The History of the Indian Motorcycle

The History of the Indian Scout


This page maps the history of the Indian Scout Motorcycle.

We begin with the inception of the Scout and take you through its development, the rise and fall of its popularity, its variants, the war years, racing heritage and finally the the end of its production.

The chapter ‘titles’ are listed here for ease of navigating the page;

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

...scroll down using your mouse

...’mouse hover’ to enlarge pictures

To navigate through other History pages; on the History drop down menu

Overview of the Indian Scout 1920 to 1949
Conception of the Scout
The Indian Scout was a motorcycle built by the Indian Motocycle Company from 1920 to 1949. It rivaled the Chief as Indian's most important model.
The Indian Scout was conceived by Charles Franklin, an Indian employee since 1914 and the first trained engineer to be employed by the company. Franklin's background well qualified him for the position.
Born in Ireland in 1886 he graduated from the Dublin College of Science in 1908, securing a position in the engineering department of Dublin's municipal government. He became interested in motorcycling, owning several makes of machine and becoming interested in Indian in 1910.
He entered local competitions where his ability and success brought him to the notice of the sole British importer of Indians, Billy Wells. He was a member of the Indian team in the 1911 Isle of Man TT, gaining second place behind Oliver Godfrey, and in front of Arthur Moorhouse, both also Indian mounted, in the historic first 1-2-3 by the same make.
Franklin conceived the design for the Scout as early as 1912, through his studies of advanced motorcycle design and built a prototype, under Indian auspices, in early 1919. Tests were satisfactory and production started in September of that year on the,1920 models, commencing with engine number 5OR001
The first Scouts (1920-1927)

The Scout was introduced in 1920 with a 606 cc (37ci) engine. The engine size was increased to 745 cc (45ci) in 1927 in response to the popularity of the Excelsior Super X.

101 Scout (1928-1931)
Engine 37 or 45 cu. in. (600 or 750 cc) 42° V-twin bore × stroke: 2⅞" × 3½" (45 cu. in.) 73 mm × 89 mm (750 cc) Power; 18 bhp (45 cu in)  Transmission;three-speed Suspension; Front: Trailing arm, leaf spring Rear: None, rigid. Brakes; Front: Internal expanding shoes
Rear: 1928-30 External contracting bands, 1931 internal expanding shoes. Tires; 18" on clincher rims 1928, The 101 Scout was an evolution of the Scout that had been introduced in 1920 and enlarged to forty-five cubic inches in 1927. drop centre rims 1929-31
The original Scout was replaced in 1928 by the 101 Scout.  Designed by Charles B. Franklin, who had designed the original Scout, the 101 Scout had a stronger frame than the earlier Scout, and had more fork rake, a longer wheelbase, and a lower seat height. It was the first Scout model with a front brake.
The 101 Scout was noted for its handling and was popular with racers, hill climbers, and trick riders. It is still used in wall of death stunt exhibitions.
Enthusiasts have differing views on the replacement of the 101 Scout. Fans of Indian's technical achievements acclaim the 101 Scout as the pinnacle of Indian technology, while fans of classic Indian styling hail its replacement for bringing classic Chief styling to the Scout line.
The 101 Scout was replaced in 1932 by a model that used the contemporary Chief frame. There was a widespread negative reaction to this. It is speculated that this was done to reduce costs by rationalizing production, which became necessary during the Great Depression

Later Scouts and demise (1931 - 1948)
In 1932, cost cutting led to the Scout's using the heavier Chief frame, which was less successful. The negative reaction to this Scout led to the creation of the Sport Scout of 1934, with a light frame, Girder forks, improved carburation and alloy cylinder heads. The Sport Scout won the first Daytona 200 in 1937.
Smaller 500 cc (30.5ci) Scouts were also built between 1932 and 1941, known as the Scout Pony, Junior Scout and Thirty-Fifty
Many Scouts were used in the Second World War, but the model was dropped when the civilian production restarted in 1946. In 1948, Indian built just 50 units of the Daytona Sports Scout, (The "Big Base" Scout), one of which took Floyd Emde to victory in that year's Daytona 200 mile (322 km) race.
Smaller 500 cc (30.5ci) Scouts were also built between 1932 and 1941, known as the Scout Pony, Junior Scout and Thirty-Fifty.

