The Indian Motorcycle Company is an American motorcycle manufacturer that was first founded in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1901, and a brand that can proudly name itself as the oldest American manufacturer of motorcycles that is still in production today. The company first began life as the Hendee Manufacturing Company, a bicycle engineering works that quickly graduated into a motorcycle production facility after Oscar Hedstrom entered the company and added a small internal combustion engine to a bicycle frame. After successive wins at international racing competitions and serving in World War I, the company formally became the Indian Motocycle Company in 1928 – “motocycle” without an “r.”
Despite serving in another World War and dominating the national racing scene, the Indian brand collapsed in 1953 and embarked on a journey that would take the marque from owner to owner, and failed revival to failed revival. It’s fortunes changed in recent years when the brand was successfully resurrected and sold to Polaris Industries, where the company has flourished. From strong beginnings to the edge of obscurity, Indian Motorcycles lives on and “America’s First Motorcycle” can write a new chapter in history.
A Brief History Of Indian Motorcycles
Hendee & Hedstrom
Indian Motorcycles has a long a storied history that dates back all the way to 1897. Originally, Indian started off as a bicycle firm that was founded by the George M. Hendee. The Hendee Manufacturing Company sold a number of popular bicycles models, such as the “Silver King,” the “Silver Queen” and their most popular brand: the “American Indian.” The name became shortened to Indian thanks to its easy distinguishability. In 1900, Oscar Hedstrom joined Hendee’s venture. Hedstrom and Hendee had both raced bicycles and both had worked in the bicycle manufacture industry – together, they decided to design and produce a single-cylinder motorcycle that produced 1.75 horsepower. Manufactured out of Hendee’s hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, the first Indian motorcycle was born in 1901.
The prototype was built and quickly spawned two production units, and the diamond framed Indian Single, complete with a chain drive and streamlined styling, went through a thorough period of testing before being successfully sold to the public in 1902. In a bid to advertise the brand, Oscar Hedstrom successfully piloted the Indian Single to a top speed of 56 mph, setting a world motorcycle speed record, in 1903. Later in the same year, Hedstrom would also win an endurance race from Springfield to New York City and back, further proving the prowess of Indian’s motorcycles. With so much success, it wasn’t long until Indian began producing other models, including its first v-twin factory racer, which it rode to success in a number of races. From 1904 to 1913, the company’s annual production spiked from 500 units to an incredible 32,000.
Rapid Growth & Technological Advances
The 1910s were a period of rapid growth for Indian, and the rapid growth spurred on technical innovation. Indian Motorcycles developed a wide range of new technologies, such as a two-speed transmission, an automatic oil pump, a leaf-spring front fork arrangement hand cranks, rear suspension, floorboards, electric lights, and even an electric starter. During this time of technological advancement, Indian’s famous rider Erwin “Cannonball” Baker successfully rode from San Diego to New York in an unprecedented 11 days, 12 hours, and 10 minutes. Later, Baker would go on to beat his own record and set many more, but on a more advanced Indian Motorcycle. In 1916, Indian pulled the covers off of its 61 cubic inch (1,000 cc) 42-degree, side-valve V-twin engine that could hit top speeds of 60 mph. It was called the Powerplus, and it stayed in Indian’s line-up well into the 1920s.
The co-founder of Indian Motorcycles, George Hendee, resigned from the company in 1916, just before Indian and the United States entered into World War I. During the war, Indian dedicated the vast majority of its production efforts to the war. Naturally, this had adverse effects on the US market, with dealers having to rely on limited inventory, and sales plummeted. However, during this time Indian provided almost 50,000 to the US Army between 1917 and 1919 – with the majority of these models based around the successful Powerplus layout.
