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Indian Recent History Lesson, Part One. 1953-1962.

Dr. Mark

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As promised earlier, here is a (relatively speaking) short primer in recent Indian history.


Pre-1953 there are a ton of books covering that, but since that time, it's spotty. I will be devoting some special attention to

the Gilroy and King's Mountain eras, and up to now.


There are a lot of inaccuracies, and both misinformation and disinformation out there, so this may be eye opening to some of you. We will need to debunk some commonly held misconceptions. Here we go...


First, we can talk about that whole "Indian died in 1953" thing.


It's completely wrong. Indian did no such thing. On to Our Story....




To understand what happened then, we need to set the WayBack Machine to 1945.


At that time, Indian was owned by DuPont corporation...yes, that DuPont.

Paul duPont, the heir to the DuPont fortune, loved Indian, but in the post world war two climate, things had changed. Industrialists now had to answer more to their boards than they had before the war.

Indian was not successful. A lot of things contributed to that, but the two most important factors were an excess of patriotism, and a lack of corporate espionage.

They had not kept an eye on what Harley was doing during the war.

While Indian had dedicated 100% of it's capacity to the war effort...Harley had not.

They kept back a small amount of production capacity, and kept a trickle of bikes flowing to their dealers, under phoney-baloney "essential use" exemptions.

Their dealers were able to limp along, and do ok during the war, while Indian dealers were, in essence, cut off.

Patriotic, but not bright.


DuPont's board decreed that Indian be sold. Paul Dupont, now in ailing health, did not feel up to the task of dealing with Indians postwar problems, and agreed.

The company was sold to millionaire industrialist, Ralph B. Rogers.

Rogers was not a motorcyclist, but had made his fortune in tractors, lawnmowers and such. At the same time he bought Indian, he also acquired the Torque Engineering Company of Plainfield. Although he was not a motorcyclist, he purchased, and learned to ride, an Indian. (Not unlike someone else we will encounter, some 60 years later. But I digress...)


After seeing the lightweight, agile British motorcycles, Rogers became convinced that the postwar future of motorcycling lay in the production of lightweight, smaller bikes. He was, essentially, correct, but fate dealt him a really shitty hand.


Initially, the plan was to make the Torque vertical twins. They displaced, respectively, 11 cu. in. (180cc's), 22 cu. in. (360cc's) and they even developed an inline four cylinder that was only 44 cu. in. (720cc's) .

They tanked almost immediately due to being hideously unreliable.

Rogers then moved to a new design, a 30.50 inch (500 cc) vertical twin that was much more reliable.

These were the Warrior, Warrior TT, and the last (Springfield-era) Scout.







As a result of the fiasco with Torque, Indian was in dire financial straits, and Rogers took in a partner, John Brockhouse, of England's Brockhouse Engineering. Brockhouse provided operating capital, but also began importing bikes that they built in England, and then rebadged as Indians. This would include the 1949 Indian Brave, a 250cc bike that was OK, competent, but nothing to write home about. (I bought two of the damn things. But I digress. Again.)


Remember, during this time, Indian continued to produce the Chief at Springfield. (An aside. The Indian factory has traditionally been referred to as "The Wigwam")


Where things get interesting...


OK, so about this time, England is in a postwar slump. In order to get things moving, particularly given the huge debt the UK owes the US, the Brits, devalue the pound. By THIRTY freaking percent.

Now, in most times, that would mean diddly-squat to most Americans.

What it meant to Indian was a good, solid punch right in the face.

Their new vertical twins were competing against British bikes that looked good, ran good, handled good...and suddenly, overnight, cost one HELL of a lot less than a comparable Indian.


Look, that would mean, in todays dollars, that an Indian that had...ahem...'issues'... cost about $3,000.

A Triumph, BSA, Norton, or Royal Enfield on the other hand, could be had for about $2,000. Ouch.


They sold like screen doors for submarines. John Brockhouse assumes control of the company.


Indian production continues at Springfield until 1953, when the plant finally closes. For a long time, it was thought that the 1953 bikes were the last of the breed, but new evidence shows that the "Fabled 50"...50 bikes made in 1954 for the NYPD..actually did exist. The prblem with those bikes is, they were made with 1953 parts, so no one knows for sure which of them is really one of the "1954" bikes.

The very last five 80" Indian Chiefs were made in 1955. These too, were supposedly mythical...until some recent evidence surfaced that they, too, actually exist.

Only two have been located. One is in California, in the hands of the Stark family, and the other is in Texas, and has less than 3000 miles on it. And the owner is keeping his identity a closely guarded secret. He doesn't want everyone bothering him to sell his bike. The whereabouts of the other three are unknown.

Except to the owners, one would assume.




Now, here is the interesting part. When Brockhouse buys(steals/swindles/finagles and other terms) the company, it is split into two parts.

The motorcycle manufacturing part, including the Wigwam property, become part of the Titeflex Corporation.


The other part, which apparently holds the name and intellectual property portion, becomes known as the Indian Sales Corporation.

As you will see in a bit, this becomes EXTREMELY important down the road.

Whoever owns ISC...owns Indian.


Titeflex is the part that builds motorcycles...and they shut down in 1953..or 54...maybe 55. It's a little murky. There are still employees wandering around there, as late as maybe 1957. Like I said...things are getting strange, here.


Indian Sales Corporation...still an American company, with headquarters in the US...imports British motorcycles, and rebadges them as Indians. But that's not all. ISC also has the rights to sell a bunch of other bikes in the US, including AJS, Douglas, Excelsior(the Brit Excelsior. Not the other one), Matchless, Norton, Royal Enfield and Vincent.

At some point here, they build the "Vindian", which is a 195X Chief, with a Vincent Black Shadow engine. There are at least two examples of this. One blue, one black. Several replica copies have been built also.








Indian mostly rebadged Royal Enfields and sold them as Indians in the US. Those were the Fire Arrow, Tomahawk, Woodsman, Trailblazer, and, of Course, the Chief.


Some of them were quite nice looking bikes, too.


Here are a couple of 1960 Indian Chiefs...






In 1960, Indian was bought by AMC...Associated Motorcycles of Great Britain. All Indian dealerships were renamed "AMC/Indian" but at this point they stopped rebadging Brit bikes as Indians. From 1961 to '63 you could still buy rebadged, leftover "Indians" at these dealers though. That stopped in 1963 when Berliner Corporation took over AMC.

Now, at this point, enter Floyd Clymer, Hap Alzina and Sammy Pierce.



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One thing I have found with the English Indians is they also make a difference if they are Brockhouse and RE Indians. I was told by their archivist that the 56 Tomahawk I have is considered one of the Brockhouse Indians becase of where they were built and who shipped them off to the US for sale. Brockhouse was apparently assembling the bikes and selling them through RE before RE took everything in house and assembled them with the RE bikes.

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Some more pretty Royal Enfield and Brockhouse Indians from the 50's and early 60's.


1951 Indian Brave






Maldev's lovely 1956 Indian Tomahawk








Pretty 1959 Indian Woodsman







1958 Indian Trailblazer






Love the paint on this 1959 Enfield Chief. Lots of custom work, and it shows.

How can you not call this a "real Indian"?

Damn, it looks good.























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