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Indian Recent History Lesson, Part Four. 1982-2014.

Dr. Mark

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This here is the part where I tell you about how I got interested in Indians,

All you long timers have been bored shitless with this story for years, so just clam up, skip over it, and scroll down to the good stuff.

You new guys can probably relate, so here goes...

It was either 1976 or 1977, and a buddy of mine an I were riding our little sportsters one weekend, and we had stopped at a watering hole to eat lunch and have a beer. It was one of the biker spots, where there might be two cars in the parking lot, and 50 or 60 bikes on any given weekend day. You know the place.


So, anyway, we'd been there long enough to get lunch, and some guy sticks his head in the door, and hollers that a couple of Indians had just pulled up. Well, we are about 18 or 19 and had never seen, nor heard what an Indian was. so we was sorta surprised when most of the place emptied out. Well, we figured whatever it was, we needed to go see.

We wander out, and there, in the parking lot, are two immaculate, gorgeous, Indian-red Chiefs.

One was a '48, and the other was a '52 or '53 Blackhawk, I think.

You remember the first time you saw a pretty girl buck naked? Yeah. It was like that.


The riders were both middle aged, Brown leather jackets, and cigars, one even had a silk scarf.

They were the epitome of cool. James Bond wishes he was as cool as these dudes.

They were really nice guys though. My friend and I peppered them with questions forever, and crawled all over the bikes.


Later, much later, Rick and I found the hulk of an Indian, I now think it was probably a 101 Scout frame, that still had wheels and handle bar attached, leaned up behind a barn, and bought it off a farmer, and brought it back to our apartment.


We'd get drunk and sit on it, and proclaim that one day, we too would be among the royalty of motorcyclists...

One day... some day... we'd be Indian riders...


On with our history lesson:




Ok. so here's where things start to get really weird.


It's 1982.


Indian has not had a factory in the US since 1953.


The Indian script and warbonnet has been tacked on everything from minibikes to go-carts.


An entire generation of Americans has been born, grown up, and had kids since there was an Indian built in this country.


And something really weird is happening.


Instead of slowly fading away, like Excelsior or Ace, or any of the other legendary American motorcycles....

Indian is becoming more popular than ever.


Indian motorcycle rallies are popping up all over the world....Europe Australia, the U.S, and even in Asia.

Prices of Indians soar.

Peter Fonda, in an interview about motorcycles, states that everyone is riding Harleys "But if you got an Indian...Man, you got something..."

At Daytona, Indian Fours are referred to as "three-bedrooms", because the price is getting to be as much as a small home.


The rights to the name, (at least in Canada, for sure), are held by a company that markets Indian labeled clothing, quite successfully. Indian leathers and shirts sell all over the world.


Buzz Kanter, the publisher of American Iron, starts up a magazine called Indian Motorcycle Illustrated.


In the US. two different entrepreneurs attempt to revive Indian.


One is (relatively) legit. The other will end up in federal prison.


Subsequent to the discontinuation of American Moped's "Indian Four", several competing claims are filed to the Indian intellectual property.


One of them is by a guy named Philip Zhanghi. Zhanghi puchases Clymer's rights through a company called "Indian Motocycle Manufacturing" and is based in, of all places, Berlin, Germany. At some point, he licenses the right to build a German Indian motorcycle...thing...called the Big Buffalo. It's a Chevy based V-8 Indian version of the Boss Hoss.




It will be the closest thing to an Indian that will be associated with Zhanghi.

Mostly, he sells a lot of t shirts, a lot of stock. and buys himself fur coats, Ferraris, and a mansion.

The feds come knocking, and Zhanghi is carted off to prison for seven and a half years.


The other guy is a dude named Wayne Baughman.


He is a former motorcycle cop, turned seller of grey market Mercedes Benzes.

After making some decent money in the auto market, he decides to revive Indian.

He forms IMMI: Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing, Inc. in New Mexico.

He doesn't bother with buying any IP, "I don' need no steenking trademark...", and sets out to build a motorcycle.

His first prototype is mocked as 'the wooden indian' since the engine is a carved block of wood.

His second attempt is a little better. A little.


This is the Century Chief. It's a liquid cooled V twin, with 100.6 cubic inches. This would be the ONLY one.




Wayne's World would be torpedoed in 1995 by the consolidation of all the claimants to the Indian IP into two groups.


Neither group included Wayne. Poor Wayne.


One group was the Eller group. They had actually gotten permission from the bankruptcy trustee to proceed with development of an Indian motorcycle.

