The History of the Indian Motorcycle

Historical Timeline

History Timeline

A Timeline History of the Indian Motocycle Company 1901-1953

The original “Indian Motocycle Company” was founded in 1901 in Springfield Massachusetts USA, by bicycle racer George Hendee and Swedish immigrant Oscar Hedstrom.

The spelling Motocycle with the “r” missing) is not an error and may have come from the Italian spelling “Moto” by which a variety of the Italian motorcycle were named.  

The earliest models looked like mopeds (bicycles with small single cylinder engines) and only 3 were made in 1901. They had 1¾hp a diamond frame weighing 90lbs!! and an Indian Carburettor.

Indian made 143 motorcycles in 1902 and introduced the first chain transmission.

1903 was the first year of handlebar controls and the first year of first year of spring front and tandem attachment.

1904 saw the Horse power increase to 2¼hp, still using the diamond frame, but now also introduced a light weight twin cylinder motorcycle.

1907 was the first year of first year of mechanically operated valves, a 3½hp engine and first production v‐twin.

1908 saw the Horse power increase to 5hp

1909 saw the introduction of a number of models and innovations including;

 The Loop frame

 The twin cylinder  38.61ci (630cc)

 The first 2speed transmission.

 The 4hp loop frame 2nd series 30.50ci (500cc)

 The hand brake was introduced

 The 7hp loop frame 2nd series Big Twin 61ci (1000cc!)

 The 2¾hp, loop frame, 19.30ci (315cc)

 The 3½hp, loop frame, single

 The 1st series, 26.96ci(440cc)

1910 also saw the introduction of a number of models and innovations including;

 2¾hp, loop frame single, 1st series, mechanical oilers and multidisc clutch.

 5hp, loop frame, twin

 4hp, loop frame, 2nd series, now with footboards and front axles fitted.

1911.  Incorporated in this years lineup included;

 2¾hp, loop frame single, 1st series now with internal and external brakes.

 5hp, loop frame, twin, 1st series with a knock out rear axle.

 7hp, loop frame, 2nd series, with improved carburettor jets.

Beginning in 1912 and through World War I Indians were also produced for a few years in Toronto Canada rather than Springfield Massachusetts.

1912 – saw the following changes;

 4hp, loop frame, single, with a kick starter for the first time.

 7hp, loop frame, twin, now with rigid rear only.

1913 – saw the following model changes;

 4hp, loop frame, single, now with a cradle spring rear frame although the rigid rear end was still available.

In 1914 Indian had been the first with both electric lighting and an electric starter. This was very advanced, but they did not continue with the electric starters longer than six years. Neither did they continue with the overhead valve (OHV) engines or the 4 valve per cylinder (4 VPC) engines.

1915 saw model and changes introduced;

 ‘Little Twin’ 42ci, Hedstrom f‐head motor

 Little Twin, 2nd series, 7hp, with chrome vanadium frames!

 7hp, loop frame, Big Twin, 1st series 61ci,

The Indian Motocycle company’s next major development came in 1916 when Hedstroms' former assistant Charles Gustafson developed the 1 litre "Powerplus" design.

The middle of WW I (1916) was the first year for the Power Plus, and the first engine not designed by Oscar Hedstrom.

The Power Plus had an L‐head and 61ci capacity with a rigid frame.

Both Hedstrom and Hendee had left the company by 1916, being unable to agree with the Board of Directors.

1916 saw these models and changes introduced;

 Feather weight" 2½hp, loop frame, two stroke

 Powerplus first model year for L‐head 61ci model with rigid frame.

 Powerplus first model year for L‐head 61ci with cradle spring frame.

1917 saw model and changes introduced;

 Light Twin’ 15.7ci, (Horizontally opposed motor)

 PowerPlus, single,4hp, 33.5ci commercial model  

 Powerplus 2nd model year for 61ci (1000cc)

 7hp, loop frame, special

In 1918 the company offered for sale to the public its own new factory racer featuring not only OHV but 4 VPC (valves per cylinder). Top speed was 120 mph, but the racers were very light and had no brakes, lights, fenders, or suspension.

This was many years ahead of the competition. Considering that 3 or 4 VPC only began to show up on a few street V twins bikes in the late 1980's and mid 1990's, and Harleys are still built with only 2 VPC, it can be said that this V twin was 70 years ahead of its time.

The high price of this racer resulted in very few sales and its production was short lived.

1918 saw the same models as 1917.

1919 had the following line up;

 2½hp, loop frame, twin cylinder.

 PowerPlus, 30.5ci single, loop frame,

 PowerPlus, 61ci, 7hp, 2nd series

 Powerplus 72ci, 8hp, big valve

In 1920 the Power Plus street model was offered in a 74ci(1200 c.c.) version for sidecar owners.

1920 was an important year as the Scout 37ci was "born". It was only 600 cc. (37 CID).

The 1920 Scout was the brainchild of one Charles B. Franklin. When European sales collapsed after WW I, Charles Franklin, who had ridden for Indian's winning 1911 Isle of Man team, emigrated from Ireland to join Indian's engineering department in Massachusetts. Working with Gustafson's 1000cc Powerplus design, Franklin developed the Scout.

