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President - Starklite Cycle

Indian Motorcycle roars back into business with new shop in Olathe | The Kansas City Star

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When 92-year-old Bobby Hill was a young man he raced Indian motorcycles in Dodge City, Kan., and other tracks across the country, going toe-to-toe with Harley-Davidson bikes in a fierce rivalry.But the Indian motorcycle company, an iconic brand that counted movie stars and racing fanatics among its customers, filed for bankruptcy in 1953 and Hill stopped racing them. Next month, though, Hill and the other two members of what was known as the Indian Wrecking Crew will be honored for their exploits at the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days in Ohio.They’ll also get to see new Indian Motorcycles that are once again being made and are being featured at the event.“I don’t ride anymore but good luck to them,” said Hill of Columbus, Ohio. “I’m sure they’ll do good.”Related A 1939 ad for four models promised performance. | Wood Museum›‹Photo gallery: Indian Motorcycle brand makes a comebackPhoto gallery: Indian motorcycles – In the beginningThe Indian motorcycle is trying to rev up a comeback and it’s going after the Harley-Davidson hog.Last year, Polaris Industries, with $3.8 billion in annual sales in 2013 mainly from off-road vehicles such as snowmobiles, began assembling the Indian at a plant in Spirit Lake, Iowa.They’re being sold through more than 200 dealerships in the U.S. and other countries. A dealership has opened in Olathe, and has sold six. Channel 5 weather guy Gary Amble bought one.Founded in 1901, the company became the world’s largest motorcycle maker before succumbing to bad luck and poor business decisions. Several efforts to resurrect the brand since its bankruptcy stumbled as well.The new model is a cruiser called the Chief, named after the vintage model, and it comes in three versions that recall the Indian’s halcyon days with flared fenders, teardrop gas tanks and the V twin-cylinder engine the company pioneered.And for the brand’s fans, the housing for the front fender light is shaped like a war bonnet, just as it was decades ago.Those features along with performance helped make the vintage models of the Indian treasured by collectors. A 1946 Indian Chief formerly owned by the late actor Steve McQueen recently sold for $143,750.But nostalgia goes only so far. Before production began, Polaris spent more than a year retooling and preparing to go against Harley-Davidson, which towers over the market for heavy cruisers.“This is not like the previous attempts,” said James Holter, a spokesman and managing editor for the American Motorcyclists Association. “This is a real effort to get Indian back into the business.”Wisconsin-based Harley-Davidson has a huge lead, with combined sales of motorcycles of $5.6 billion in 2013. The company also sells its Street line of motorcycles that are lighter and less expensive along with heavier models and the company’s well-known heavy cruiser.Both the new Indian cruiser and the traditional Harley cruiser go for roughly $19,000 and up. They both have the classic V-twin engine and are built in America.“You now have a choice with an American made motorcycle,” said Craig Keating, the owner of the Olathe dealership which also sells other Polaris vehicles.Harley-Davidson said it always takes it’s competition seriously including the Indian. There are also several other motorcycle companies in various weight classes such as Honda, BMW and Ducati.“We are very excited about our current line-up of products and what we have in development,” said John Mink, a spokesman for the company.Harley-Davidson’s Kansas City plant produces the Street, Dyna, Sportster and V-Rod motorcycles.Polaris’ motorcycle business, which includes the cheaper Victory cycles, in the fourth quarter of last year doubled to $69 million mainly from Indian sales and it expects motorcycle sales to increase 65 percent to 75 percent this year.The new Indian bikes have gotten some good reviews. USA Today said the Indian Chief was a successful modern cruiser that respects the nameplate .Amble, the weatherman and long-time motorcycle enthusiast, waited a long time to buy an Indian bike. He snapped his up soon after the Olathe dealership opened. The bike looks like it rolled out of the 1940s, he said, and the craftsmanship and art of the leather seat and saddlebags are some of the best he’s ever seen on a regularly produced motorcycle model.He plans to give the bike a good workout on a trip to Connecticut.“I should know much more about the bike after I put nearly 3,000 miles on her odometer in the next week,’’ he said in an email.Among Indian collectors, the reaction is mixed.Doug Strange is an expert on vintage Indian motorcycles who owns several, including a 1948 Chief that was once displayed at the Guggenheim Museum. He said if anyone can rescue Indian, it is Polaris with its engineering and financing resources.The company nailed the appearance to resemble the vintage model but he’s disappointed that they are now bigger and heavier.“I’m on the fence,” he said.The image of Indian motorcycles was burnished by owners like James Dean, star of “Rebel Without A Cause.” When the company’s financial problems worsened it tried to reverse its fortunes with advertisements featuring movie stars like Jane Russell and Robert Ryan.The name lived on in the 2005 movie “The World’s Fastest Indian,” which chronicled the story of Burt Munro, who modified a 1920 Indian motorcycle and in 1967 set a world speed record of 222 miles an hour.Indian at its height had 3,000 employees, most working at the company’s “Wigwam,” the name for its Springfield, Mass., factory.The company was co-founded by George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom, who built a prototype of an electric bicycle to be used as a pacer in bicycle races. Each year brought improvements and by 1913 the company was selling 32,000 motorcycles, a high mark for the company. The Ford Model T competed as cheap transportation cutting into sales.Indian increasingly sold motorcycles for leisure and enthusiasts. In World War I, it temporarily suspended civilian production to provide military motorcycles. That turned out to be a boost for Harley-Davidson in the U.S. market.In World War II, Harley supplied more military motorcycles and emerged the stronger company, said Guy McLain, director of the Wood Museum in Springfield, which has a large Indian motorcycle exhibit and archives.“Both world wars hurt Indian,” he said.Its fate was sealed after World War II when it rushed out with the Indian Arrow model, an advanced design that proved to be poorly engineered and unreliable.“The motorcycle brand with a great reputation was really damaged,” McLain said.The company closed its doors in 1953 and over the decades efforts by other owners to revive the brand relied on imports that did further damage. In 2004, two investors who resurrected the Chris-Craft Boat Co. purchased the rights to Indian and improved the motorcycle. But the motorcycles were expensive and in limited production.In 2011, Polaris added the brand to its business.Left lingering in the volatile history is why the company that started it all more than a century ago still fascinates. The Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, Pa. sought to answer that when it described its Indian motorcycle exhibit that opened in March.It said the Indian motorcycle company witnessed both capitalism’s glory and greed, and saw dizzying success and painful failures. But it emerged as a tenacious symbol of America that refuses to be forgotten.“It embodies an ever-changing idea of what America was and continues to be,” according to the museum.To reach Steve Everly, call 816-234-4455 or send email to severly@kcstar.com