Land Speed Records
See here a photograph of a replica of Burt Munro's 1920 Indian Scout as modified for his record attempts in 1962
Between 1962 and 1967, New Zealander Burt Munro 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.
"Gilroy" Modern Indian Scout 2001 to 2003
The Indian Motorcycle Company of America, based in Gilroy, California, built a Scout model from 2001 up to their bankruptcy in 2003.
Charles Franklin
Indian Scout.
Model G-20
Indian 101 Scout
1930 Indian 101 Scout
1942 military Indian Scout
Replica of Burt Munro's 1920 Indian Scout

Scouts from 1928 to the present day.
The text that follows covers the Indian Scouts from 1928 to the present day.
One thing that should be known is how highly valued "101" series of Indian Scouts are (1928 thru 1931). This is because, not only were they the first Scouts to have front brakes, they were lower and longer and more raked than earlier Scouts and still had pure Scout frames (which were a bit different and lighter than the Chief frames).
In 1932 the factory "homolgomized" and gave the Scouts the heavy Chief frame (with very few modifications). This slowed the Scout and changed its appearance. (It was no longer called 101, just "Scout".)
The adverse consumer reaction lead to the 1934 Sport Scout which had a lighter frame, different forks and aluminium alloy cylinder heads. It only lasted until about 1941, a production run of eight years.
During 1934 to 1941 there were probably a lot of regular Scouts as well as Sport Scouts built and sold. Nowadays only an expert can tell if a bike is a genuine Sport Scout or just a 1934 to 1941 Scout disguised as a Sport model, e.g. with alloy heads
It is rare to see a post 101 Scout without alloy heads.  It is conjecture whether there were any non Sport Scouts sold.  It is known that the WW II military models were de tuned non-Sport Scouts.
The genuine Sport Scouts had magnetos instead of battery and coil ignition (and probably higher performance cams and carburettor tuning).
In 1940 the Chief style fully valenced fenders were installed on the Scouts and Sport Scouts, but not the new Chief plunger rear suspension.
It should also be understood that the Scout transmission was different from the Chief (despite both being hand shifted three-speeds), and that one can install a Chief gearbox into a Scout.

Photo’s 1940 to Scouts

Here are two shots of a 1940 or '41 Scout which is (stock except for the paint job)

Next we see a "bobber" version of the same type of bike, a 1939 model photographed in Stoufville, North of Toronto in the mid to late 1990's.
The bike has a custom seat, bobbed rear fender, (necessitating relocated rear lamp and license plate) disc brake on the front, and a 16" rear tire/rim and unknown rear hub/brake. (Plus a non-stock paint job.)
See photo of 1940 to 1941 scout bobber 1 of 2
See photo of 1940 to 1941 scout bobber 2 of 2

Also here  is a photo of a West Coast Scout ‘bob’ job. This is fairly stock, except for chopped fenders and upswept exhaust.

Hill Climbers Photographs
The black and white photo is a 1940 Sport Scout hill climber blasting up Mount Douglas (Victoria B.C.) in 1945, ridden by Bob Shanks. Note the magneto under the seat instead of generator extending to the front of the primary case as on regular Scouts.
Indians were popular hill climbers in the 1940's and 50's, before the OHV BSA's, Triumphs and Sportsters took over. Compared to a side valved Harley, a competition Chief or Scout was more powerful and lighter. Hill climbing is as much about skill and raw guts as it is power, so Indians were still doing well in hill climbing into the 1970's. If you've never watched a hill climb, treat yourself. It is one of the most exciting form of motorcycle racing to watch.

Here we see another hill climber piloted by ‘Laughing Indian Riders Club’ President Don Doody. (Latter photo courtesy Allan "Zippy" Lowson.)

Here we see a shot of Indian dealer Chuck Myles on his Indian hill climber in the mid 1990's.

Also see the photograph of an early Scout hill climber with Edison-Splitdorf magneto and the usual chains on the rear wheel.

Next is Allan "Zippy" Lowson of the Laughing Indian Riders club racing and posing with the club's Scout in the mid 1990's at a track near Vancouver. Note the Norton front end, primary drive and gearbox. The engine has dual carburettors.

