On 7 October 2023 a stop was made at a café, during the journey to the Peter Collins Museum before the SAHB autumn seminar. A group of bikers turned up with some delectable machines, from Moto Guzzi via Honda to Harleys. But, in the opinion of most people in the car park, they were all upstaged by this gorgeous Indian Scout. It is a 100th anniversary edition of the Scout model.
The story of the Indian motorcycle is in two parts, separated by the wilderness years between 1953 and 1999 when no production bikes were made.
The “Indian Motocycle Co.” was founded as the Hendee Manufacturing Company by George M. Hendee in 1897 to manufacture bicycles. These were initially badged as “Silver King” and “Silver Queen” brands but the name “American Indian”, quickly shortened to just “Indian”, was adopted by Hendee from 1898 onwards because it gave better product recognition in export markets. Oscar Hedstrom joined in 1900. Both Hendee and Hedstrom were former bicycle racers and manufacturers.
They created their first production motorcycle, with a single-cylinder engine, in Hendee’s home town of Springfield, Massachusetts.
The first Indian motorcycles, with chain drives and streamlined styling, were sold to the public in 1902. In 1903, Oscar Hedstrom set the world motorcycle speed record of 56 mph. In 1904 the company introduced the deep red colour that would become Indian’s trademark. Annual production of Indian motorcycles then exceeded 500, rising to a peak of 32,000 in 1913.
In 1905, Indian built its first V-twin factory racer. One of the firm’s most famous riders was Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, who set many long-distance records. In 1914, he rode an Indian across America, from San Diego to New York, in a record 11 days, 12 hours and ten minutes. One of the company’s best early results came in the Isle of Man TT in 1911, when Indian riders Oliver Cyril Godfrey, Franklin and Moorehouse finished first, second and third.
The middleweight Indian Scout and larger Chief, both 42-degree V-twins, were launched in 1920 and became the company’s most popular models, gaining a reputation for strength and reliability.
In 1930, Indian merged with Du Pont Motors. Its founder Paul DuPont ceased production of DuPont motor cars and concentrated the company’s resources on Indian. In 1940, Indian sold nearly as many motorcycles as its major rival, Harley-Davidson.
In 1945, a group headed by Ralph B. Rogers purchased a controlling interest in the company, and shrank the range to one model, the Chief. Rogers then left; the new owner, John Brockhouse, brought no success to Indian, and production of all models wound down from 1952 to 1953.
After many attempts to revive Indian production, finally in 2006 the newly formed Indian Motorcycle Company restarted the Indian motorcycle brand, manufacturing Indian Chief motorcycles in limited numbers, with a focus on exclusivity rather than performance. Around 2011, Polaris Industries acquired Indian.
The new Indian Scout was introduced in 2015 as a cruiser with a 1,133cc overhead-cam V-twin engine It was named 2015 Motorcycle of the year by Motorcycle.com
Returning to the original Scout: Between 1962 and 1967, Burt Munro from New Zealand used a modified 1920s Indian Scout to set a number of land speed records, as dramatised in the 2005 film The World’s Fastest Indian.