Source: Indian Motorcycle roars back into business with new shop in Olathe | The Kansas City Star

Part Two: A Closer Look at Indian Motorcycles – CraveOnline

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A Closer Look at Indian Motorcycles

We wrap the ride today with the input of a veteran bike industry analyst.

October 30th, 2014 John Scott Lewinski

As part of our ongoing automotive and motorcycle coverage, we’re taking a couple days to take a close up look at Indian Motorcycles and the business of challenging an industry giant like Harley-Davidson. Today, we check in with an industry expert for an objective look at Indian’s operations.

Basem Wasef, motorcycle journalist, author and industry expert explained that Polaris’s resuscitation of the Indian brand has been both “brilliant and painfully obvious.”

“Polaris has applied considerable financial investment toward bringing back a legendary nameplate, creating relatively reliable modern motorcycles that pay homage to bikes which were arguably better in nostalgic retrospect than they were in reality,” Wasef said. “But at its core, Indian is less about the motorcycles themselves, and more about the power of a brand.”

Menneto evidently agrees: “We can’t build to match Harley’s capacity, but we can build a brand that’s popular as an alternative — that’s popular with a dedicated customer base with which we can build a relationship. Rather that match the size and capacity of Harley-Davidson, we’d rather compare with premium brands like BMW or Ducati.”

