This site was updated 15 Feb 2013.
TIP: To make sure you are seeing the latest version of this or any web page, and not an older "cached" version, click the icon at the top of your browser for "refresh" or "reload". It is a little "C" button with an arrow at the top end of the C. In Internet Explorer it is about the middle of the top of your screen while in Google's "Chrome" browser it is near the left. (In older versions of browsers it was on the right under Tools.)Welcome Scouts and ex-Army Dispatch Riders old and young. BTW, if you didn't get here directly from the big brother site, www.IndianChiefMotorcycles.com, check it out later. (There is a link at end of this page.) The main site includes a history of Indian brand motorcycles 1901 to present, hundreds of photos of Chiefs, Fours and English made Indians, features on racers and customs, and rare prototypes, etc.
Below is a video courtesy of YouTube of guys trying to start one of the Burt Munro Indians - which was based on a 1929 Scout engine but very, very modified. The movie starring Anthony Hopkins "The World's Fastest Indian" was about Burt and his bike. Note in this video Jay Leno is in the crowd and makes a few wisecracks.
Next is a YouTube video of a British fellow starting his 1925 Scout.
Here is a shot of a 1927 Scout wiith sidecar:
One thing I recently learned was that the now highly valued "101" series of Indian Scouts (only made from 1928 thru 1931, i.e. four years) are so valuable because not only were they the first Scouts to have front brakes but mainly because they were lower and longer and more raked than earlier Scouts and they still had pure Scout frames which were a bit different and lighter than the Chief frames. In 1932 the factory "homolgomized" and gave the Scouts the heavy Chief frame (with very few mods). This slowed the Scout and changed its appearance and probably its handling. (It was no longer called 101, just "Scout".) The adverse consumer reaction lead to the 1934 Sport Scout which had a lighter frame, different forks and aluminium alloy cylinder heads. It only lasted until about 1941, a production run of eight years. (During 1934 - 41, I assume there were probably a lot of regular Scouts as well as Sport Scouts built and sold. Nowadays only an expert can tell if a bike is a genuine Sport Scout or just a 1932 -41 Scout disguised as a Sport model, e.g. with alloy heads. I have never seen a post 101 Scout without alloy heads and when I checked the photos below (new photos added on Valentine's Day, 2013) I could not find any with iron heads, and all have the same style of forks, so I wonder if there were any non Sport Scouts sold, but I am positive that the WW II military models were wimpy non-Sport Scouts. I think the genuine Sport Scouts had magnetos instead of battery and coil ignition (and probably higher performance cams and carb tuning). Speaking of aluminium alloy cylinder heads, interesting that the Harley Sportster was sold with iron heads from its inception in 1957 until 1986, almost a 30 year stretch, and even the Harley K and KH (so-called flathead Sportster) and Knucklehead had alloy heads back in 1952 and 1936 respectively. So if alloy heads were used on the OHV Big Twins since 1936, and on Indians since 1934 and all British OHV bikes since around 1950 (except the BSA A-10's and their Ariel clones until about 1960), why did the Sportster, a sport bike in its day, use heavy and heat-holding, detonation-prone iron? I read somewhere that when H-D tried to use aluminum alloy heads on racing Sportsters (XLR's) sometime around 1980 the valve seats fell out! Before any irate Harley fans write in, I do own a '66 Sportie as well as a '64 Duo-Glide, and have owned other Hogs in the past, namely a 1950 or '51 Hydra-Glide (cannot remember), a 1941 model U, a 1980 FLT and a 1979 ex- police FL.
Here is a photo of an un- restored 1939 Scout, and a restored one.
The following photos of a 1939 Sport Scout and the accompanying story are from the Aug./Sept. 2001 issue of BRM, an excellent New Zealand MC mag, and are reproduced with their kind permission.
Next we see a "bobber" version of the same type of bike, this one also probably being a 1939 Scout. I photographed this in Stouffville, North of Toronto in the mid to late 1990's. The bike has a custom seat, bobbed rear fender, (necessitating relocated rear lamp and licence plate) disc brake on the front, and a 16" rear tire/rim and unknown rear hub/brake. (Plus a non-stock paint job.) The bike looks real fast and racey. I never get tired of oggling this fine example of craft and art. Would the owner please let us know who he is and what mods I may have missed?