Here is a shot of the right side of the club racer. Also, courtesy Allan again, a picture of George Routelier's early Flat Tracker Chief. Compared to modern flat trackers the length of this thing is amazing.
Here we have a photo of George Routelier's early Flat Tracker Chief

World War Era (841, 640 and 741, and the Racing scene)
During WW II the Allies used lots of Indian flathead V-twins of 500 - 1200 cc (30.5 to 74 CID) displacement.
The rare Indian 841 was a transverse rather than in-line V, with shaft drive and foot shift. The barrels and head were straight 750 Scout. The 841 never saw action and only about a thousand were built.
Much more common were the 741b's of 500 cc and the 640b's of 750 cc. (Confusing, as one would expect the 640 to be a 600cc 1940 built Bike and the 741 to be a 750 1941 built bike).  Indian seemed to lose its logic during WW II.
In Western Europe, especially England, New Zealand and Australia one finds many 741's still running around.
In New Zealand there is a big racing scene around them. In Canada and the USA, the 640's predominate. There are also a lot of army Chiefs in North America.

Photographs of Sport Scouts
Here (RED) is a 1940 Scout in a nice standard condition for the age
Also is a 1940 Scout (BLACK) which has been chopped. :
The photos of military Indians show;

A typical military 741, perfectly restored by Jim Parker of Ashwood, Victoria, Australia. Note the long tube connecting carburettor to air filter (unlike civilian models).

Below that is a right side view of a 1944 US Army Scout with correct olive paintwork.

After the war and to this date, Australians and New Zealanders have been rebuilding the military 640's and 741's into civilian trim and in the case of the 45 inchers, which were de-tuned Sport Scouts, they are being converted  to Sport Scout specs. (As noted above, the Sport Scout came out in 1934 to replace the 101 Scout. The Scout got more finning and skirted fenders in 1940 but not many were produced in 1940 and '41 and production of civilian and military Scouts ceased around 1944.)

Another tune-up trick is to use Chief 74 inch flywheels and rods in the Scout, to make a 950 cc, otherwise referred to as a Chout.

The next photos show a  741 that has been civilianized by Jim Parker. This one has been converted to 600 cc.

Here are a few more photos of the Indian Scout;

The first is a 1927 with a sidecar

The 2nd a 1939 Scout

The 3rd a 1941 Sport Scout (light green and cream)

The 4th a 1930's bobber.

Post war Scout.
After the war many Indian riders were upset that there was no V-twin flathead Scout for sale.
Privately owned Scouts continued to win races for many years after the war.
Some privateers put Chief flywheels in to get 950 c.c. (57 CID) and a lot more power out of their racing or tuned up street Scouts. The factory did relent slightly in 1948, and produced 25 to 50 racing Scouts stamped FDH, but commonly known as the “big base Scout” or the "648 Daytona" as Daytona is where most were raced.
They performed extremely well in their class (Class C) and continued to win races for the next six years!
In fact at various other types of races across the USA, racing Scouts continued to do well and even win up to the 1970's! But what was the point if no mass produced versions were made for sale to the general public?
In retrospect it can be argued that Indian made a big mistake by dropping the V-twin Scout. It was a popular model which is more than can be said about its replacement, the OHV but Warrior.
Here we see a photo of Jerry Chinn's Indian flat trackers taken in the late 1990's.
Racer number 13 is a Big base 648. Enthusiasts still manufacture reproduction crankcases and other parts for the model 648.
The Indian 750 cc flathead is something to be ‘heard’, as the racing scouts are being warmed up in the race paddocks at the annual AMA Vintage days in mid-Ohio.
Of course part of the success of the V-twin Scouts was the riders who raced them;
Ed Kretz, Floyd Emde, Johnny Spiegelhoff, Ted Edwards, Art Hafer, John Greenlee, Jack Horn, Bill Huguley, Bob Holt to name just a few.