They were actually going to build it on an Indian reservation...the Cow Creek Band of the Umpquah Tribe of Indians.

(Look, I told you this was going to get weird...I swear to God, you can't make this stuff up.)


They had even engaged Roush Racing to build the engine.


Here is the Eller bike. This photo was suppressed for a long time, by court order.

Gilroy did not want anyone to see what they had missed out on.


You will see a lot of design cues that Polaris used on the 2014s on this bike.





Eller too, had three planned versions of the bike. Just like Polaris.


Now, suddenly, the trustee yanks the rights to Indian away from Eller, and slaps them with a court order suppressing them from showing their bike in public...


And awards it to a guy named Murray Smith, who represents an investor group who includes the Canadian clothing people, and the California Motorcycle Company. They plop down a cool $22 million to buy the IP from the reciever, with the understanding that they will produce an "Indian" within the year.


If it smells like fish, and it rots like fish...well...


Photo disclaimer. At this point, I am going to cut back on the photos. If you are interested. hop down to one of the forum sections dedicated to these particular bikes. Our members have some of the best examples...in some cases the ONLY examples, of certain of these models.

Some of them are truly breathtaking, and I'd encourage you to do so.

But I have already had to cut this thread into four parts to accommodate photos, and it's already taking me all night to write, so I gotta cut a corner somewhere to get this mother done.




Now, at that time, CMC (California Motor Co.) has a really nice bike called the Streetcruiser, which is similar to a Harley softtail.





What the new Indian Motorcycle Company of America (IMCOA) does, essentially, is put Indian fenders and Indian branded equipment on the CMC bike, in order to meet the court imposed deadline.

If they do not meet the deadline, the $22 million goes *poof* and the rights revert to Eller.


Thus is born the 1999 Indian Chief.




It is powered by an S&S 88" engine, with a 5 speed, belt primary and belt final drive. Dry clutch.

There were only 1,100 of the 1999 Chiefs built, and they sold out quickly, even at $25K a pop.

Some of the earliest 1999 Indians had to be registered as CMC's because the VIN had already been engraved into the frame.


Corbin did the seats, but I don't remember it he started with the 99's or the 2000's.




There are immediate problems with the fenders. They are not well supported, and they begin to bend and crack.

Other problems begin to crop up.

Dissent is suppressed on the Indian Motorcycle official factory forum.

Anyone who even asks about the problems gets banned.

Tony Whitefeather forms the Indian Motorcycle Community forum, then called Cybocorp, in response.


The 2000's are very similar to the 1999's except in different colors, and if I recall correctly, the placement of the floorboards.

1999 and 2000 owners, jump in here to add your .02 worth.




In 2001, the Indian swaps to a wet clutch, with a chain/belt combo. The paint schemes are different too. You'll note that the 1999 and 2000 two-tones have two tone tanks. The 2001's have two tone fenders, and one color tanks.

Indian is no longer buying S&S engines, but are now buying S&S parts, and assembling the engines in Gilroy.

This is not an improvement. It turns out some of the parts are not S&S, but are in fact el-cheapo offshore.

Search "Taiwanese rocker box" on this forum. When this story breaks on the forum, outrage abounds.


The Scout and Spirit are introduced in 2001. they both also utilize the S&S 88 also.


Gilroy begins to produce it's many special editions, the Centennial Chief and Scout, the Millenium Chief, the Silvercloud, the Nieman Marcus Edition, and so forth. Work has already begun on the proprietary Powerplus 100 engine, and frame.




The Scout and Spirit continue, and the all-new Powerplus Chief is introduced. It is a 100 cubic inch engine, and the bike has a monoshock swingarm frame, now becoming an all indian motorcycle. The internals of the PP100 share components with the Evo engine though, and so the Harley Clone epithet is still used against the bikes by legions of haters.

The Chief Roadmaster is, at this point, the top of the line, with saddlebags, and windshield and a two up seat.

To commemorate the new bike, Gibson guitars issues a limited edition Les Paul indian motorcycle edition Guitar. Don't ask how much it costs.




July 2002

The Iron Indian Riders Association is formed. This is in response to several things. The traditional Indian motorcycle clubs were closed to riders of the new bikes. (Yeah, we got discriminated against.) The IRG (Indian Riders Group) is the official factory group but speaking of bike's problems is verboten there.

With the problems with the bikes, now exploding into the issues with the PP100, and buyers not being able to freely discuss their problems on the factory forum, membership here in the Community increases dramatically, and discussion turns to forming an independent group "By the riders, For the riders."

