture. guys like iron man ed kretz were still beating the harleys on their side valve indian scouts up into the 1950's which says a lot for their engineering.

    unfortunately for indian, the triumph tigers and speed twins were coming in with more performance at smaller capacity. the t120 bonneville 650cc in 1959 really started to knock the harley sales about to the extent they petitioned to keep triumph out or tarriffed out of the market. that trick failed and triumph continued to be one of the best selling bikes in the us. norton was a smaller player in the states but between them and bsa, harley suffered badly in the performace stakes until they released the 883cc xl sportster with the ohv motor. i've read that despite the cc advantage, a sportster rider never went out of his way to provoke a bonnie rider and vice versa.

    biggest mistake triumph/bsa made apart from not making the trident/rocket3 early enough to combat the honda 750/4 was to go to the oil bearing frame which carried the engine oil in the back tube. this made the bike a lot taller and it's been written that test rider percy tait even had trouble touching the ground on a 1971 bonneville. later models readdressed the problem but the t140 models were not as good in many eyes as the last t120 650cc models they replaced. the 1968/69/70 650 bonnie is a great bike, handled well (thanks to norton man doug hele), stopped well and went hard. unfortunately, british bikes piss oil, always did where the honda's were oil tight, electric started, a bit quicker but maybe not as good in the handling. the z900 kawasaki was irresitable with it's dohc motor and 130mph speed but oh boy, that handling was twitchy at high speed. same with the 500 mach3 kawasaki 2 stroke triple- wheelie anytime you like, 120mph potential but lay it in a corner and it's r.i.p and no flowers by request! then they brought out the h2a with 750cc and even more lethal with 12.5 1/4 mile potential and 12mpg! ahhhh great days...

    my father still remembers geoff duke bringing the gilera 4 cylinder grand prix bike over to longford. what a bike that was, with the 4 megaphone pipes you could hear it all around the track! and what about the moto guzzi 500cc v8 grand prix bike? only ran a few times but those who heard it will never forget that exhaust note. apparently at the isle of man tt it had a miss, the only wat to check which plug was out was to put a finger on each spark plug, the finger not blistered was the misfiring plug! dkw also ran a supercharged 5 cylinder 2 stroke in the 1930's at the isle of man, apparently the scream from that was awfully impressive too.

    best regards
    glenn.

  10. #10
    Gone Fishin' Ray Bell's Avatar
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    I saw Kel Carruthers at Longford, of course... on a Norton and also on a Honda from memory.

    As for that 4-cyl inline bike, it was from the twenties, I saw it at a Sydney club-type car and bike show about 15 years ago. Might it have been a Henderson then?

    I know my grandfather used to talk about a water-cooled Scott and I thought my recollection was pairing this sighting with the mentions he had made in the past.

    I also remember in about 1962 reading a road test of a Honda 250 in an American magazine... Car & Driver, Road & Track or Motor Trend or even Hot Rod Magazine, maybe it was the latter. Certainly it was a car mag, not a bike mag.

    The writer mentioned all the things it had going for it... oil tight, neat features, light controls, ample power for the size etc. He mentioned the difficulty of having the controls (gear and footbrake) on the opposite side to most bikes in America, and all sorts of other things, and he mentioned how sales were booming.

    And in the end, all things considered, he said that the thing that sold it was the little button on the handlebars that made it start without physical exertion.

  11. #11
    Fellow Frogger!
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    I remember a few years ago seeing a 1917 henderson with an inline 4cyl motor, also some bikes were fitted with austin 7 engines as standard.

    The most awesome custom bikes must be two wheelers with v8 engines crammed in .

  12. #12
    Fellow Frogger! billtran's Avatar
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    Ray Bell:
    Harleys also went to Italy for some new technology, didn't they?

    And they bought the Buell name back into their official fold after one of their employees had launched it and made it a success...
    H-D are very reluctant to admit it (in fact, the Australian H-D distributor vehemently denied it) but they went to Porsche to design the Vrod engine. Porsche also assisted H-D with hydroforming technology (which shows through the nice flowing curves of the Vrod frame).
    You're not paranoid if everyone hates you.