Next is another bobber 1930's Scout, then in light blue, a photo courtesy of Zippy Lowson, showing a West Coast Scout bob job. It looks fairly stock except for chopped fenders and upswept exhaust.
Below left is a 1940 Sport Scout hillclimber blasting up Mount Douglas (Victoria B.C.) in 1945, ridden by the late Bob Shanks. Note the magneto under the seat instead of generator extending to the front of the primary case as on regular Scouts. Indians were popular hillclimbers in the 1940's and 50's, before the OHV BSA's, Triumphs and Sportsters took over. Compared to a sidevalved Harley, a competition Chief or Scout was more powerful and lighter. Hillclimbing is as much about skill and raw guts as it is power, so Indians were still doing well in hillclimbing into the 1970's. If you've never watched a hillclimb, treat yourself. It is the most exciting form of motorcycle racing to watch. To the right of it is another hillclimber piloted by Laughing Indian Riders Club President Don Doody. (Latter photo courtesy Allan "Zippy" Lowson.) I am not sure but I think this was in the mid to late 1980's.
In 1940 the Chief style fully valenced fenders were installed on the Scouts and Sport Scouts, but not the new Chief plunger rear suspension. I also learned that the Scout transmission was different from the Chief (despite both being hand shifted three-speeds), and that one can install a Chief gearbox into a Scout.
Here are 2 shots of a nicely restored 1941 Sport Scout (light green and cream)
Below are two shots I took some years ago of another 1940 or '41 Scout which is stock except for the paint job, Harley style air filter cover and a bit of extra chrome. The whitewall tires were likely "period accessories".
Next are shots of three recently restored (perfectly stock) Sport Scouts, all 1940 vintage. One is orange, one blue and one olive (military color but glossy). For the orange one we see a closeup of the generator and a closeup of the ignition coil, battery, tool box and seat springs. The olive colored one has a less common magneto ignition. These bikes were on sale on Ebay. If you want oneof these beauties, see if they are still on Ebay or in "completed listings".
America did not enter the European theater of WWII until it was half over (in Europe, the Brits with the aid of their Commonwealth countries and volunteers from Poland had been single handedly holding off the Fascists since 1939 and the US did not really enter the war until the beginning of 1942.) So in this site WWII refers to 1942-45, with apologies to British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and South African readers. Below are typical WWII Indian models based on the civilian Scout. Model 741 means 500 cc built from 1941 thru 1945, 641 means the 750 c.c. version. (The muffler on the first bike is too short.) Not shown on this page are the Chief versions, e.g. 341 means a 1200 cc. built 1941 - 45. More popular were the Harley-Davidson V twin flatheads built for the Allied forces, almost all of them 750 cc models. W was the model number for the civilian model, WLA was built for the US Army mostly in 1942, WLC for the Canadian Army mostly in 1943. The only real difference between the WLA and WLC was that on the WLC the front and rear brakes were the same and could be quickly interchanged, and most of the WLC's had a hand (cable operated) clutch instead of the foot treadle; both modifications thanks to Bernie Nicholson who was in charge of motorcycle training and maintenance in Canada and was a motorcycle expert (he wrote Modern Motorcycle Mechanics - final edition was in 1974 but it is still in print as so valuable to restorers - so he understood the value of being able to interchange parts and of the hand clutch.) This author does not know if the WLC clutch lever was on the left handlebar and the front brake lever (normally on the left on flathead Indians and Harleys) moved to the right. One would expect so as the right hand could close the throttle, move the gearshift lever, and return to the throttle while the left moved the clutch lever in and out. I actually plan to do this on my next Chief and am fascinated to learn (in late 2012) that this was how Canadian Army dispatch riders rode (I think). Other than WLA and WLC, perhaps there was another suffix for WL for another country? Maybe a WLF for France, and WLSA for South Africa, a WLNZ for New Zealand and a WLOZ for Australia since WLA was already "taken". (Just kidding.) Does anyone who has a WL in those countries know about this? In the British Army they used their own Matchless and Norton and BSA 350 c.c. singles, along with a few Indian models for the Air Force according to a Classic Bike article. Note the shots I took at Oley in 2012 show a model 6 or 7 with the rifle holder on the right of the fork, a metal box on the left fork (for ammo, medical supplies, maps?) and a mesh covering the distributor. This was standard Army equipment. The last four shots in this cluster are of a 641 restored by Jeff Grigsby of Indian Motor Works, offered on Ebay in very late 2012. I suspect the white color of the seat is incorrect as is the metal corrugated flexi-hose over the exhaust pipe headers, but otherwise an impeccable restoration.