The IIRA and the Indian Motorcycle Community give Indian owners a place to congregate with others having the same problems they are having, and so work out solutions.

We all get to know, love and hate each other. IIRA gatherings begin to occur across the country.





Scout and Spirit continue, and the Chief adds the Vintage model, to go along with the already existing Chief Deluxe, and Chief Roadmaster. The Spirit gets two tone paint, to match the Chief. The Springfield Chief debuts, in Red and Black.


All is not wine and roses. The 2002 Chiefs are killing the company. The bikes break down left and right.

There are issues with the engine and the electrical system. Warranty claims are off the charts.

The company is hemorrhaging money.


Prototypes for the 2004 models are out, and look to be the best Indians yet. A fat-tire version of the Scout is introduced, and lower priced versions of the Chief are coming. The teething problems of the PP100 look to be controlled, and QA is improving.


Work begins on the new Indian engine for the Scout and Spirit, the Powerplus 92, to be introduced in 2004.


The first Indian Rally at Indian Point takes place.


August 19th, 2003. Disaster.

Audax Corporation, Indian's corporate owner refuses to input any more capital into the company. Proton, a Malaysian company, offers to invest 50 million into Indian, for a controlling share. Audax refuses.

The day before the Las Vegas dealer's meeting, where the 2004 models are to be introduced, the factory locks it's doors and lays of all the workers, without warning.

IMCOA goes into recievership.


Shortly thereafter, the factory has the infamous 'fire sale'.

Except for the bikes that are reserved for Bill Melvin of Liquid Asset, everything that isn't bolted down, gets sold off.

Melvin thinks (and still thinks to this day. apparently) that he got all the motorcycles that Indian had on hand at the time of the closure.

It is to laugh.

Quite a few bikes never make it to Melvin's collection.

Don Nofrey cannily ( some would say 'sneakily') carts off all the parts needed to construct quite a few motorcycles, including the second very special edition bike called the Midnight Sun. He will sell these from the Gilroy Indian dealership.


Sometime in mid-2004.


Stellican Limited, a private equity group, headed by Stephen Julius and Steve Heese, two former roomates at Harvard, purchase the IP for Indian. Estimates for the cost they paid for the IP range from 3 million to 30 million.

Heese and Juilus already have a track record of resurrecting floundering brands, having successfully done it with Crhis Craft boats. and Riva Yachts. They move the headquarters to King's Mountain, North Carolina, where they have been offered tax and other incentives.




They move slowly, hiring engineers to take the PP100 and morph it into the PP105.

Their business plan is heatedly debated, patricularly here on the forum. They plan on building them one at a time, using high quality parts and labor intensive assembly, making them very expensive. They hire master bike bulders from firms like BMW, and engineers from Victory. Their general manager is the former head of Harley's Sportster division.

They do not move quickly enough for some people, leading some to huff that they will "never build a bike".

In spite of this, "The Steve's" as they are called, visit IRIP and talk to the members, getting their input.


May 2008

Chris Bernauer, general manager at Indian, and Mark Moses roll up to IRIP with a truckload of Indian Motorcycle Prototypes.

They have the new PP105 engine, and will be going on sale in the fall. The new engine has closed loop fuel injection, and a plethora of improvements. The new bikes have a total of 1,800 changes from the 2004 bikes.


October 2008

Mark Moses opens the flagship Indian dealership, the first dealer anywhere, in Charlotte, NC. Initially, sales are brisk.

Dealerships are planned for all over the world.


March 2009

I pick up Vintage #75 at Charlotte. (Sorry, I couldn't resist)



Then, the crash happens.

Sales tank, but Charlotte continues to do well. Sales projections for Indian are scaled way back, but they do manage to introduce new models every year: The Bomber and Dark Horse in 2010. the BlackHawk in 2011.

The ill fated 'short fendered' Chief goes away.

The Vintage continues to be the best seller, in spite of being the highest priced model. Go figure.


April, 2011

Just two years after the introduction of the new Chief, Polaris Industries purchases Indian Motorcycle.

The factory in North Carolina is closed in July of 2011, and production is moved to Spirit Lake, Iowa.


May 2011

Indian top brass, including Greg Brew, come to IRIP.

Many frozen margaritas from Billy's infamous refreshment trailer are consumed.




Production continues of the KM era Chiefs at Spirit Lake, with the Vintage, Dark Horse and Deluxe.

Polaris' 110th anniversary Indian Limited Edition is produced.




