Monday, February 7, 2011

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Springfield Massachusetts saw the birth of a legend in the shape of 'The Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company'; its most famous models being the 'Scout' and the 'Chief', the latter being in production for an incredible thirty-one years.

The founders of the company, which was originally known as the 'Hendee Manufacturing Company', were George M. Hendee and Carl Oscar Hedstrom, a pair of former bicycle racers who joined forces to produce a 1 ¾ horsepower motorcycle. Sales began slowly, but soon increased giving the company a solid platform to build upon. These early bikes were belt-driven and by 1903 were performing well enough to allow Hedstrom to create a new motorcycle speed record of 56mph.

Aurora of Illinois supplied the engine that would power the 'Diamond framed Single', which carried the rich red that would become synonymous with Indian. Introduced in 1902, sales rose to 32,000 in 1913. 1907 saw the introduction of a V-twin which, along with Erwin 'Canonball' Baker would set many long distance records culminating with a trip from San Diego to New York in a record time of 11 days, 12 hours and ten minutes. As is the case today, competition inspired technical innovation and Indian went from strength to strength, winning the Isle of Man TT race in 1911. Not only that, but Indians finished second and third too.

The Indian Chief and Scout appeared in the early 1920's and went on to become the flagships of the company. By this time, both Hendee and Hedstrom had left the company. Both bikes won the admiration of the public, not only for their looks, but also for their durability, hence the saying, 'You can't wear out an Indian Scout, or its brother the Indian Chief. They are built like rocks to take hard knocks; it's the Harleys that cause the grief'.

By 1930 Indian had teamed up with 'Dupont Motors' who ended the production of Dupont cars to put every ounce of energy and resource into the development of the Indian. Their links with the paint industry saw a dramatic increase in colour choice, with 24 on offer by 1934. This is the time when the distinctive Indian head-dress logo first saw light of day on the tanks of the machines, and it wasn't long before the Indian factory became known as the 'Wigwam'.

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