Just to give you an idea of how much work and skill and time and money and parts are required to restore an old motorcycle (or car or airplane), here is a shot of a 641 engine that needs restoring. Compare it to the close up of the restored engine just before it. It appears that on the unrestored the carburetor is hanging out from being the rear cylinder (it is supposed to be between the cylinders and should be invisible from this side.)
Below is a fifteen year old photo of one of Harold Carlaw's restored Army 750's, probably a model 6. My daughter (who was then aged 2) and I (who was thinner then) had a brief ride in the sidecar. It was fun. My only time in a "chair". The second shot shows the rig in front of the Memorial War Museum which is another good reason to visit Campbellford, Ontario, Canada.
On the topic of military Harley 45's, lately there seem to be a lot more WLC's than WLA's advertised for sale or shown in magazines in the USA than before. Previously one never saw a WLC. Obviously these were exported from Canada, South to the USA. Did the WLA's tend to get scrapped or turned into ugly choppers? According to an interesting YouTube video:
which has many WWII photos of US Army Harley 45's, there were 60,000 built as WLA and another 40,000 as WLC. The text of the video is in French but even if you can't read French it is worth watching - lots of photos of WL's taken in France after the D day invasion and until war's end. A great resource for restorers of army 45's.
Harley fans may be interested to learn that before the US entered the war (1939, 1940) there was a civilian WLD which had more power. (Military engines are detuned for reliability and mileage, and by law during the US war era 1942-first half of 1945, no civilian motorcycles could be made except "essential use" such as police.) Harley also made an better breathing WLDR and later WR full race model, probably postwar. In their Servi-Car tricycle (which first appeared in 1932) they used an R engine until 1937 (total loss oil system) then a W or G engine until 1973, which was basically a WL with cast iron heads and less power. The Harley "45" resumed civilian production postwar and lasted until 1952, using, I think, a WL engine. Hot rodders and racers postwar sometimes used Indian Scout pistons and/or Chief flywheels to increase bore and stroke. (called Chouts) See video below of a 1940 Scout done this way.
Here are some YouTube videos copied on 30 Dec. 2012. First is of a guy starting and riding off on a 1941 Harley WL painted in desert sand color, and second is a guy starting and riding off on a civlian Harley 45. Then is a 1942 civilianized Indian 741. Then the "Chout" bobber. Looks great, sounds great, goes around the corners fine and only weighs 370 lb.
Below is a shot, courtesy of Zippy Lowson, of a postwar Scout hillclimber with Edison-Splitdorf magneto and the usual traction chains on the rear wheel. The aluminum cast wheels suggest this was being used as late as the 1970's or later.
Next is Allan "Zippy" Lowson of the Laughing Indian Riders club racing and
posing with the club's Scout in the mid 1990's at a track near Vancouver.
Note the Norton front end, primary drive and gearbox. The engine has dual
Below left is a shot, courtesy Zippy, of the right side of the club racer. Below right is a photo, courtesy Allan again, of George Routelier's early flatracker Chief. Compared to modern flat tracker's the length of this thing is amazing.
