Post War Indian Motorcycle Company
Unlike some mechanical engineering related companies who made a fortune during the war selling to the government, Indian did not. The opposite was true.
Indian was in such dire straits after WW II that Paul DuPont sold it to a manufacturing group headed by one Ralph Rogers.
Ralph Rogers and the new designs
Rogers was so dedicated that he invested millions of his personal wealth into Indian. He had fresh, modern ideas in this the 1946 to 1953 Era.
Designs were updated to reflect the post war era. He wanted to get away from the oily image and the Police market, and target the Indians at the family market.
This resulted in the "Torque Series" inspired by English designs similar to Edward Turner's vertical twin Triumph.
Focus away from the Chief
With losses instead of profits, any ideas of developing the prototype 880cc shaft-drive Four was abandoned.
Finances were not available to create a replacement for or make serious improvements to the big Chief. In the year 1949 Indian only produced 15 Chiefs. The model was the same as the 1948 year with no modifications or improvements. If they hadn’t produced this meagre offering they would have had nothing to sell.
The company’s focus was away from the long running Chief model and instead all finances and efforts were put into a new modern design. An imitation of the popular English parallel twins, e.g. Triumph.
Torque Series - Scout 426cc and Arrow 213cc
The result of the realigned focus was the all new Arrow and Scout.
The new Scout was first produced in 1949 as a 426 cc twin. The engine was configured as an OHV vertical twin it had a foot shifter and hand clutch lever just like any British bike.
There was also a 216 cc single version called Arrow.
In the haste to rejuvenate Indians contracted market share these were rushed into production without proper testing and assembly. This resulted in poorly fabricated and unreliable machines (Wheels collapsed, main bearings failed, magnetos failed, gears would not shift, the valve gears failed.)
They were also too small to compete with Triumph, BSA, Norton, Matchless and Royal Enfield (500 to 750 c.c. singles and twins).
During this period the British government devalued the pound sterling, making the English imports a lot cheaper than the American manufactured Indians. As a result sales of the Indian ‘home market’ motorcycles plummeted.
A year later reliability of the 426 Scout was improved and engine size increased to 500 cc capacity and it was renamed the "Warrior".
These bikes had British inspired designs but were designed by Indian engineer Briggs Weaver and made in the USA by Indian.
Unfortunately the new "torque" series models were not popular… and not without good reason. Their engine capacity was too small as was the rolling chassis. The early models were also extremely unreliable with even the wheels were prone to collapse!
The sad reality is that even if the new models had been reliable they would still not have been as popular as the larger engine competition from the UK. In the 1950's the British brands (Triumph, BSA, Matchless & Norton) consisted of 350 and 500 c.c. singles and 500 and 650 cc twins. Thousands were sold in the US, (about three times more than Chiefs, even in the hot year of 1946)
By the time Indian had enlarged the twin engine to 500 cc, weeded out some of the bugs (1950 and 1951) and renamed the Scout to the ‘Warrior’, it was all too late.
And so the downfall of the Arrow and Warrior was becoming cemented. This was not helped by the price of competing English machines. After the British government devalued their currency the imported machines were less expensive then the American made Indian Motorcycles.
1952 was the last year of production for the Warrior
Another sales disappointment was the 250 cc. single cylinder, 3-speed Brave.
It was inexpensive but very slow and some were unreliable due to bad batches of metal. They were only sold in the US from 1950- 53 inclusive and then in the UK from 1954 on.
Post Production Successes
Although the Warrior was a flop, it did have one moment of shining glory when it won the 1962 Greenhorn Enduro, a 500 mile desert race.
The bike was at least ten years old by 1962, and the race was so tough that of 170 entrants only 23 finished. A large part of this success was the rider, Max Bubeck.
Amazingly, he won the 1947 Greenhorn on his then eight year old Indian Four, the last bike anyone would choose to ride in a 500 mile Enduro over desert and mountain. Check the photo here taken after the race and note the size of the bike, its lack of ground clearance, its simple front forks (the forks are not Indian but are made by Vard) and rigid (hard tail) rear frame.
Living with an Indian
One thing that made old Indian Chiefs and Fours and Scouts hard to ride was the lack of ‘gate’ or detent for the hand shift lever. You had to feel your way into the middle gear (second gear), which made for slower shifting until you got used to it.
Also hard to get used to was the throttle on the left grip instead of the right.