Wasef stressed that challenging Harley-Davidson’s market share would have been unthinkable if Polaris had created a new brand altogether.

“When it comes to brand perception, established Japanese manufactures like Suzuki, Yamaha, and Honda still can’t touch Harley-Davidson in the areas of authenticity and that inscrutable sense of cool,” Wasef added. “But by adopting a nameplate that’s older than H-D and happens to be associated with larger-than-life personalities like Steve McQueen and Burt Munro, Polaris has taken on a serious challenge and dipped their toe into a potentially lucrative business.”

Indian’s slow build is still in effect. For three years, all Indian Motorcycles built were the Chief and Chieftain models — ranging in price from about $19,000 to $23,000. For the first time since the company made its return to business, it introduced new bikes this year — expanding its line at the top and bottom with the $27,000 Roadmaster and the $10.000 Scout.

The latter is especially important as it reaches out to less affluent buyers with its smaller price tag. If Indian wants to compete with H-D, they’re now trying to get to riders when they’re young and equipped with less disposable income.

Steven D. Menneto, Vice President for Motorcycles at Indian, admitted that Indian is still not building to full capacity as that all-important five year business plan unfolds. The next phase for Indian looks to be expanding to more international markets in Europe and South Africa to diversify that brand loyalty. Only time will tell if this classic American make will stand the test of time in a new business era of high-tech and international competition.

Wasef insisted it will still take significant amounts of time to make a dent against the Harley-Davidson juggernaut.

“But, considering the aggressive product development that has occurred since the new Indian models were revealed one year ago, Indian looks like it will be a serious force to be reckoned with moving forward.”

Source: Part Two: A Closer Look at Indian Motorcycles – CraveOnline

Best Cruiser of 2014

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Cruiser of the Year Winner: Indian Chief

By Evans Brasfield

By now you’ve read all of the praise surrounding Indian’s return to selling motorcycles in the 2014 model year. We don’t think the kudos are at all hyperbolic, either. What Polaris accomplished in rescuing the American marque out of the morass of litigation and production of me-too Harley clones bearing the Indian name is notable on its own. Seeing the motorcycles (all three of the models) that came out of a mere 27 months of development has been inspiring. Polaris knows motorsports (being the number-one powersports OEM in North America) and is clearly applying what it’s learned from developing Victory over the past 15 years to the Indian revival.

So, how’d Polaris do it? The key ingredient is the Thunderstroke 111 engine. The 49-degree air-cooled V-Twin perfectly straddled the line between the historic styling of Indian engines (downward-facing exhausts, anyone?) and the requirements of a thoroughly modern powerplant with a ride-by-wire throttle, letting prospective customers know that, while Polaris clearly respects Indian’s past, it plans on producing motorcycles that utilize current technology.

When the motorcycles were revealed to the public, the proof of concept was immediately apparent. Where most manufacturers stick cruisers with tubular steel frames, Indian chose to pursue lightness and strength with an aluminum frame that weighs in at 58 lb. Other systems on the Indian showed a similar level of focus on performance. For example, dual 300mm discs squeezed by four-piston calipers in the front and a 300mm two-piston unit out back – with standard ABS.

Polaris made it very clear that it plans on Indian being seen as a premium brand. The fit and finish of the bikes – from the paint to the quality and amount of chrome – announced that Indian is here, here big, and for the long-term. The same can be said of the Indian logos on just about every visible piece of hardware. The overall feeling is one of quality. Premium is a word that Indian’s representatives like to toss around, and it fits. For example, the entire Indian line comes with cruise control and keyless starting standard.

You may have noticed that, up until now, we’ve been referring to the Indian brand in text that’s supposed to be about the Chief. The reasoning behind this is that all three of the 2014 Indian models were produced around the same platform. Riders have a choice of two Chiefs: the Chief Classic and the Chief Vintage. The Classic is just as the name implies, the archetypical cruiser design: a saddle, floorboards, a pulled-back bar, and deeply skirted fenders. The Vintage takes the Classic and adds supple, tan leather to the seat, a classic cop-style windshield, and leather saddlebags color-matched to the seats.

