Welcome to the New Indian Motorcycles (1949)
ON WEDNESDAY, April 7, I visited the Indian Factory. Seven is reputedly a lucky number, and it certainly proved to be so on this occasion. My call was made towards the end of a hectic high speed tour during which, in the course of thirty-eight days, I covered some 17,000 miles and passed through thirty-one of the Forty-eight States. From New York I had gone to Florida for the Daytona Races, then had driven right across to Los Angeles and up to San Francisco; thence by train to Chicago, Milwaukee, Toronto and Montreal en route to Springfield.
I had given a number of film shows depicting the British Tourist Trophy Races, the Scottish Six Days Trial and other types of motorcycling events staged in Great Britain and had survived-with some difficulty! The most amazing, warm-hearted hospitality it has ever been my good fortune to receive from a kindly and generous people.
Frankly, I was a wee bit weary when, in the early hours of that Wednesday morning, I phoned my old friend Fritzie Baer to say I had arrived. That feeling didn’t last, however, for no one can feel tired for long in the company of the enthusiastic, effervescent Fritzie. Moreover, this was a very special occasion so far as I was concerned; indeed it marked the realization of a dream dating back to 1912 when, as a youngster of 16, I was the proud owner of a 7/9, single-geared, clutch model Indian.
In 1911, Indian machines had finished first, second and third in the great Isle of Man T.T. Races, and I had given my ever-patient father no peace until I had a machine with that name on the tank!
I cherished the Indian not only because of its proved performance, but because it was, at that period, very much ahead, in design, of the majority of contemporary European models, and I vowed that one day I would visit the Works in which it was made.
THAT thirty-six years should pass before the dream could come true was due, in no small measure, to a couple of wars, and the fact that the American and European sporting organizations have had for many years no reciprocal arrangement for competition in each other’s classic events.
Whilst I can do nothing to prevent wars I think it is possible to do something about a resumption of joint sporting activities, and that was one of the primary objects of my tour-but that is a story which must be reserved for another time.
Suffice to say that I have returned to England with the cheerful feeling that that object will be achieved in the not-too-distant future. Furthermore, I have an idea Indians will play an important part in the reestablishment of truly international competition.
That feeling was prompted by Mr. Ralph B. Rogers, President of the Indian Motocycle Company, who showed me around not only the famous Hendee Works in which my 1912 model was made, but also the magnificent new factory in which the latest Indians are to be produced -the most modern plant it has been my good fortune to see.
But if I was interested in the technical excellence of the plant, I was even more interested in the new designs which it will handle. For the 440 cc. vertical twin and the 220 cc. single-cylinder models (of which the reader will now have seen full details) are as up-to-date as today and as intriguing as tomorrow.
Here are American motorcycles which provide direct comparison with the leading European designs and based on the same ideal of minimum weight compatible with a high performance.
I have a great respect for the robust qualities of the typical U.S.A. big twin, but I will not deny that I believe the average American machine to be too heavy and cumbersome for the average newcomer to our ranks. That is why I welcome these new Springfield products, as I believe they can open up a much wider market than exists in America today.
IN GREAT BRITAIN there are 500,000 motorcyclists in a population of only 44 million people. In the vast United States of America, with a population of 140 million, there are only half that number of motorcyclists, and I believe the reason is to be found in the relative absence of small and medium capacity machines which are more suitable for the majority of riders than the 61-in. and 74-in. monsters which have, in recent years, been about the only choice available to American riders who wish to own American machines.
In this connection, the post-war “invasion” of America by European designs has been of direct advantage to the American motorcycle industry as well as to the purchasers of the machines in question.
Motorcyclists are like women with their clothes-they want to be “different” from their neighbors! Where a large number of makes or types of machine are available, that wish can be fulfilled easily, and the motorcycling movement tends to grow in consequence.
Friendly international business competition has, in this instance, resulted in the production of the new Indians, and I am sure that the American motorcycle industry will benefit by the challenge they offer to European designers.
Moreover, with the introduction of American models in the 30.5-in. and 17-in. classes, it seems to me only logical that any differences which now exist between the two great sporting organizations-the American Motorcycle Association on the one hand and the Federation Internationale des Clubs Motocyclistes in Europe on the other-can readily be resolved.
To the reader I would say that if I have tended to digress into sporting politics, forgive me; for I sincerely believe that in the resumption of healthy sporting competition between America and England lies the answer to that great expansion of American motorcycling for which the wonderful roads and magnificent scenery of your vast country can provide unparalleled facilities.
In Great Britain-indeed, in the Continent of Europe also-motorcyclists are enthusiasts for whom design knows no national boundaries.
A machine is judged by its qualities irrespective of its country of origin, and the rider who owns an American, Italian or, even for that matter, a German machine is not regarded as a renegade or a traitor. I believe that the same degree of enthusiasm for good engineering practice is apparent in the U.S.A. and I welcome it, for no one country has a monopoly in engineering brains and the merging of the best in design from each country must result in better motorcycles and more motorcyclists-and the latter is the important factor, when all is said and done. URING my very happy day at Springfield I was honored by the opportunity to ride the pilot models of both the new Indians, and I am very grateful to Director of Engineering A. R. Constantine, and to Designer G. Briggs Weaver, Chief Engineer of the Motorcycle Division of the Indian Motocycle Company, for the kindness they showed me and the patience with which they listened to my subsequent comments.
I was, perhaps, even more honored by being consulted on the layout of this first issue of the THE INDIAN MAGAZINE.
THE INDIAN MAGAZINE is a magazine which is “different.” It in no way runs counter to other American motorcycling magazines, nor to the two great British journals which deal primarily with matters of sport, design and technical development.
There is ample room for this new journal, and I speak from experience when I say that there is an insufficiency of good motorcycling literature in the world today.
Certainly my brother editor and myself in Great Britain would hate to see either of our journals develop into a monopoly, for healthy rivalry keeps each of us on his toes with consequent benefit to our readers. It is precisely the same with the new Indian motorcycles; they will make European designers, look to their laurels, and similarly Mr. Ralph B. Rogers and his team of charming and hospitable experts will know that they cannot afford to rest content with their present products.
That is the road to progress. Along that road Indians have made a big stride with their new designs. I wish them the best of luck and can only hope that we will see their machines in Europe in the years to come, certain in the knowledge that in the free interchange of our countries’ machines and ideas lies the expansion of worldwide motorcycling in which the United States of America can play so great a part.