Production of the KM designed Chief scales back. Only 85 Chiefs are produced this model year of all kinds,

including the VERY limited editions 'LE' (Limited Edition) and 'FE' (Final Edition) models.



March 2013

The Thunderstroke 111 engine is introduced to the world.



May 2013

The tenth annual Indian Rally at Indian Point takes place.



August 2013

The all new Chief Vintage, Chief Classic, and Chieftain are introduced at simultaneous events in Sturgis, SD and Sidney, Australia.



September 2013

First deliveries of 2014 motorcycles begin at Indian dealers all over the country.



To be continued.....

Edited by Dr. Mark
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2000 Indian Chief.




2000 Chief Millenium Edition.

This is not to be confused with next years Silver Cloud, or the Neiman Marcus Edition, all of which sport similar paint.

The Mill's have darker grey leather than the Silver Clouds.







2001 Silver Cloud Edition. Note the difference in the leather. Hard to see here, but "Silver Cloud" is stiched into the flaps of the saddlebags just below the Chief's head on the flaps.



Edited by Dr. Mark
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2001 Centennial Chief. This, and the Centennial Scout, were created to commemorate indian's 100th anniversary.




The 2001 Centennial Scout. It came in Black or Cream, with a lot of the chrome blacked out, and with gold trim and red pin stripes.




Non-Centennial Scout.




2001 Spirit.




Yet another special edition. 2001 Spirit of America special edition, the so-called "Flag bikes". They came in red, white and blue, and commemorated 9/11.









Edited by Dr. Mark
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2002 was a big year for Gilroy. The new Powerplus 100 Chief, was introduced, but also, a passel of new colors were available in the Scout and Spirit.



2002 Chief

This photo is unusual, because it shows the ugly-ass stock aircleaner that they came from the factory with, and was the first thing everyone tore off. There can't be more than a handful of 2002 Chiefs out there with this thing still on them.

They were nicknamed The Lunchbox.




The "Rare Black and Red". We fascetiously call it that, because it was the bike in the ads, and they sold the hell outta them. This appears to be a bone-stock Roadmaster.






Lethal combination. Would you care to guess which one is higher maintenance?



Edited by Dr. Mark
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  • 2 weeks later...

The reasons for Gilroy's failure.


At this point, I am going to undertake to do a post mortem on what happened to Indian during the Gilroy years that lead to their demise.


As with anything like this. a lot of it is subject to opinion...some say it's because there were too many Chiefs and not enough Indians at the plant, and point to inflated salaries and perks. Well, while there may be some truth to that, it was not the main reason Gilroy tanked.


There were some other, much more serious factors.


First, lets look at the reliability issue. Indian had a ton of recalls, and not all of them were on the PP100 bikes. Add to that the fact that some dealers were submitting...well...shall we just call it "inflated" warranty claims for recall work....and when you find out that, at some point or other, nearly every single bike made by Gilroy was subject to a recall...you start to see where the operating capital went.





Here are selected recalls involving Indian motorcycles by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For more information, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.


6,570 2001-02 Scout and Spirit models to weld a bolt onto each front fork to maintain its integrity.

(recalled to fix a structural problem involving a faulty weld attaching the fender mount. If the weld failed, the fender could collapse into the wheel, leading to a loss of control, according to the NTSB and NHTSA. This same problem also affected some 1999-2001 Chiefs.)


6,173 2001-02 Scout and Spirit models to install a new bracket to support the teardrop headlight.


3,625 2000-03 Chief and Spirit models to replace the brackets and bolts on certain standard and optional windshields.


1,979 2002-03 Chief, Chief Vintage and Spirit models and 1,643 2002-03 Scouts to replace the gas tank vent tube.


7,947 2000-01 Scout, Scout Centennial, Spirit, Chief and Chief Centennial models to replace the Compufire brand series type voltage regulators.


5,464 2002-03 Scout, Scout Centennial and Spirit models to have the windshield replaced.


984 2002 Chief models to inspect the alignment of the brake caliper and rotor.


590 2002 Chiefs and Scouts to replace the rear axles.


4,765 2000 Chief models to replace the handlebar rise clamp, which may have too much play.


4,590 2000 Chief models to inspect and replace, if necessary, the rear shock absorbers.


907 2002 Scouts to install new gas tanks with a redesigned mounting bracket.


181 2001 Scout models to add insulation to the positive battery cable.


Bear in mind, these do NOT include the warranteed fixes on the REAR fenders, nor the multiple items with peeling chrome that were replaced, and so forth.


The bad thing is, a large number of the Gilroy bikes still on the road may never have had ANY of these recalls fixed.