About the only real complaint anyone had with the Chief (other than your typical moto-journo niggles) was that it required more effort to turn than the Chieftain touring model. How’s that? While the Chief’s rake was 29-degrees, the Chieftain’s was shortened to 25-degrees, bringing about the odd situation where the bigger, heavier bike felt more sprightly than the stripped-down version.

Still, when it comes to riding the Chief, our reviews have been glowing: “These bikes make use of their aluminum-cast frame to dive into corners with nary a bow or flex,” and “You have to give it to Polaris for creating such an authentic machine.” Authentic, that’s the right word for the Indian Chief, the proper blend of history and technology seemingly without compromise. For these reasons, we chose the 2014 Indian Chief our Best Cruiser

Source: Best Cruiser of 2014

Starklite Cycle Behind the Scenes Part2

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Starklite Cycle as shown on American Thunder. They interview Bob Stark about his dedication to keeping the Indian Motorcycle Brand alive for most of his life.

Starklite Cycle Behind the Scenes Part1

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Starklite Cycle on American Thunder:

The Story of Starklite Cycle – told by Bob Stark

 

Ted Williams Custom Cycle

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Ted Williams was out in his red barn of a work shop the other day talking motorcycles ‑ real motorcycles, Indian Motocycle motorcycles..

“Some of these things they’re coming out with today don’t even like a motorcycle at all. One looks just like a chemical toilet to me” he said. “A chrome plated Porta‑Potti.”

That is unlike the Indian, a proud American nameplate that hasn’t been manufactured for a generation but is still beloved and remains Williams’ standard by which any motorcycle is judged —— and to which none measures up.

Williams, 44, big, brawny and intense, his sandy brown hair carefully styled, his fingers as clean and manicured as a banker’s, holds forth in a surgically tidy shop behind his house on the edge of town here, earning his living looking after the health of Indian Motocycles.

“If you’ve got all day and you won’t get bored, sit down and I’ll tell you what it is about the Indian,” Williams said with a smile as he took a breather from modernizing the rear brake on a customer’s 40‑year‑old Indian Chief, the most popular and successful of the Indian models.

In essence, he said, it is the machine’s brute strength, the manly vibration of the giant V‑twin engine, the down‑home simplicity of the engineering, that make the Indian superior, in his opinion, to other makes of motorcycles.

“All the nuts and bolts are just stock items. You can go into any good auto‑parts store and buy spark plugs and other ignition parts. The only thing that’s getting a little hard to find now is tires, but you can still get them if you know where,” he said.

He then told a brief history of the nameplate. The Indian Motocycle (no R) burst onto the scene in 1901, manufactured by George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom in Springfield, Mass.

It earned a place beside Harley Davidson as a leading American brand, going strong through World War II. But. after the war, management lost interest in the big, brute force v-twins and began bringing out new models that were beset by bugs.

English interests acquired control during the crisis, and the last 80‑cubic‑inch, deep‑throated, man‑sized Indian Chiefs were built in 1953. (That is, except that 50 were assembled from parts collected from the dusty shelves of the Springfield factory in 1955 to fulfill a contract with the New York Police Department, and five civilian Chiefs that were turned out in the same batch.)

The English owners tried for a few years to palm off various English machines by plastering them with Indian decals, but American Indian buyers weren’t fooled for an instant by such blatant forgery. The company passed into history, but the good, will among the American motorcycle community lived on and is growing.

Williams estimated that 40,000 Indians remain on the road today out of, the hundreds of thousands that wire manufactured. “But that’s more than there were 10 years ago, and there were more then than there were 20 years ago.”

People keep finding old machines and bringing them back to life, which is where Williams comes in.

He said he grew up working on Indians in his father’s Orange County garage, and after a hitch in the Navy and spells of trying such work as air conditioning repair, he ended up working in a motorcycle shop that catered to the faithful numbers of Indian owners.