Post-War & The Great Depression
Despite the poor sales during the war years, Indian enjoyed a boost of sales in the early part of the 1920s. The decade brought many famous Indian models into production, such as the legendary Indian Scout which made its first appearance in 1920. The Scout quickly became popular thanks to its speed, reliability, and easy handling. Indian followed the Scout with the Chief in 1922, the Big Chief in 1923 and the Prince in 1927. Indian also purchased the Ace Motor Corporation and produced the Ace model too. While all this was going on, Indian formally took on the “Indian Motocycle Company” name – with no “r” this time around, ditching the Hendee Manufacturing Company name for good. In 1927, Indian also released a 45 cubic inch (750 cc) v-twin Scout engine that would go to be recognized as one of the best Indian engines ever-produced.
Despite the onset of the Great Depression, Indian fared remarkably well considering the state of the economy. In 1930, E. Paul Du Pont sold his share of DuPont Automobile to Indian and purchased a huge share in Indian in return, which brought about some major changes. Most of Indian’s existing management were replaced with new blood, and the company’s operations were given to Loring F. “Joe” Hosley, who promptly introduced new motorcycle line-ups with new model such as the Model 203, Scout Pony, and Sport Scout. Even with the economic hardships, Indian continued to sell motorcycles and stay afloat, and develop new ideas such as new engine with an exhaust-over-intake design, and develop gas tank mounted instrumentation. At the same time, Indian continued to impress on the race track, with Ed Kretz winning the first Daytona 200 on a race tuned Sport Scout, and the development of the Black Hills Classic – a motorcycle race organized by an Indian Motorcycle club that would eventually evolve into the world famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
World War II & The End Of An Era
The 1940s saw Indian return to active duty, providing the US Army and the Allied forces with motorcycles. Indian’s war effort began in 1940 when it supplied the French government with motorcycles, and in 1941 Indian began supplying US forces with the legendary Model 841. Due to the war, very few Indian motorcycles were produced for consumers, and sales obviously suffered. During this time, the Du Pont brothers sold Indian to Ralph B. Rogers. Rogers also took an interest in the Torque Manufacturing Company and purchased it to secure access to Torque’s chief engineer, G. Briggs Weaver, who had worked for Indian in the past. Rogers wanted Briggs to develop new Indian models.
By 1948, Indian’s new line up featured the first new models in years: the vertical twin 440cc Indian Scout, and the lightweight vertical single 220cc Indian Arrow. The late 40s also saw the formation of the legendary Indian Wrecking Crew, a team of incredible racers like Bobby Hill, Bill Tuman, and Ernie Beckman. Within a few short years the team was dominating on and off-road races up and down the country, including an impressive run of wins at the Springfield Mile.
Ralph B. Rogers was replaced as the president of the company in 1950 by John Brockhouse, but despite a management change, successful racing results, and a line-up of impressive models, the Indian Motorcycle Company was forced to cease operations in 1953. Brockhouse Engineering bought the rights to the company and sold Royal Enfield motorcycles with Indian badges on them until 1960, but the original Indian Motorcycle Company had officially collapsed.
The World’s Fastest Indian
Despite no-longer being in production, Indian Motorcycles could still make headlines. In 1967, a New Zealander by the name of Burt Munro rode his way into the record books and into motorcycling history when he set a new land speed record of 184.087 mph (with an unofficial speed of 205.67 mph) riding his modified 1920 Indian Scout Streamliner at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats – which was an incredible feat considering the age of both the motorcycle and the rider: a 47 year old motorcycle and a 68 year old pilot!
Burt Munro had always had a passion for speed and began claiming national speed records in New Zealand throughout the 1940s. Incredibly, his Scout was too fast for New Zealand’s speed tracks, and the only way he could break any more records was to race at the world famous Bonneville Salt Flats. Throughout his life, Munro raced at Bonneville a total of nine times, setting world records on three of those outings.
A Failed Revival
Since 1963, motorcycle racer, dealer, promoter, publisher and author Floyd Clymer had been desperately trying to revive Indian Motorcycles in some way after securing the rights. Unfortunately, his dream was never realized after Clymer died of a heart attack in 1970. The rights to Indian passed to his attorney Alan Newman. Newman tried to continue with Clymer’s dream, selling a series of small displacement motorcycles that carried the Indian brand name. The majority of these small displacement machines were manufactured in Taiwan, while a number of other models were rebranded Italian products. Though sales were steady at first, they declined throughout the 70s, and the Indian brand name was put to rest once more in 1977.