Like the Powerplus, it was a side-valve design, but it featured semi-unit construction, with the transmission bolted to the engine and driven by an efficient helical gear drive. The Scout became the basis for other bigger V-twins.

1921 had the following models in production;

 Scout' 37ci

 Powerplus 61ci

 Powerplus 72ci big valve

In 1922 the Scout was enlarged to 1000 cc (1 litre or 61 cubic inches) to become the Chief. These early Chiefs had gear driven primary in aluminium casings, in oil bath.

1922 still had the Scout, and two PowerPlus models but also the;

 'Chief' 61ci (1000cc) was introduced for the first year, though not sold until October 21st

1923 is remembered for the following reasons;

 In 1923 the 250,000th Indian rolled off the line.

 The Powerplus' 72ci  being renamed  the 'Standard'

 The 'Big Chief' 74ci (1200cc) was introduced and sold alongside the 'Chief' 61ci (1000cc)

In 1924 the chief was enlarged to 1200 cc or 74 cubic inches to become the Big Chief engine. These early Chiefs had gear driven primary in aluminium casings, in oil bath.

1924 saw the last year of production for the 'Standard' (formerly named “Powerplus”)

1925 saw the introduction of the 'Prince' 21ci (350cc) single, which gave the following models on offer this year;

 'Prince' 21ci (350cc) single, [first model year]

 'Big Chief' 74ci

 'Chief' 61ci

 'Scout' 37ci

1926 saw the introduction of the prototype 'Big Chief' 80ci alongside the same lineup as the year before.

In 1927 Indian purchased the Ace Four, the brainchild of W.G. Henderson, which became the Indian Four.

1927 saw the introduction of 2 new models as well as keeping the Chief 61, prince 21, Big Chief 74 in the range;

 First Indian 'Ace' 4 cyl,78ci

 Scout' 45ci (750cc)

 Scout 37ci (600cc), last pedestal eng mounts before though‐bolt

The 1928 Scout 101 (750 cc.) was and is regarded as Indian's best handling if not best-ever motorcycle. It won many races (in its early day its main competition was Excelsior-Henderson) and it and the later Sport Scout was often hopped up for racing and street-fighting with Chief 74ciflywheels and connecting rods.

Ironically, Soichiro Honda rode a 101 Scout for a number of years and it inspired him to build motorcycles.

1928 saw a number of changes including the last of the Chief 61 and Prince 21 models, model name changes and more as follows;

 The Scout was enlarged in 1928 to 45ci(750 c.c.) and called the Scout 101.

 The Last year for the 'Chief' 61ci.

 The Last year for the 'Prince' 21ci

 'Big Chief' 74ci kept its name until 3/15/1928. then the model changed to HEP/301

 101 Scout 45" model on 3/15/1928 changed to the 45" 101

 101 Scout 37" model on 3/15/1928 changed to the 37" 101

 45" 101 Scout changeover years from short framed (sf) scout.

 37" 101 Scout changeover from short framed (sf) scout.

 The Ace name was dropped, a new model added and the serial CA to DA was changed on  6/1/29.

To summarize from 1918, the end of WW I;

Indian was in a weak financial condition but continued to produce great models.

First the 37ci (600 cc) Scout in 1920, then the Chief 61ci (1 litre) in 1922, the Big Chief 74ci(1.2 litres) in 1923 and the 101 Scout 45ci (737cc) in 1928.

Despite mismanagement Indian survived the Great Depression.

Mr. E. Paul Du Pont of paint company fame became President of Indian in 1929 and this was the beginning of a period of good management, profits and the beginning of multi-tone paint jobs of high quality on Indians.

Meanwhile Indian and Harley riders continued to compete on the race tracks so in 1934 the Sport Scout came out as a replacement for the 101 Scout (really just an improved 101 in a heavy frame).

1929 – The lineup and changes are as follows;

 45" 101 Scout remains in the lineup

 37" 101 Scout remains in the lineup

 Indian 4, numbering stamps after 6/1/29 changes to EA series, which lasts till '31

 Indian 4. numbering stamps to 6/1/29 then changes to EA100and up

 'Chief' 74ci, numbering stamps CH numbers continue to 11/12/29

1930’s - As mentioned earlier in 1918 Indian brought out racing models with OHV and 4 VPC (valves per cylinder), and about 15 years later (early 1930's) they built some OHV hill climber engines.

1930 saw more changes to the numbering sequences as follows;

 Chief 74", numbering sequence continues to 11/1/31

 101 Scout 45" , numbering sequence continues 11/1/31

 101 Scout 37", numbering continues to 11/1/31, late '30 frame no's commence

 Indian 4, sequence continues to 11/1/31

1931 – Frame numbers continue to 11/1/31 for 101 Scout 37" and Indian 4. The Line up still includes Chief 74", and 101 Scout 45"

1932 – Models are name changed and new models introduced as follows;

 Indian 4, 78ci is introduced.

 'Junior' or 'Pony' Scouts are introduced at 30.5ci (500cc) and take over from the 101.