  13. #13
    Fellow Frogger! glenn shaw's Avatar
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    some of those bikes with the back to front controls are a nightmare. i think triumph changed to the lh foot change in 1976 after a few riders too many downchanged instead of braked and blew engines. the czech jawa had a good clutch system, they used a normal cable engagement and once moving the pedal had a detent that disengaged the clutch as soon as you changed. made for very quick gearchanges and dad got burnt off on his harley pup by a 350cc twin jawa in the 1950's which pissed him off to no end! some of the later isdt jawas actually had a forward operating kick starter too which is most unusual.

    there is a scott flying sqirrel 600cc here that set the 100mph record on bakers beach i think. was used fairly regulary too and the funniest thing i heard was about it suddenly deciding to fire backwards at the lights one day. the rider thought nothing of it until he let the clutch out, nearly tore his balls off on the fuel tank, and went backwards into the car behind him! did'nt that cause some commotion! he also drove skoda's too....and had a great run out of them.

    i've yet to see an ambassador 200cc like dad used to have. these were built by english racing driver kaye don, dad's used a twin exhaust port villiers and was pretty quick. he said a francis barnett with a single port had no hope of catching it under acceleration. i've seen a few ambassadors in museums but never a twin port so it was an odd one.

    have a guy here who has a henderson 4 in his shed, must go for a look at it one day. they are a very rare bike anywhere these days.

    regards
    glenn.

  14. #14
    Moderator Alan S's Avatar
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    Didn't realise I was going to unearth a pack of closet bikies here whistle
    While we're on the subject of the rare ones, did anyone here ever own or ride a Le Velocette?
    They were froggy & in true froggy style were the first water cooled bike I ever saw with what were I suppose you could call them aluminium panniers and feet sat on a flat floor with pedals coming out of them like the old cars had.
    From memory, I think they were a two stroke too & as quiet as a church mouse with the big flat muffler strapped down the side, but take the big muffler off & they had a mean note.
    The Mac Velocette were more of a conventional style & I understand could perform a bit also.

    Alan S dance
    If it ain't broke, use a 12" shifter.....that usually does the trick!!

  15. #15
    Fellow Frogger! glenn shaw's Avatar
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    the velocette le, yeah, got an uncle with 2 of them. flat twin watercooled and i think started with a hand lever, called the noddy bike in england as the cops used them. think they are 4 strokers but have'nt seen them for a good while. i know the little buggers are very quiet runners.

    the venom thruxton 500cc velocette was a mean performer, good for over 100mph and very sought after now. was one in just bikes last month for $14,000.

    don't know about being a closet biker, i've never had a bike license! had one real bad accident at home when i broke a cd175 honda in half at the steering head after an altercation with a fence post so i got blackbanned by the parents on road riding!

    still love bikes though and have collected sales brochures going back to 1928 on mainly british stuff but even these brochures are a gold chip investment now!

    cheers
    glenn.

  16. #16
    Moderator Alan S's Avatar
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    You'd no doubt have the Triumph Trophy & Bonneville as well as the BSA Super Road Rocket and Norton Featherbed of the '60s eras then?
    I've ridden most of those.

    Alan S
    If it ain't broke, use a 12" shifter.....that usually does the trick!!

  17. #17
    Fellow Frogger! glenn shaw's Avatar
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    hi alan,

    you rode some very nice bikes from the sound of that. i'm a sucker for triumphs- love the sound of two pistons firing together, nuth'in like it. we've some hoon up behind our place rides a fully restored 67 usa spec bonnie t120 650cc and he drives me nuts during the summer months, jeez it sounds great.

    still a few norton commando's on the road here but we don't see too many es2's or dominators.

    i've got a lot of bsa brochures ending at the 69 royal star models, triumphs start at 1948 and go up to 1971, ariel from 1937 to the late 1950's, matchless, ajs etc. for beautiful artwork, you can't go past the 1950's triumph brochures, they really are beautiful. funny thing is, the plainest brochure i've got is a black/white folder and what is it? the vincent. the fastest bike of the 1950's, full of pedigree and one of the poorest brochures of the lot but it shows the rapide, black shadow, comet and touring model with mention of the black lightning competition model.

