Part of haynes logo Haynes Manuals, Inc.

The History of the Indian Chief Motorcycle

Indian1The famed Indian Chief motorcycle, although seemingly a newer company brand, has actually been kicking around for nearly 100 years. In 1922, it was introduced, considered a “big Scout”, and had a 1000cc engine. With the Indian Ace and Indian Scout also in the lineup of motorcycle for that time, the Indian Chief needed to stand out. As the Indian Motorcycle company grew and technology improved, so did manufacturing and designing. Different Indian models dropped over the years, but the Indian Chief raged on.

In 1932, an Indian Scout model was replaced by a new model, the 203 Scout, which basically was a Scout in the Indian Chief’s body frame. The years continued and the designs kept getting better and better. In fact, in 1940, the Indian Chief added a new sprung frame, further increasing the performance of the Indian Chief. At this point, nearly all Indian Motorcycles were destined for use by the United States Armed Forces in various World War II theaters. Near the end of WWII, the Du Pont brothers sold the company to a man named Ralph B. Rogers.

Indian2When the second World War was finally over, the only design in the lineup for Indian motorcycles was the Indian Chief. After a couple years, with Rogers and Indian Motorcycles introducing new Indian Scout and Indian Arrow models, Indian started remaking its mark on the consumer world. This led to the Indian Chief getting even more improvements, as well, such as improvements with the front fork and the increased displacement of the V-Twin engine, in 1950. Other models were added, such as the Indian Warrior and Indian Warrior TT. This is when Rogers was replaced with a new president for Indian Motorcycle Company.

During the next thirty years, production of Indian Motorcycles, including Indian Chiefs, was basically over, and it seemed that the Indian Chief name may have been consigned to the Classic Motorcycles section. Some did try to get Indian Motorcycle production up and running again, but it never seemed to work out as planned, even up to the early 2000s. In 1998, Indian motorcycles began production again, as the IMCA, but went bankrupt by 2003, sitting dormant for another five years. Finally, in 2008, a small firm bought the Indian Motorcycle name and built a few Indian Chief motorcycles before selling the Indian Motorcycle assets to Polaris Industries, the current owner and manufacturer.

Now, in the last five years, Indian Chiefs have proven to be more popular than ever, as Polaris Industries tries to both improve, and stay true to, the Indian Chief name.

 

Leave a Reply