Then, four years ago, he and his wife, Maureen., decided to move to rural Sutter County out of Orange County’s smog and crowding. The word got out among owners of Indians, and his trade followed him.

Owners are willing to seek him out for his skill in ministering to the fine old machines, including modifications that cure several fatal flaws in the original design and other changes that increase the engine size up to 95 cubic inches and more to make the old Chiefs dazzling performers.

Williams himself owns three Indians in roadworthy shape, a soupedup Scout of indeterminate age and a pair of 1953 Chiefs, one with a 95‑cubic‑inch engine.

“I had a Harley‑Davidson once,” he said with a note of distaste for the name of the rival make. “I bought it as a basket of parts for $5, put it together, and sold it for $50. 1 didn’t want it. I’m an Indian man.”

Editors Note: Ted Williams is still working on Indians and can be reached at: unkown

The Return of the Iron Redskin

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As we follow the travels of the latest Indian Revival, let’s look back at the history of Indian Revivals, with this reprint from 1968.
   INDIAN! That magic name recalls the days when All‑American motorcycles, ridden by Red‑Blooded American men, accepted victory as their due at the Isle of Man TT, the GPs of Belgium and Argentina, the sands of Daytona Beach, and every board bowl and marbled flat track from Reading to El Centro. The distinctive bark of the flathead twin became part of the heartbeat of generations of American boys. There was no other Indian but the red Indian from the Wigwam at Springfield, Mass.,glowing redly, frame sharp black, smell­ing of heated metal and fuel, eager for the challenge of throughway or crooked lane. Indian!
If General George Armstrong Custer himself had been put in charge of the Indian works, the post‑World War II massacre of Indian hopes, plans, production, and racing victory could not have been more complete. The Indian tribe died 14 years ago. Yes, the name limped along with some Britishers masquerading in tawdry beads and trade blankets, but Indian, the Indian died.
Ordinarily, it would be safe to state flatly, “The Indian has gone to the Happy Hunting Ground.”
But has it? Those who decry the passing of the Great Red Motorcycle haven’t reckoned with the greatest Indian agent of ‘em all, Sam Pierce. In 43 years of riding, repairing, and haranguing at length on the real and fancied proclivities of Indian motorcycles, Sam, in profile view, has come to resemble the familiar hook‑nosed redman, emblem of Indian. With longer, darker hair, and some feathers entwined therein, Sam could stand as his own trademark signature illustration for the American Indian Motorcycle Co., his company, the outfit that has breathed new life into the once‑expired Indian.
Yes! Indian lives! Where Spanish Padres over a century ago built a mission for settlement of American aborigines, there now exists a neo‑Indian, an American Indian, built by Sam Pierce’s hands as a prototype machine, tribal leader for the American Indian Motorcycle Co. of San Gabriel, Calif.

There it is, the Indian “Super Scout,” frame black as the inside of a mystic Kiva, tank red as warpaint ‑albeit metalflake red as a concession to modern times and this first of new Indians carries well the echoing names of its forbearers Prince, Chief, Warrior, Scout.
Indeed, the frame is Warrior, drawn from the vast stock of Indian motorcycle frames Sam Pierce has gathered from across the land over the years since ’53. Lithe as its namesake, fabricated of chrome‑moly steel in single toptube, single downtube configuration, the Super Scout frame carries Indian’s own telescopic, hydraulically damped fork forward, and rigid axle mounting at the rear. The fork is fitted with new seals and compound springs ‑ more modem practice ‑ but that rigid rear end is purely Indian. Sam plans to build rigid frame models for those who desire, plunger frame units for those who want them, and swinging arm Indians for the third group, though the latter may be custom fabricated.