Some of their riders are probably...no, make that likely... unaware that they may be riding a time bomb.


As many here will tell you, if you get a Gilroy that has been sorted out, you will probably have a nice machine. But how do you tell?

(About the best way, is to buy one from a long time rider, who knows Indians, and has done all the work.)


Now, on to the final nails in the coffin...


Indian Gilroy's crowning achievement was also, ironically, it's downfall.


The PowerPlus 100








Engine Type 100 cubic-inch (1638cc), 45-degree, V-twin engine
Cooling Air-cooled
Bore & Stroke 3.875 in. x 4.25 in. (98mm x 108mm)
Compression Ratio 9:1 approximately*
Intake & Exaust 1.940 in & 1.615 in. (49.3mm x 41.0mm)
Valve Train Two valves per cylinder with hydraulic lifters
Carburetion 42mm flat-side Mikuni carburetor
Ignition Solid-state electronic, computer-controlled



The aim, from the beginning, was to produce a new Indian.

One that was separated from Harley, both visually and mechanically, not just a re-skinned softtail.

Now we can debate all day, or all week, or all year, (and believe me, we have...) about just how far from Harley the PP100 took us. visually it was, and is, one of the most beautiful American V twin engines. Yes, it does use primariily Evo guts, but Indian did move the air cleaner and intake to the left side where God, George and Oscar intended it to be.

The frame was also a calculated move, to get away from the Harley softtail frame, and the engineer who designed the monoshock swingarm rode an R-1, and was a fan of superbike frame geometry.


The frame wasn't that bad..but the engine, in spite of it's cosmetic appeal, was not fully gestated.

The gerotor oil pump was ineffective, and would lead to an upgrade that would have been installed in the 04+ bikes. But the big one...the bugaboo...was the bottom end failure.

I am going to blythely skip over the whole 'pinning the sleeve' issue, and the issue with the porous cases...if you want, you can do subject seaches on this forum, or over at Brand X.


The best explanation you can get comes from Frank at Blackhawk, who was consulted to help iron out the issues in the PP100 by Indian, and most of their updates would have been in the new 2004s. Here's Frank's explanation:



"One of the biggest problems plaguing the ’02 and ’03 Power Plus 100 engine is in the flywheel assembly.


These flywheels are assembled using tapered bores and corresponding tapered shafts; the keys to a good fit and long service life are proper materials, close tolerance machining, matching tapers and adherence to assembly process.


The imported flywheels used by Indian Motorcycle Co. suffered from soft materials, machining problems, and unlike tapers. This has caused major problems with the flywheels assembly’s ability to maintain its concentricity.

Consequently, flywheels are shifting on the tapers and coming out of ‘true’; leading to several problems like increased vibration, lower end knocks, broken pinion shafts and the loosening of the cast-in case race insert in the right side case, rendering the cases as bad.


The flywheels need to be trued to within .002" on assembly and must maintain that run-out limit.

Anything beyond that limit indicates trouble and we have seen engines with as much as .031" of pinion run-out."


By the fall of 2003, the cloth had begun to unravel. The warranty claims of the previous Gilroy bikes had not only gobbled up all the money for R&D, it had also gobbled up all the operating capital. Audax corporation, had no further interest in continuing to bankroll what was, to them, a losing proposition.

The last ditch effort was to offer sale of 49% of the company to an Indonesian company, Proton, for $50 million in investment. It was felt that the cash infusin would have gotten Indian over the hump and into profitability, particularly with the advent of the 2004 fat tire Scout, and more affordable Chief.

At the meeting, Proton representatives, arrived with money in hand...and a demand that they be given 51% control of the company.

Audax refused, and Indian ran out of operating capital within days.

Edited by Dr. Mark
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2003 Indian Motorcycles.


The last production year of Indians gave us a plethora of paint and model choices.


The Springfield and Vintage models were introduced this year. and they were both hot sellers.


Scouts came in regular, Deluxe and Springfield.


Spirits came in regular, Springfield and Roadmaster versions, with all the same paint schemes you could get on the Chief.



2003 Scout




2003 Scout Deluxe




2003 Scout Springfield



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2003 Spirits



This is my favorite year of Spirits, because of the great paint schemes they offered.


Deluxe Spirits








Spirit Roadmasters






Spirit Springfield





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2003 Chiefs.


As I said, this year saw the introduction of the Chief Vintage, available in black or Red, with either black or tan leather.


The front head light nacelle was removed, and instead it had a treatment similar to the classic Chiefs of the 40's and 50's.







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