The Indian Motorcycle Company Of America (IMCA)
The Indian brand name would lay dormant for just over 20 years until 1998 when a merger of nine companies came together to form the Indian Motorcycle Company of America, which began producing Indian motorcycle models out of plant in Gilroy, California. The IMCA worked hard to resurrect the brand and return it to its former glory, and sold a number of models such as the Chief, Scout, and Spirit models, powered by engines from S&S Cycle Inc.
Unfortunately, the resurrection of Indian was short-lived and in 2003 the Indian Motorcycle Company of America was declared bankrupt and ended production. Once again, the company went into stasis – until the rights to Indian Motorcycles were unexpectedly bought in 2008. Stellican Ltd., a private equity firm from London, purchased Indian and its assets and established a manufacturing plant in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, producing models under the Indian Motorcycle Company once again. The firm produced a number of Indian Chief models powered by huge 105 cubic inch (1,720cc) v-twin engines between the years 2008 and 2011. In 2011, Stellican sold Indian Motorcycle to its most recent custodian: Polaris Industries.
The Polaris Era
Ever since Indian was included under the Polaris umbrella the company has been growing from strength to strength. After decades of financial uncertainty and unsuccessful resurrection attempts, Indian Motorcycles has finally been able to grow and flourish, with their engineering team developing new models and technologies, a strong market presence, and more dealerships that ever before, the future has never looked so bright for Indian. In fact, over the last few years Indian Motorcycles have won an incredible number of awards and garnered critical acclaim from the motorcycling press, all over the world and continue to introduce new and exciting models.
In 2013, the world saw the unveiling of the new Indian Chief Classic, Chief Vintage, and Chieftain models, followed by the introduction of the all new Thunder Stroke 111 V-twin engine. The very next year, Indian added the Roadmaster model to the line-up, as well as an all-new modern incarnation of the classic Scout. Motorcycle.com awarded the Indian Chief top honors as its 2014 Cruiser of the Year, also noting the abilities of the Chief Classic and Chief Vintage too. Indian broadened their market when they launched a multi-year partnerships with the Veteran’s Charity Ride to Sturgis, strengthening the brands links with the legendary Sturgis Rally. In 2015, Indian launched the Chief Dark Horse and Scout Sixty models, which were celebrated by all who rode them.
The Return Of A Legend
2016 saw Indian Motorcycles return to the racing scene, officially entering into professional Flat Track Racing with their latest racing model: the Indian Scout FTR750. With the marque’s popularity growing, it attracted the attention to established brands like Jack Daniels, who commissioned limited edition custom models to help promote both brands. To help boost their market presence, Indian released a further two models in 2016, the Indian Springfield and Chieftain Dark Horse, and simultaneously launching the Indian Ride Command system – the most sophisticated infotainment technology in the industry.
More recently, Indian unleashed the Scout Bobber, and it was met with universal acclaim. In the same year, Indian also built a modern racer to race at the Bonneville Salt Flats. As a modern incarnation of the legendary “Spirit of Munro” Indian called in Lee Munro, the nephew of Burt Munro, to race it. Lee Munro managed to run the new Scout to a top speed of 190 mph. The year also brought another incredible honor to the company, when the modern Indian Wrecking Crew rider Jared Mees, won the American Flat Track Championship – a feat made more amazing due to the fact that it was Indian’s first full year racing in over 60 years.
Are Indian Motorcycles Reliable?
The brand may be back and stronger than ever, but how reliable are Indian Motorcycles? Unfortunately, reliability is a tricky metric to measure, especially when a company like Indian is relatively new – in its current guise, at least. Since the most recent incarnation of Indian Motorcycles hasn’t been around long enough for reliability myths and legends to surface, there are only a few resources we can turn to. Consumer Reports regularly publishes a study on motorcycle reliability. Sadly, the most recent report from 2015 didn’t include Indian – though it did include Victory Motorcycles, which was another subsidy of Polaris Industries. In the study, 11,000 riders assessed the reliability of more than 12,000 new motorcycles bought and ridden between 2008 and 2014 over a twelve month period. The rider’s assessments were then formulated into a league table, and motorcycle failure rates were calculated into percentages. Victory were reported to have a failure rate of 17%, which is rather good. That’s Victory, and not Indian though. However, we can look at another factor to get another idea of a brand’s reliability.