Post War Scout / Warrior parallel twins
In 1945 with the war over, Indian gave up on the V-twin Scout as obsolete, and spent a few years and all of its money developing the OHV "Torque" series designed by Chief Engineer Briggs Weaver.
The Torque series was modelled after British designs, and came onto the market in 1949.
After WW II Indian tried to make its own version of a typical English twin (e.g. Triumph) and called it the Scout (in 1949).
The engine was a parallel vertical twin OHV with British type gearbox and controls.
The bike looks completely English except that for some reason the primary drive was on the right side instead of the left.
However these new bikes were rushed into production for the 1949 model year with countless problems unsolved and the new Scout only had 440cc. and was a not popular.
Another reason the Warrior failed was that the relative currencies of the US dollar and British pound sterling had changed, so that English bikes were relatively less expensive  and therefore far more competitively priced than the Indian of the day.
Dealers were irate about the chief being dropped from production and it was re-introduced the next year (1950).
By 1950 most of the problems with the Scout had been overcome and the engine size increased to 500 c.c. (30ci ) and the bike renamed Warrior.
But the bike had established a poor reputation and was still  over priced compared to Triumphs, BSA's, Nortons, Matchless, AJS, Royal Enfields, Ariels and Panthers which were all being imported from Britain.
The last few Warriors were made in 1952. When you get up close to these machines you realize that they are quite small even compared to their British cousins.
Here are two shots of a Scout (Warrior) [maroon LH and RH views] and also a stock Scout (Warrior) [black] followed by  a chopped Scout (Warrior) [Back... a rare 1950 Warrior].

We also have an attractive 1949 Scout (Yellow),

The next photographs are of a very rare 1952 competition Warrior TT model (Red/Orange).

Max Bubeck used to successfully race one of these and actor ‘James Dean’ had one in his collection.

This red-orange Bubeck replica has been superbly restored at great expense by British Motorbikes of North Hollywood.

Floyd Clymer's 1968 SCOUT prototype
In collaboration with Friedel Munch, Clymer hoped this German made combination of state of the art chassis and 1940's Scout engine would be a sales success.
This was never to come to fruition.
Rumour has it that some of the "magnesium castings" were actually wooden mock-ups so it is unlikely that this machine actually ran.
Only one prototype was made and it still exists and was recently (late 2009) sold.

1940 or '41 Scout
1940 or '41 Scout
Scout bobber 1 of 2
Scout bobber 2 of 2
West Coast Scout ‘bob’
1940 Sport Scout hill climber
Don Doody
Chuck Myles
Edison-Splitdorf mag’
"Zippy" Lowson
Right Hand side
Flat Tracker Chief
1940 Scout
Article Leader of the Pack 2
Article Leader of the Pack 1
1939 Sport Scout RH
1939 Sport Scout LH
Clymers’ ‘68 Prototype
1952 TT RH 2
1952 TT RH 1
1952 Warrior TT
1949 Scout, Yellow
Warrior (Chopped)
Warrior (scout) Black
Warrior (Scout)  RH
Warrior (Scout)  LH
‘13’ Big Base 648
1930 Bobber Scout
1941 Sport Scout
1939 Scout
1927 Scout with Chair
741 (Civilianized)
1944 US Army Scout
Military 741
1940 Scout Black
Article Leader of the Pack 3
Article  NEW Indian Scout 2001 2 of 3
Article  NEW Indian Scout 2001 1 of 3
Article  NEW Indian Scout 2001 3 of 3
Home Privacy Policy Terms of Use

If you don’t want to take advantage of the free download area in the members section, you can still sign up to our free mailing list!

Let us keep you up to date on; Events • Rally's • News  
Workshop Progress
Photo & Video Gallery  
Technical Docs
Workshop Manuals
New Products & Services
(Note; Members automatically
access the mailing list)

Type your email...and CLICK

As a member you are automatically entitled to the mailing list.

Bike Rider Magazine article ‘Indian Sport Scout – Leader of the pack’ Autumn 2001
The following two photographs of a 1939 Sport Scout and the accompanying magazine article are from the Aug / Sept   issue of Bike Rider Magazine in 2001 (a New Zealand motorcycle magazine).

Canadian Biker Magazine article ‘The New Indian Scout’ March 2001
With Scouts not having graced the highways and byways for 50 years, the re-born Indian Motorcycle Company manufactured a ‘new’ Scout in the years around 2001.
Here we reproduce the printed road test.
The article adorned the pages of the Canadian Biker Magazine in March 2001.

The History of the Indian Scout...END



Follow us on…