 Chief ,74" still in the line up

 The Standard 'Scout' 45" is produced in a Chief frame.

1933 - This is how the line up looked for this year;

 Indian 4, 78ci (1278cc)

 'Chief' 74ci

 45" Std 'Scout'

 30.50ci 'Junior Scout'

 For 1year only the 45ci 'Motoplane' (in Jr Scout frame) is introduced

1934 - The Indian 4 - 78ci , 'Chief' - 74ci, 30.50ci 'Junior Scout' and 45" Std 'Scout' (still chief frame) models are still in the line up with new models as follows;

 45" 'Sport Scout', 1st year with new keystone frame

1935 - Lineup includes the Indian 4 - 78ci, 'Chief' 74ci, 45" Std 'Scout' and 30.50ci 'Junior Scout' and newly introduced;

 45" 'Sport Scout' and Dispatch Tows

1936 - The factory keeps the same line up as the previous year

1937 – The lineup still keeps the Indian 4, 78ci', Chief' 74ci, 45" and the 'Sport Scout' and Dispatch Tows but makes the following changes;

 The 45" Std 'Scout' is in its last year of manufacture

 The 30.50ci 'Junior Scout' is renamed the 'Scout Pony'

1938 – Lineup is as follows;

 Indian 4, 78ci

 'Chief' 74ci

 45" 'Sport Scout' and Dispatch Tows

 30.50ci ‘Scout Pony’

1939 - The factory keeps the same line up as the previous year

In 1940 Indian came out with its plunger rear frame and the famous skirted or valenced fenders (for both Scout and Chief).

Also, the Sport Scout engine got a lot more finning, probably to compensate for the extra heat generated by hauling all that extra weight around.

1940 – Here we enter into the World War years and so we have model changes and introductions as follows;

 The Indian 4, 78ci remains in the lineup

 The new CAV=Continental Army Vehicle (aka Military Chief, Canadian) is introduced

 'Chief', including Military, except Canada is modified

 45" 'Sport Scout' and Military 640 Scouts are militarised

 30.50ci 'Scout Pony'  is renamed the'Thirty Fifty'

1941 was the last year for the civilian Sport Scout, so valenced fender Scouts are only 1940 and '41. (Except for a few [25 – 50] race-only 648 Big Base Scouts in 1948)

1941 - Lineup still includes the Indian 4 - 78ci and 'Chief', 74ci & 30.50ci 'Junior Scout' as well as new models;

 Military, 841, 45ci transverse, shaft drive

 45" 'Sport Scout' and DT's

 Military 741(b)

 Lightweight 30.50ci

1941 -  The 'Chief', 74ci, 45" 'Sport Scout and 30.50ci 'Junior Scout' are still produced however;

 Sadly the last year of production for the Indian 4

1943 – The Chief had a  very limited civilian production, The year was the last of the 741's (these have high serial Numbers)

1944 – Only the Chief is produced and all in military dress.

1945 – The Chief was produced in limited numbers

1946 – The Chief was the only model produced and now has new girder forks.

1947 – Only the 'Chief' was produced

1948 – The Line up looked like this;

 The chief receives a new frame and oil pump.

 45" Daytona 'big base' Scout.

1949 – Times were tough at the Indian factory;

 Chief had a very limited production and serial numbers were inflated.

 The Scout', 26ci, (440cc), first vertical twin was produced.

 The new Arrow', 13ci, (220cc), first vertical single was introduced

1950 – New models were introduced and old models cut from the line up;

 'Chief' 80ci (1320cc), the first year for telescopic forks, 1st series

 The Chief' 80ci, 2nd series, #'s changed, C2441‐ C2500 when produced for the PDNYC Police

 'Warrior TT', 30.50ci (500cc) was introduced

 'Warrior', 30.50ci (500cc) was introduced

 Scout', was last produced in this year

 Arrow', was last produced in this year

1951 – These were the models produced during this year;

 'Chief' 80ci, the last of the eighty’s produced without the confusion over years on serial stamps.

 ''Dispatch Tow' Scout, was produced for the NYC Fire Dept Only

 The 'Warrior TT', frame sequence continues through '52

 The 'Warrior' was in production

1952 – The 'Chiefs' in 1952 were produced with serial numbers up to 6500.  The owner received a year 52 or 53 depending on the registration of the motorcycle. The other models produced in this year were;

 The 'Warrior TT', was last produced in this year

 The 'Warrior', was last produced in this year

 Warrior Patrols (3wheeler were produced for the Police/FD)

1953 – The final year of production of the Indian Chief;

 The last batch of Chief 53's were produced where a large sequence of serials were skipped.

 The 'Chief' 53, serials above 6500 are accepted as 1953 if the registration document supports this.

The Timeline of the Indian Motorcycle sets out in chronological order the developments of the Company, the Motorcycles and the people that were directly involved in the business.

The years have been grouped below for ease of navigating the page;

To navigate through this pages you can; on the Titles in the Index

...scroll down using your mouse

Home Privacy Policy Terms of Use

Follow us on…