Since 2009, Indian Motorcycles have issued a total of 11 recalls in the United States. While 11 seems like a high number, it’s remarkably low compared with Ducati, who have issued 49 recalls in the USA since 2003. Similarly, Yamaha have issued 35 recalls since 2003, Honda have issued 33, and Kawasaki 29. Compared with those manufacturers, Indian’s 11 is quite respectable. That being said, many of Indian’s recalls have affected a high volume of motorcycles, and for quite serious reasons. For example, Indian issued a recall in 2016 that concerned a staggering 23,746 motorcycles thanks to a faulty fuel system that could result in a fuel leak, and a fairly catastrophic fire. The second largest recall affected 18,367 due to a problem with the electrical, engine, and exhaust systems with an increased chance of engine misfires that could raise exhaust temperatures causing fires. Fortunately, the vast majority of recalls affected low volumes of models, so we can generally class modern Indian Motorcycles as very reliable products.
Indian Motorcycles: Innovation
Despite the fact that Indian’s enormous appeal lies in its commitment to tradition, the company has developed a number of exciting technologies to help blur the lines between a classic ride experience and modern motorcycling, to give their customers the best of both worlds without compromise on either side. The most impressive technological innovations are found as part of Indian’s standard equipment, as part of their industry leading “RideCommand” infotainment system, and on the company’s flagship flat track racing machine, the Indian Scout FTR750.
Modern Indian motorcycles come with a wide range of modern equipment as standard. These modern technologies include tank mounted speedometers and odometers, dual trip meters, a digital tachometer, and a comprehensive dashboard that can calculate a number of things including a rider’s average fuel economy, fuel range, and other interesting features such as the ambient air temperature and even the battery voltage. The dash also display’s the usual information such as the time, a gear position display, a neutral light, high beam alert, speed in miles or kilometers, a low fuel indicator, and whether your cruise control and ABS is enabled. Information alerts are also displayed, such as when your oil pressure is low, when you’re low on fuel, and if you’ve left your indicators on.
Indian’s new infotainment system, the RideCommand,” is touted as the most advanced and sophisticated infotainment system currently available on the market, and it does boast some remarkable technology. The RideCommand module is controlled by a 7” touch screen display that displays a wide range of information, including a real time clock, the ambient air temperature, the rider’s current heading, an audio information display, and a vehicle trouble code readout. On top of that, the Indian RideCommand also provides a real-time evaluation of your vehicle’s status, displaying your tire pressure, voltage, engine hours, when you’re due an oil change. The service is complimented with a real-time trip calculator that displays your speed, RPM, fuel range, and gear position, along with smart dual trip meters that calculate your fuel range, miles covered, average fuel economy, and average speed. Finally, the RideCommand also provides in-depth ride data that notes your heading, moving time, stop time, altitude, elevation changes and more. All of these features are Bluetooth enabled to allow maximum connectivity to a phone and headset device.
The Indian Scout FTR750
Indian’s dedicated flat-track racer, the Scout FTR750, is a testament to modern Indian’s engineering. Powered by an all-new water-cooled and fuel-injected 750cc, 53-degree, v-twin engine with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, and counter-balancing technology, the new engine sits in a highly advanced, adjustable and adaptable chassis. The rolling chassis features race-tuned Ohlins 43mm forks and a fully adjustable Ohlins monoshock on the rear for ultimate control, traction, and cornering ability. The whole package is designed to be versatile and easily tuned and adjusted to suit any rider and their specific riding styles and preferences.