“Forty‑five inches, forty‑five horsepower,” is how Sam describes his 45‑cu. in. flathead Indian engine ‑also built from stacks of cylinder barrels, a broom closet full of Timkin crankpins, drawers full of pistons, boxes of bearings, shelves of crankcase castings, and the hodgepodge of American standard thread nuts and bolts that make up the utterly indescribable ordered confusion that comprises Sam Pierce’s one Indian‑a‑day assembly plant.

Indian power need not be solely from 45‑cu. in. engines. For a thousand bucks, plus a few hundred or so more or less, Sam will recreate the Indian of his customer’s heart’s desire. The 30.50 (500 cc), or 600, 825 or 900 cc are available to the latter‑day Indian buyer. The engines are there, new or restored to mint condition, with freshly forged pistons and rods, glinting in the newness that abounded at the Wigwam 30 and 40 years ago.
Among the heads, liners, brakes, wheels, spokes, and tanks, is the collection of transmissions, some removed from defunct Indians, some discovered in a distant warehouse, embalmed in cosmoline, as if preserved especially against the day of resurrection in Pierce’s shop. The prototype Indian Super Scout is fitted with 4.02:1 Scout gearing, driven through the notoriously grabby‑when‑cold Indian assembly known to every schoolboy in the 1930s as the “suicide clutch.”

This left foot operated clutch, in conjunction to a left hand shift lever, complete with aluminum Indian head knob, comprises a gear change mechanism that is classic. Pierce, however, will locate the shift lever to customer taste, or, if present plans don’t go awry, fit more currently conventional left hand clutch, left foot change lever controls. However, Sam clearly regards this modification as something akin to leprosy, something unclean, un‑American, un‑Indian.

The red metalflake fuel/oil tank/seat combination is a molded fiberglass product of Don Jones and American Competition Frames. The sleek unit construction tank/ seat gives the newest of Indians a very healthy, competitive, contemporary appearance ‑ and contributes to the motorcycle’s lightweight, a mere 296 lb. without lighting equipment. Though Pierce minimizes the fact, in preference to redskin red, the tank/seat is available in any color.

Electricals are standard Autolite components ‑American as . . . as . . . as Indians. The chain driven generator for the prototype Scout 11 is clamped to the downtube, forward of the engine. However, if the buyer desires, this unit may‑be tucked neatly under the battery box and gear driven off the rear of the clutch housing. This simply is one more roll‑your‑own feature offered by Pierce’s American Indian Motorcycle Co.
Pierce has combed the U.S., from cliffdweller country to the land of the moundbuilders, for parts. He has bought out the stocks of numerous dealers who once sold and serviced the great red machines.

Why?

The answer to that question was laced with exquisite badmouth for the HarleyDavidson Motorcycle Co., its people, and the machines it produces, but when the answer did filter through, it was as clear as human conviction can be. Sam Pierce said: “I aim to build what I think is the best motorcycle ever.”

After that one concise statement, Sam said he believes his American Indian will appeal to the sport rider, the individual who desires a motorcycle that can be flipped end over end and continue on in the brush, or can cruise at 75 mph when called upon for a day’s tour of the turnpikes.

Folding footpegs and riser handlebars, alloy engine mounting plates of Sam’s own design, a hearty mixture of absolutely standard Indian parts, and “$25 per cu. in., with lights, and a guaranteed 100 mph” are part of the Super Scout of the 1960s.

“I’m setting up for 300 machines. I plan to build one a day ‑ and I figure to sell ‘em faster than I can build ‘em. And, I’ve got enough Indian parts to keep all the Indians in the world running for the next 2000 years.”
The old‑time motordrome rider, the flat tracker who showed numerous competitors the hind end of an Indian through a haze of dust and castor oil, exudes confidence that the American Indian Motorcycle, indeed, will live on for 2000 years and that he’ll be around to try for 3000.

The boast is brash. The boast is Sam Pierce. He will turn out 300 American Indian Motorcycles at $1000 per copy.
Even in the shadow of the full‑to‑bursting parts warehouse, the incubator of the new American Indian Super Scout, Sam Pierce, now 54 years of age, is forced into this admission: “I can’t go on forever.”