Indian Motorcycles through the Years
Indian Motorcycles through the Years
FOX TOWNSHIP, Pa. — A short film about a Sullivan County man’s love for racing motorcycles was recently released on YouTube.
“Fast Eddie” tells the story of what motorcycle racing life was like in the 1950s.
Ed Fisher, also known as Fast Eddie, began racing motorcycles when he was 16 years old. Now at 94, the former racing legend still enjoys riding, just at a slower pace.
Fisher was born in Lancaster County in 1925, and he loves to ride motorcycles. If you give Fisher two wheels, handlebars, and an open road, he will fly right on by. Fisher brought his first motorcycle, an Indian Scout Pony, in 1941 and hasn’t looked back.
After just celebrating his 94th birthday, the man from Shunk still loves to ride his bike in Sullivan County and beyond.
“You are out in the open. You see your surroundings much better, and normally it is nice fresh air,” said Fisher.
“Fast Eddie” is a documentary on YouTube that focuses on Fisher’s racing days in the 1950s. One of biggest wins of Fisher’s career was the 1953 Laconia 100-mile National Championship in New Hampshire.
“And you went off blacktop onto the sand, then sand onto the blacktop onto a 90-degree turn which got pretty slippery. If you learned to maneuver that good, that is how you make good time.”
Fisher eventually stopped racing professionally in 1957 and was voted into the American Motorcyclist Assocation Hall of Fame in 2002.
“You can’t say I think I have done something better than everybody else, but just being recognized as being one of the top competitors in your day. (It means a lot?) Yeah, yeah.”
Fisher says he will continue to ride his motorcycles until he can’t.
Here is a link to the Video I made in 2010 about the Great Indian V Harley Race in Australia. After going on this race I decided to start sponsoring this event in the US. So far we have had 3 events in the states and our next event will be Spring 2016
The Great Race 2010 Indian Vs Harley – 120 motorcycles competing in Australia’s Snowy River for bragging rights. I was invited to the event by Peter Arundel, who loaned me his 53 Chief to ride on the event. I had a great time, meeting and riding with the other participants. It was a real fun weekend of riding! This was my first trip to Australia, and in my 5 days of staying in the country I spent everyday riding, and we rode over 1,000 miles! How can you beat a trip like that! Riding antique bikes every day!
I had so much fun at this event, that I decided we needed to have an event like this in the states. “The Great Indian v Harley Race” is coming to Yosemite CA. May 12-14 2011 – sign up today and see you on the road!
For details on the 2011 event see our website at:
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.
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.”
High on the list of truths universally acknowledged must be the fact that the Indian Motorcycle, as a legend, a logo and a symbol ranks up there with the golden arches and the three-pointed star, with power and value beyond calculation. On the other hand, naming your daughter Baby Ruth doesn’t ensure she will hit 60 homers a season against big-league pitching. To collect on the promise of legend and esteem, you gotta have a product.
We are concerned here with the Indian, originally spelled Motocycle by the founders, as currently offered by Polaris Industries. To fully appreciate this, we’ll have to look back 60 years, to an undisputed tragedy.
At the close of WWII, a prosperous and product-starved public was ready to buy just about anything. The car and motorcycle makers had learned a lot during the war, but they were canny enough to offer the old versions while testing and refining the new. The 1947 Harley-Davidsons, Fords, Chevys, Dodges, etc., were identical to the 1941 models, while the improved models—the ohv Oldsmobile engine and the telescopic-fork Hydra-Glide—didn’t get here until 1949.
But at the Wigwam, as always, things were different. E. Paul DuPont, who owned Indian and kept the brand in business through the Great Depression, sold his shares in the company. The new owners had new ideas—vision, one could say. The firm’s chief engineer had designed a radical line of really new machines, modular in that there would be a Single, a Twin and a Four, all using the same basic design, all overhead valve, foot shift and hand clutch, suspension fore and aft, with the writing on the tank being the only clue as to what was what.
Further, the new president embarked on a revolutionary ad campaign. As the Japanese say, he reckoned to enlarge the pie, rather than fight over slices. The completely different motorcycles were launched in 1945, with a completely different campaign endorsed by baseball, show business and movie stars.
But wait: Doesn’t this sound like Honda in 1959, meeting the nicest people and all that? Yes. But for one thing, Honda’s dealer network was based on new people who mostly ran hardware or sporting-goods stores, and for another, Honda’s engineering raised the bar worldwide.
Indian’s new bikes—the Single and Twin (the inline-Four never got past the prototype stage)—were disasters. When they didn’t blow up, they broke down. The motorcycling community was small, and everybody knew how bad the new models were. Add to that, the old dealer network, the guys who’d raised a stink when the evergreen Scout was abandoned and stormed the boardroom demanding a new one, wasn’t always that happy with the new people.