    i brought these brochures initially for $300 and every now and then, got the chance to add to them. what frightens me now is i see some of them at bendigo swap for anything up to $100 each! i have had a lot of people try to buy them when they see them but i can't bring myself to part with them- i still get a lot of enjoyment looking through them. hate to think what some of dads car brochures are worth, he has yank stuff from the 30's (auburn, cord, packard chev, ford, stutz etc)but it's when you get into the supecharged 500k mercs, horch's, gullwings etc you start to talk some fearful money.

    anyhow, back on bikes, i figured i was better off buying the brochures than a real bike to restore but i admit i like the thought of a 1950's jawa 350 twin but a sunbeam s7 inline twin would be very nice- at the right money. better keep on track working on the light 15 i think and at least the slough 2cv is part car/bike in a fashion. no doubt i'll let the camera go mad at bendigo swap again in the bike display though. seen a 1969 triumph daytona 500cc there in 2000 i'd have loved until i seen the $8000 price tag on it......and they are only going to keep going up now.

    cheers
    glenn.

  18. #18
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    I'm not quite in the same vintage as you guys I don't think, but my Aussie mates find it hard to believe our family's only vehicles in the UK were a BSA Gold Flash and a four person sidecar, and a Panther 600 with the same sidecar. We then came to Australia and moved to a small wheatbelt town, and I remember my Dad taking me for a ride on the back of an Indian with the gear stick on the side of the tank. Don't know what type, though. The purpose of my post was Ray's comment about H-D going to Italy for technology. When I was a kid, I rode a 90cc Harley and two of my mates rode 75cc Indians! All of them were actually some sort of badge engineered Italian machines, however, with Dell'Orto carbs, Marelli ignition and SEV electrics. And UNRELIABLE!!! Geez, I could strip the carb and ignition with my eyes closed at age 10...

    Stuey


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  19. #19
    Moderator Alan S's Avatar
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    Stuey,

    They would be "Scouts" and "Braves" I'd imagine. They really carried it through; there used to be a joke doing the rounds Re: riding Indians and others, but I won't repeat them here dance mallet I don't know if they had a "Squaw" for the ladies or not; wouldn't surprise me if they did.

    Glenn,

    You talk about exhaust notes on those old English bikes....yeah, what a sound.
    The TR6 Trophy had the siamese pipes which I think had the meanest sound of all once the engine was starting to scream; I remember riding one that had been 'warmed up' and took it to just on 98 (MPH) in second gear down the Redbank by pass just before it opened. It wasn't a problem with the local constabulary chasing you in those days as their car was a sideplate Holden & the bike a one lung Beeza with a chair strapped on. roll_lau roll_lau
    The T120 Bonneville was going to be the be all and end all of bikes but whilst it was a nice bike and somewhat sophisticated for it's time, it never quite captured the imagination or became the almost cult machine the Tiger 110 was. The T110 was definitely a more exciting sounding animal. They tried to make the 120 sophisticated by among other things quietening the exhaust, which shows how manufacturers can so easily lose the plot with their market. cry cry

    Alan S
    If it ain't broke, use a 12" shifter.....that usually does the trick!!

  20. #20
    1000+ Posts Pugnut403's Avatar
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    I can't ride a motorbike, but Ilove the old ones. The bloke I got my 604 off had a Vincent with a sidecar in the shed. He won't sell it for any price! He used to race bikes, and used the money he got off me from the 604 to build a Fiat 600 racing car.

    Dad had bikes when he was younger. He had a WW2 Harlry, and his mates were always laying it down on him when he was in the shop/pub etc. The bloke he sold it to rode it off a bridge in Tully. Dad's favourite was his Zundapp Bella 200 scooter. He had an interesting experience once when taking a bike home for othe first time, coming down a hill to an intersection in Sydney when the brake cable snapped. The bloke in the sidecar was really freaked out when the cars started swerving to miss the bike which was flying through the intersection at about 30mph.
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