As discussed above, during WW II the Allies used lots of Harley 45 CID (750 cc.) and Indian flathead V-twins of 500 - 1200 cc (30.5 to 74 CID) displacement. (My Dad rode a Chief, which in the Canadian army was likely called a model 340.) The rare Indian 841 was a transverse rather than in-line V, with other Moto-Guzzi-like features such as shaft drive and foot shift and cylinders at a 90 degree angle, but the barrels and head were not new and were from the 750 Scout. The 841 never saw action and only about a thousand were built. Much more common were the model 741's of 500 cc and the model 641's of 750 cc. (Confusing, as one would expect the 642 to be a 600 cc. built in 1942 and the 742 to be a 750 built in 1942, but Indian seemed to lose its logic during WW II and never recover from it. It was likely the only US company to lose money instead of make big profits from selling equipment to the military.) In Western Europe, especially England, and in New Zealand and Australia one finds many 741's still running around. In New Zealand there is a big racing scene around them. There are also a lot (relatively speaking, meaning "a few") of army Chiefs in North America. (Compared to the Indians, ex-army Harley 45's are very common.)
Below left is a 1940 Sport Scout I saw at Oley Pennsylvania in 2005. I assumed it was a non-runner. To my surprise not long after I took the photo I saw it running around the rally site sounding strong and perfect, starting easily, never missing a beat. Goes to show you can't judge a book by its cover. I saw several other slightly beaten up unrestored "street fighter circa 1945" style Chiefs which turned out to run fine too! Seemed the owners of these "beaters" were having more fun, certainly getting more riding, than the $25,000 over-restored trailer queen bikes. In their day Indians were work horses, like pickup trucks, with riders putting on many miles and expecting reliability. The thing with old Hogs and Injuns is if used regularly they run much better and trouble-free than when used infrequently. (Come to think of it, same applies to the human body.)
Compare the unrestored 1940 Sport Scout bike above with the restored one below. Further down is a 1940 Scout which has been chopped. :
After the war and to this date, Ozzies and Kiwis have been "civilianizing" the 640's and 741's, prettying them up and in the case of the 45 inchers, which were detuned Sport Scouts, converting them to Sport Scout specs. (As noted above, the Sport Scout came out in 1934 to replace the 101 Scout. The Scout got more finning and skirted fenders in 1940 but not many were produced in 1940 and '41 and production of civilian and military Scouts ceased around 1944.) Another hop-up trick is to use Chief 74 inch flywheels and rods in the Scout, to make a 950 cc. Chout. (Wonder whether 80 inch Chief would also work, or even the new 84 inchers made by Kiwi? Obviously you'd have to put base spacers in to lengthen the barrels. Then the intake manifold might not be long enough as the heads would be further apart. Meanwhile the heads would be sitting so high they might foul the fuel tank or not clear the frame. Such is the fun of modifying a motorcycle.)
Many Indian riders were irate that there was no V-twin flathead Scout for sale after the war. Privately owned Scouts continued to win races for many years after the war. Some privateers put Chief flywheels in to get 950 c.c. (57 CID) and a lot more power out of their racing or souped up street Scouts, and these "Chouts" are still valued today. The factory did relent somewhat in 1948, but only for racers, by producing 50 racing Scouts stamped FDH, but commonly known as the “big base Scout” or the "648 Daytona" as Daytona was where most were raced. (This proves that Indian had the ability to keep making Scouts after the war, and it was a management decision to stop just before 1949 when the "torque" models went on sale.) The model 648 big base Scouts performed extremely well in their class (Class C) and continued to win races for the next six years! In fact at various other types of races across the USA, racing Scouts continued to do well and even win up to the 1970s! Their demise (other than being many years old by then) was likely due to the Harley K model and British twins such as the Norton, Triumph and BSA.
Above right is a photo of Jerry Chinn's Indian flat trackers. I think this photo was taken
in the late 1990's or early 21st century. Racer number 13 is a Big base 648.
Enthusiasts make reproduction crankcases and other parts for the model 648,
attesting to the merits of the design. If
you think an Indian 750 cc flathead is wimpy like a Harley "45"
(750 flathead) you should hear these racing Scouts being warmed up in the
paddocks at the annual AMA Vintage days in mid-Ohio. Music to the ears!
Imagine how many more years these 648 Scouts and privately souped up Scouts
could have won races if they had had a four speed footshift gearbox like the
British bikes instead of the ancient 3 speed hand shifter. Of course part of the success of the V-twin Scouts
was the riders who raced them: Ed Kretz, Floyd Emde, Johhnny Spiegelhoff,
Ted Edwards, Art Hafer, John Greenlee, Jack Horn, Bill Huguley, Bob Holt to
name just a few.