Suffice it here to say that everything that could go wrong did. The money ran out and Indian’s new owners begged for help. The English brands were doing well, so Indian asked to distribute several makes. A partnership was formed, and before you could say the camel’s nose was in the tent, the Indian visionaries were out, the English owned Indian and production of the new models was immediately stopped. The final production run of the final genuine Indians, the Blackhawk version of the side-valve 80-inch Chief, came in 1953.
There followed a run of Royal Enfields and later, Matchlesses labeled Indian, but fooling nobody. Next, a puzzle and struggle over ownership of the script, name and symbols. There were Matchless-Indians, then a run of Italian Indians backed by entrepreneur Floyd Clymer, first road bikes and then motocross.
Next, a series of failures on a different stage: promoters with big plans and no money, who never made any motorcycles. A serious effort appeared in 1999. There was a major market at the time for full-dress Harleys and look-alike rivals from the major brands. Indian of America had a factory in Gilroy, California, and produced a viable machine, a big Twin styled like the old Chief and powered by a version of a Harley clone. But the funding wasn’t enough, sales did not meet hopes and the firm went bankrupt in 2003. Three years later, another group of investors picked up the baton and began building the same sort of repro-Indian Chief, this time with modern engineering as in EFI and a bigger V-Twin than Indian Motocycle ever dreamed of—all of it just in time for the bottom to drop out of the market.
But the true revival, one can only hope, came in 2011, when Polaris bought the struggling brand. What’s the difference this time? The lesson since the debacle in 1945 is clear: It’s a heap more difficult to produce a viable motorcycle than all those dreamers and promoters realized. They all had the script and the logo and the legend, but not one had a product to match the hype, good intentions or no.
In contrast, Triumph, with a logo and badge nearly as good, was revived and still thrives simply because it had 1) the capital to invest; and 2) a properly engineered machine that created its own market. It didn’t revise the classic Bonneville Twin until the big Triples proved that the product matched the promotion. Knock wood, those Indian dealers who stormed the boardroom demanding a new Scout in 1947, may soon get their wish. Except there is a very good chance it will be a Chief.
I don’t hear anybody complaining.
Floyd Clymer played a big roll in the History of the Indian Motorcycle – Here is a brief history of the Man:
Here at the Library, it’s hard to scan the shelves without coming across the name of Floyd Clymer. From 1944 through the 1970s, his publishing company stood at the forefront of automotive books. At the Library, we have more than fifty of these books on-hand for reference, covering everything from history to racing! While Clymer’s books have remained his biggest claim to fame, they are but only one piece of this legendary man’s life story.
Since he was a lifelong fan of automobiles, it seems fitting Floyd Clymer was born in Indianapolis, home of the famed 500, in 1895. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Berthoud, Colorado. In 1902, Clymer’s father (a physician) introduced his son to the world of cars with the purchase of the family’s first vehicle, a one cylinder Curved Dash Oldsmobile.
Floyd Clymer didn’t have what you would call a typical childhood. At just seven years old, he learned how to drive his dad’s Olds. Later, Clymer and his younger brother participated in the 1904 Reliability Run from Denver to Spokane. Behind the wheel of a Flanders 20, several breakdowns thwarted successful completion of the trip.
If racing was in Clymer’s blood, so too was the entrepreneurial spirit. While most ten year olds boys found fun playing baseball, Clymer got his kicks from selling cars. With faith in young Floyd’s dream, Clymer’s father allowed his son to set up shop in a room within his practice. In what was formerly a dentist’s office, Berthound Auto Co. was founded, specializing in REO, Maxwell and Cadillac. In two years, the wonder kid managed to sell at least twenty six vehicles.
For trade publications of the day, the story of a young auto dealer was too good to pass up. Motor Field ran an article on Clymer (then 11), “the Kid Agent,” in their February 1907 issue. Salesmanship in his blood, the article doubled as an ad for Clymer who claimed, “[I] can supply your wants in repairs and supplies, and can save you money.” Later in life, Clymer reprinted and sold this same issue for just a dollar.
In 1916, Clymer made motorcycle history by winning the very first Pike’s Peak Hill Climb. Contrary to popular opinion of the time, his Excelsior proved motorcycles were capable of more arduous trips, having ascended 4,958 ft in only twelve miles. Thanks to such victories, Clymer attracted the attention of Harley Davidson and became a member of their factory racing team in 1916.