Indian Motorcycles: Featured Inventory
Indian’s current model line-up features the most advanced motorcycles that the company has ever produced, spanning a wide range of styles, with models to suit a variety of riders and budgets. The line-up boasts entry-level motorcycles for new riders, heavy cruisers for more experienced riders, and mile-munching touring machines for serious travelers. Here’s the current model range:
Indian’s “Midsize” range features three distinct models that are based around the legendary Indian Scout package. The three models include the Indian Scout, the Scout Sixty, and Scout Bobber. The Scout Sixty is the smallest in the range, powered by a 61 cubic inch (999 cc) engine. The traditional Scout boasts a larger 69 cubic inch (1,133 cc) engine, and the much celebrated Scout Bobber features the same technology as the standard Scout but with a stripped down, raw appeal instead.
The Cruiser-line from Indian Motorcycles are all based around the Indian Chief model, with the three available models being the Indian Chief, Chief Classic, and Chief Dark Horse. All three models come powered by the same behemoth 111 cubic inch (1,811 cc) v-twin engine that produces a mighty 119 lb-ft of peak torque. There are subtle differences between the three models, including color options, tire choices, and the dashboard controls – and of course, the prices are also different, with the Chief Dark Horse starting from $17, 499; the Chief starting at $18,499; and the range topping Chief Classic staring from $19,499.
There are eight models in Indian’s Bagger range, built on top of three different platforms: the Chief, Chieftain, and Springfield. All three platforms are powered by Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 engine that boast 111 cubic inches (1,811 cc) of displacement. The Chief Vintage is the cheapest in the range with prices starting from $19,999. There are two baggers built on top of Indian’s Springfield platform, the Springfield and Springfield Dark Horse, with prices starting from $20,999 for both models. The most expensive baggers in the range come from the Chieftain line-up: the Chieftain ($21,499), the Chieftain Dark Horse ($23,999), and Chieftain Classic ($23,999). The most exclusive models in the line-up include the Indian Chieftain Limited (prices starting from $24,499), and the range topping, hand painted Chieftain Elite, with prices starting from $31,499.
Indian’s dedicated touring line features three bold models based around the Roadmaster platform. All three Roadmaster models come equipped with the Indian Thunder Stroke 111 engines and saddle bags, but unlike the rest of the Indian line-up, the Roadmaster models come equipped with the full works, including Indian’s highly-regarded RideCommand infotainment system, and every extra and add-on in the Indian catalog, such as heated grips, heated seats, keyless ignition, remote locking, and much, much more. The Indian Roadmaster Classic starts at $26,999, while the standard Indian Roadmaster starts at $28,999. The range topping Roadmaster Elite is the most expensive model from Indian Motorcycles, with prices starting from $36,999.
Indian Motorcycles: Company Snapshot
Indian Motorcycles is a subsidy of Polaris Industries, a global power sports leader. Polaris’s global headquarters is located in Medina, Minnesota, in the USA, and the company’s head office oversees the Indian brand, and directly manages the production, distribution, and transport of Indian motorcycles, and manages the company’s numerous dealerships.
Aside from the offices in Medina, Minnesota, and the Indian factory at Spirit Lake in Iowa, Polaris also has research and design facilities, manufacturing plants, and offices up and down the country, with locations in Wyoming, Plymouth, and Roseau, in Minnesota, Osceola (Wisconsin), Vermilion and Spearfish (South Dakota), Wilmington (Ohio), Huntsville (Alabama), Novi (Missouri), Ponderay (Idaho), and Sunnyvale (California).
Are Indian Motorcycles Manufactured In The USA?
All of Indian’s motorcycles are built and assembled in the USA, specifically at the Spirit Lake factory in Iowa. Previously, Indian Motorcycles had also been assembled in Minnesota. The Spirit Lake factory currently employs over 700 workers who expertly craft, assemble, and even hand paint many of Indian’s exceptional motorcycles.
Recently, thanks to new trading rules with the European Union, there has been talk of manufacturing Indian models destined for Europe at a dedicated European factory – Polaris’s already existing factory in Opole in Poland. At the moment, all Indian Motorcycles are most certainly manufactured in the USA. After all, the company’s slogan is “America’s first motorcycle company” so they’re American through and through.