In retrospect it can be argued that Indian made a big mistake by dropping the V-twin Scout. It was a popular model and its "high tech" replacement the OHV but miniscule Warrior was a flop. Indian could have easily converted the 45 CID flathead Scout to 57 CID (950 cc) using Chief bottom ends, and used the military 841's frame, to keep them competitive for a few more years. Harley did not come out with its OHV sports model until 1957.
In 1945 with the war over, Indian gave up on the V-twin Scout as obsolete, and spent a few years and all of its money developing the OHV "Torque" series designed by Chief Engineer Briggs Weaver. The Torque series was modelled after British designs, and came onto the market in 1949. Harley also copied the British about three years after Indian tried, but Harley did not use a parallel vertical twin engine and kept to its tried and true (and popular) V-twin engine design. It brought out a new flathead 750 in 1952 (the K). Like the new OHV Indian twin sport bike, the K too was also a poor seller initially. It had gearbox problems and was far too slow to compete with the British. The gearbox was gradually improved and the engine size was upped by about 140 cc to 888 cc for the 1954 model year. As the power increased, so did sales. This KH evolved in 1957 into the OHV Sportster of 883 cc which is still a big seller.
After WW II Indian tried to make its own version of a typical English twin (e.g. Triumph) and called it the Scout (in 1949). The engine was a parallel vertical twin (2 cyl.) OHV with British type gearbox and controls. The bike looks completely English except that for some reason the primary drive was on the right side instead of the left. However these new bikes were rushed into production for the 1949 model year (to replace the Chief which had been dropped as "obsolete" for that year) with countless problems unsolved and the new Scout only had 440 cc and was a big flop. The third reason it failed was that the relative currencies of the US dollar and British pound sterling has changed, so that English bikes were quite cheap and the Indians could not compete price-wise. Dealers were irate and the Chief was re-introduced the next year (1950). By that year most of the problems with the Scout had been solved and the engine upped to 500 cc (30 CID) and the bike renamed Warrior but the bike had established a hopeless reputation and was still not a good price compared to Triumphs, BSA's, Nortons, Matchless, AJS, Royal Enfields, Ariels and Panthers which were being imported from Britain. The last few were made in 1952. When you see these bikes in real life they are quite small even compared to their British cousins.
Below are two shots of a maroon Scout, then (below) a stock black one with (to its right) a black chopped version (actually a rare 1950 Warrior). Underneath is a pretty yellow 1949 Scout, followed by three shots of a very rare red-orange 1952 competition model. Max Bubeck used to successfully race one of these and actor James Dean bought one. The red-orange Bubeck replica was superbly restored at great expense by British Motorbikes of North Hollywood. I have never ridden a postwar Scout or Warrior but I wonder if the location of the oil tank causes burns to the rider's left thigh on hot days?
In collaboration with Friedel Munch, Clymer hoped this German made combination of state of the art chassis (for 1968) and 1940's Scout engine would "set the world on fire". Even as a teenager at the time I thought it was bizarre. Due to projected costs being so high only one prototype was made. It still exists and was sold in late 2009 to a collector / full-time restorer of Indians. More photos of this fascinating motorcycles are in www.indianchiefmotorcycles.com, on the "1955-85 era" page.
Jumping ahead to about a decade ago when Indians were being made in Gilroy California and there were Scout models, the following road test of one is reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder CANADIAN BIKER magazine (an excellent magazine I might add.) The issue was March 2001. It is interesting that the practical top speed of the new Scout, despite its large engine (88 CID or 1430 cc, being 130 cc bigger than a Chief of fifty years prior), and weighing only 35 pounds more than a 1951 Chief, was around 85 mph (same as my much heavier 1980 H-D FLT) and the comfortable top speed (due to vibration and handling) was only 60 mph. (105 kph). Progress? One would have more comfort on a old Indian V twin since the flathead engines tend not to vibrate, and the same top speed with a Chief or model 101 Scout. Half a century later and no better performance!