Though an accomplished rider, Clymer never abandoned the world of salesmanship. In 1914, he moved to Greeley, Colorado and opened up a motorcycle shop, selling Excelsior bikes and, eventually, the Harleys he was known for racing. Clymer promoted his dealerships by setting long distance records between cities on his bikes.
After his stint in Greeley, Clymer set up Floyd Clymer, Inc. in Denver, becoming a major distributor of Indian, Excelsior and Henderson bikes for the western part of the country. In a 1929 brochure, Clymer touted he was the “largest motorcycle dealer in the west” and that he had “…sold motorcycles and shipped them into practically every state in the union.” In addition to new and used bikes, Clymer sold parts and accessories.
By the 1930s, he made the move to Los Angeles, taking over Al Crocker’s West Coast Indian distributorship and managing a profitable venture in the mail order parts business. Taking full advantage of his close proximity to Hollywood, Clymer gave Indian bikes to celebrities as gifts or loaned them in return for advertisement-worthy publicity shots. Consequently, Indians were well-represented on the silver screen back then!
From then on, Clymer established himself as the pre-eminent publisher of automotive books, having printed more than four hundred different titles by 1965. Among them were several more “scrapbooks,” including special editions devoted to steam powered cars and motorcycles. Clymer also localized foreign titles, published a long-running series of Indianapolis 500 yearbooks (the first in 1946), and reprinted entire works, including the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce’s Handbook of Automobiles series.
While a successful publisher, Clymer never turned his back on motorcycles. In the 1960s, he became a distributor of the high-end German-built Munch Mammoth IV, a $4,000 bike he labeled the “Ferrari of motorcycles.” Starting in 1963, he attempted to revive Indian (defunct since 1953), slapping the name on imported bikes decked out with engines from Royal Enfield and Velocette.
Although the closest one can get to a tangible tall-tale, Clymer was not immune to the world of medical misfortune, and he succumbed to a heart attack in 1970. In his short time on Earth, Clymer had accomplished what few could hope to achieve in five lifetimes, let alone one. Far from forgotten, his is but one of many stories awaiting your discovery here at the Library.
Inspirational Dottie Mattern rides a 1936 Indian Scout motorcycle 4,000 miles coast to coast in her seventies after surviving cancer.
Most people in their seventies are starting to slow down. Not Dottie Mattern. She’s still picking up steam. This fall the world traveler and seasoned rider trucked her beloved 1936 Indian Scout to Daytona Beach, Fla. She did it to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
On Sept. 5, she and 102 other entrants from all over the world departed the famous beach town to begin a two-and-a-half-week sojourn to Tacoma, Wash., on antique motorcycles. She was one of only three females entered in the run that attracted regular Joes and rock stars alike, including Pat Simmons of Doobie Brothers fame.
What prompted her to do it and what was the event that offered the challenge? The second half of that question answers the first: the challenge — which is something Dottie Mattern never shrinks from. The answer to the rest of the question is the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run, which is the brainchild of Lonnie Isam Jr.
There have been three Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Runs since 2010. It’s held every other year in large part because it’s so difficult to coordinate, and most riders need the extra time to get their bikes together between events. The ride is as tough on the 80- to 100-year-old motorycles as it is on the riders.
After hearing about the last two runs, Dottie Mattern was determined to enter herself. She began preparing the Scout in the winter of 2013. It was rebuilt from the ground up by Dennis Craig. Craig serves on The Antique Motorcycle Foundation with her.
Although she’s been riding since she was 19, and owned the Scout for 30 years, she didn’t really start to spread her wings until she retired in her 50s. She took up tennis at 50. She went to a week-long baseball fantasy camp where she was both the oldest and most valuable player at 54.
In 1999, at age 55, Dottie decided she wanted to become a ball “kid” for the U.S. Tennis Association. After a five-week tryout, she was accepted — along with roughly 100 children aged 12 and under. She did it for six years.
It was in September of 2001 that she’d be diagnosed with colon cancer. Like everything else in her life, she approached it with steely determination.
After beating it, Dottie became active in raising funds and awareness regarding testing. She hoped to raise $70,000 for the cause before, during and after her ride.
Her experience didn’t slow her down. Eight years ago she became a U.S. Tennis Official. In 2007, at age 63, Dottie Mattern set the East Coast Racing Association land speed record in Maxton, N.C., on a stripped down ’37 Indian Scout doing 74.1 mph.
Oh, and somewhere in between all this she found time to become a vice commander with the Coast Guard Auxillary. The moral to the story? Life can begin at any age, if you let it. Ride, Dottie, ride!
Source: Dottie Mattern, Seventy-Year-Old Cancer Survivor, Rides 1936 Indian Scout Coast to Coast On Challenging 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run [EXCLUSIVE] : From A to B : Design & Trend