Indian Motorcycle Dealerships
Currently, Indian Motorcycles operate at total of 185 official dealerships and authorized sellers in the USA. These dealerships specialize in the sale and service of Indian motorcycles, parts, riding gear, and merchandise, whilst also acting as brand ambassadors for the wider Indian company. Each dealer offers a range of different services and a different buying experience. Aside from selling new motorcycles, Indian’s dealers also specialize in the service and re-sale of pre-owned vehicles. For the best deals on new and pre-owned inventory, it’s always recommended that you purchase from an authorized Indian dealership to make the most of warranty and service deals. In fact, Indian Motorcycle dealerships are ranked as some of the best motorcycle dealerships in the country, thanks to a recent survey from Pied Piper.
Pied Piper Dealership Rankings
Indian’s dealerships scored remarkably well in the latest Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index. The Pier Piper PSI Index is a survey that assesses the quality of America’s motorcycle dealerships thanks to the experience of mystery shoppers. These mystery shoppers visited dealerships and assessed the quality of sales and service staff at dealerships up and down the country. The latest Pied Piper survey was taken in 2017, and Indian ranked in an impressive fourth place out of sixteen manufacturers. Technically, Indian actually came in joint third place with Ducati, since they both scored the same – both much higher than the industry average. In fact, Indian dealerships were more likely to sell their brand and dealership rather than just the product than other brands. The big winners in the survey were BMW Motorrad, who came in first place, followed by Harley-Davidson in second, with Ducati and Indian coming in third and fourth places. The big losers included Yamaha, KTM, and Husqvarna who (despite improving on previous years) still ranked in the bottom three.
Indian Motorcycles Financial Services
Potential Indian Motorcycle buyers can enjoy a wide range of interesting financial services and special offers available at the company’s official dealerships and authorized retail outlets. The offers available vary from model to model, and depends on whether you qualify for Indian’s financing options. Indian’s financing scheme works in partnership with Performance Finance, a loan production center of the Evergreen Bank Group. Qualifying customers can enjoy interesting offers ranging from low APR offers, zero interest payments, and customer cash bonuses.
Customer’s purchasing Thunder Stroke powered motorcycles can enjoy no payment or no interest schemes for up to six months, or take advantage of Indian’s 1.99% APR for up to 60 months. Those looking to trade-in can also get up to $1,000 cash on the purchase of a current year model cruiser too. Indian are currently running a similar deal on their Midsize range, with the choice of either no payments or no interest for six months, or the choice of 1.99% APR for 60 months for current year model motorcycles. The Indian website has an interactive calculator for the most accurate payment details.
Indian’s “Honoring Heroes” Scheme
As a proud American brand, Indian Motorcycles goes the extra mile to honor those who have spent time in service to the country, whether they’re currently active or retired. Indian’s current special offers for active military personnel and veterans includes a $1,000 Customer Cash Bonus with the purchase of any current year heavyweight Indian motorcycle, or a $500 Accessory and Apparel Bonus on the purchase of any current year Indian Motorcycle from the Midsize range. These deals are valid for all active, reserve, National Guard and retired military personnel, and for all active and retired police and firefighter personnel, including volunteer firefighters, and Border Patrol staff. Check with your nearest dealership for the most up to date information about special offers for veterans.
Indian Motorcycles & Polaris Industries
Polaris originally bought the Indian Motorcycles brand back in 2011, and while Polaris has always focused on the manufacture and sales of a different kind of power sports vehicle, Indian has quickly become an important gear in the Polaris machine. In a short time, Indian graduated from a relatively small part of the Polaris company up to become a massive 16 percent of the Polaris portfolio. Indian has enjoyed unprecedented growth at a time when the motorcycle industry has suffered greatly. Since the 2008 financial crisis the motorcycle industry is only beginning to recover and return to its former glory – but against all odds, Indian’s sales have rapidly grown with figures rising by up to 17 percent in one quarter, against the likes of Harley-Davidson who saw a loss of 7% in the same time frame. In 2017, Indian increased its production from 21,000 bikes per year to an impressive 25,000.
Polaris’s head of motorcycles, Steve Menneto said: “We’re seeing growth in a shrinking market,” and Indian seem to have found a comfortable market share. Unfortunately, Indian’s success came at the expense of one of Polaris Industry’s other two-wheeled interest: Victory Motorcycles. Victory was forced to close down but its closure meant that the Indian brand could continue and emerge stronger than ever – in fact, Victory may have closed down, but all of Victory’s staff successfully transferred over to other Polaris ventures, Indian specifically.
Today, Polaris Industries is one of the most successful manufacturers of snowmobiles, ATVs, electric vehicles and other power sport and recreational products in the world. Alongside Indian and Victory, Polaris also counts a number of other exciting companies under its umbrella, including: Global Electric Motorcars, Goupil Industries, the automobile manufacturer Aixam-Mega, and the Klim clothing manufacturer.
Indian’s Racing Legacy
The Original Wrecking Crew
From the very beginning, Indian has been setting records and winning races, but the most famous era of Indian’s racing history is the early 1950s, when the original Indian Wrecking Crew began winning and dominating the American racing scene. The original Wrecking Crew featured three of the most famous riders of the day: Bill Tuman, Bobby Hill, and Ernie Beckman, and together the trio went on a racing rampages (specifically between 1950 and 1953) that saw Indian collect a total of 14 AMA National victories. Incredibly, Indian’s most successful period of racing went hand in hand with one of the most devastating financial times for the marque. While the Wrecking Crew were winning on track, Indian was losing in the sales department and the brand was ultimately doomed.
After years of sitting on the side lines, 2017 saw the Indian Wrecking Crew return to racing. A new Indian Scout FTR750 was unveiled, along with three brand new riders, who have written a brand new chapter in the book of Indian’s racing legacy.
The Modern Indian Wrecking Crew
2017 saw Indian’s triumphant return to the racing scene, and what a debut year it was for America’s first motorcycle brand. Armed with the new Indian Scout FTR750, the all-new Wrecking Crew managed to dominate the 2017 AMA American Flat Track season, with all three of its riders finishing the season in first, second and third place together. For a debut year, Indian couldn’t have asked for a better result. And it’s all thanks to the modern Wrecking Crew.
The new Wrecking Crew consists of #1 Jared “Jammer” Mees, the 3 time AMA Grand National Champion, 2016 X Games Gold Medalist, and Grand Champion of the 2017 season; #4 “Flying” Bryan Smith, the 2016 AMA Grand National Champion, 2015 X Games Gold Medalist, and second place finished in the 2017 season; and #6, Brad “The Bullet” Baker, the AMA Pro Flat Track Expert Grand Champion – the 3rd youngest in the history of the sport – and third place finished in the 2017 AMA American Flat Track season. The trio have a tough act to live up to, but Indian has shown us that anything is possible, and the future looks bright for these racing stars.
Indian Motorcycle Heritage Museums
The Spirit Lake Factory
Real Indian Motorcycle enthusiasts can take a trip to the Spirit Lake factory in Iowa and embark on an in-depth guided tour of the facility and take in the history of the Indian brand at the Indian Motorcycle Experience Center. The Spirit Lake factory employs over 550 professionals who lovingly craft and assemble Indian’s legendary motorcycles. Visitors can book to go on a guided tour that begins the engine assembly and ends with a fully operational and fully assembled Indian motorcycle that rolls right off of the production line, allowing visitors an unprecedented insight into the production of one of the world’s most beloved motorcycles.
Each tour lasts approximately 45 minutes, and the tours come with a few strict rules: no photography or cell phone usage is allowed, closed toe, flat shoes are required (open toe sandals or heels are strictly prohibited), and all tour visitors must be over the age of 5. Guided tours are by appointment only and have limited availability. These tours can be arranged by calling 712-336-3797, or by contacting Indian via email.
The Indian Motorcycle Experience Center
For Indian enthusiasts who are unable to book on a guided tour or who are looking for a different experience, then the Indian Motorcycle Experience Center is a must-visit. The Center acts a showcase and museum for the Indian brand, displaying iconic models from the past and present, vintage Indian artifacts and memorabilia, with a dedicated factory shop that sells exclusive Indian-branded merchandise. The Indian Motorcycle Experience Center also offers video tours of the factory for those unable to join a physical factory tour. For those who really want to show their love for the brand, the Indian Motorcycle Experience Center is also available as a venue that can be hired out for private events and celebrations.
The Indian Motorcycle Experience Center is open from Monday to Friday between the hours of 8.00 am and 3.00 pm (CST). The Center is closed on public holidays and at weekends. It’s recommended that you check the Indian website ahead of your scheduled visit to avoid disappointment.
5 Things You Might Not Know About Indian Motorcycles
#01. While Indian Motorcycles might have shined on the race track, they’ve also starred in a load of Hollywood movies. Over the years, Indian machines have made appearances in hundreds of films, with some of the more recent including: The Sixth Day, Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines, The World’s Fastest Indian, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Daddy’s Home, and Ted 2.
#02. Ted 2 featured two interesting Indian connections. Firstly, Mark Wahlberg’s character stars alongside an awesome Flash Gordon custom Indian Scout. Secondly, the movie stars Mark Wahlberg, who happens to be a brand ambassador for Indian Motorcycles. The Boston-native is a long-term fan of Indian Motorcycles and has admired them since he was kid.
#03. Erwin “Cannonball” Baker might be most famous for his incredible coast to coast rides across the United States of America, but did you know that the Indian-riding legend went on to become the first commissioner of NASCAR, and also the main inspiration for the Burt Reynolds comedy movie “The Cannonball Run”?
#04. Indian and Harley-Davidson were both approached by the US Military in World War II to develop a motorcycle that could handle well in desert operation and rival the BMW R71 in terms of robustness. Indian developed the 841, a side-valve v-twin with a drive shaft, and Harley-Davidson came up with the XA, which was a straight copy of the R71. In the end, the army decided that Jeeps were better suited for desert warfare than motorcycles, and both projects were scrapped.
#05. While Indian Motorcycles is the oldest American motorcycle manufacturer that is still in production today, it’s not actually the oldest that ever existed. In 1898, Orient-Aster developed the first American production motorcycle. Other brands of the era, such as the Waltham Manufacturing Company, also pre-dated Indian, but didn’t last nearly as long and are defunct today.
Indian Motorcycles: FAQ
#01. Who Owns Indian Motorcycles? Indian Motorcycles is a subsidiary of Polaris Industries, and has been since Polaris acquired the rights to the marque in April 2011. Polaris purchased the rights from a London-based equity firm called Stellican Limited, and since then the brand has been growing from strength to strength.
#02. Is Indian Motorcycles Going Out Of Business? Not at all. While Polaris decided to close down Victory Motorcycles, there is no chance that they will be closing Indian down anytime soon. In fact, Indian has been one of the few motorcycle manufacturers that has posted regular growth in recent years, despite the harsh economic climate. Indian is in a very strong position at the moment.
#03. Are Indian Motorcycles Made In America? Yes. All of Indian’s products are manufactured and assembled in the USA, with the vast majority of the manufacturing done at the Spirit Lake factory in Iowa. A possible European factory has been discussed by the company, but only for the manufacture of models sold in the European Union – but it’s only an idea at present.
#04. Does Indian Motorcycles Make A Trike? No. Currently there are no official Indian trikes in the company line-up. The majority of Indian trikes that you see for sale are modified by professionals. Indian’s parent company, Polaris, does produce a trike of sorts, in the form of the Polaris Slingshot.
#05. Are Indian Motorcycles Reliable? Modern Indian motorcycles are said to be very reliable, providing that rider’s keep up with regular maintenance and check in for regular services. Major problems aren’t unheard of but they are generally few and far between.