Indian Motorcycles. History of American legend

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Between 1920 and 1949 the Indian Motorcycle Company produced the Indian Scout, a bike that would rival the Indian Chief as the company’s most important contribution to the industry. The original model- the 101 Scout- has been dubbed the best bike ever produced by Indian Motorcycle Company. By 1932 a second line of Scouts was introduced, featuring lighter frames and reduced motorcycle displacement. This coincided with the replacement of the 101 Scout with the Standard Scout, which utilized the same framework as the Indian Chief motorcycle and the Four. Two years later in 1934 came the small-displacement Scout and Sport Scout, two designs that would be continued until the end of civilian bike production in 1942. At this time, Indian Motorcycle Company began producing military versions of both the Scout and the Sport Scout to aid the U.S. and Allied forces during World War II.

A special version of the Scout called the 648 was temporarily manufactured following WWII, producing only 50 models, but this was the end of the Scout series. In 1949 a new version of the Scout with an overhead valve straight-twin engine was introduced. One year later in 1950 it was enlarged and named the Warrior. Between 2001 and 2003 the Indian Motorcycle Company of America revived the Scout line of motorcycles using propiety engines and transmission parts.

The original Indian Scout design was manufactured between 1920 and 1927. The original designs were created by Charles B. Franklin in 1919 and featured a sidevalve V-twin engine and transmission bolted directly to the engine casing. This made the Scout the only American V-twin motorcycle to use a geared primary drive requiring no maintenance. Original Scout engines displaced 606 cc, while an upgrade in 1927 boosted it to 745 cc in order to compete with the popular Excelsior Super X. The very next year Indian Motorcycle Company of America added a front brake to the bike.

By mid-1928 the original Scout was replaced by the 101 Scout series. Also designed by Charles B. Franklin, these motorcycles came with a lighter frame with more fork rake, longer wheelbase, and lowered seat. The shape of the 101 Scout’s wheelbase, steering head angle, and rear sub-frame were inspired by Indian’s 401 motorcycle series, which was in development at the same time. The 101 Scout came with an option of 740 cc or original 610 cc engine, though this was rarely advertised. Because of these modifications, the 101 Scout was popular among bikers, trick riders, and adventurous riders looking to go off terrain.

With the onset of the Great Depression, Indian Motorcycle Company faced the impending bankruptcy, forcing them to be acquired by the DuPont family. This change also came with a change in direction for the company: a new bike frame design allowed it to be used for the 1931 Scout, Chief, and Four models, rationalizing motorcycle production. This change led to the discontinuing of the 101 Scout due to its high production cost to low profit margin.

Fans of classic motorcycles site the 101 Scout as the pinnacle of Indian Motorcycle Company’s series of motorcycles. It is hailed as both the highest example of Indian’s technological achievements and a perfect merger of classic Indian Chief style with the Scout’s power and maneuverability. The 101 Scout is still used in “wall of death” motorcycle trick shows for this reason.

Between 1933 and 1937 the Standard Scout was produced using the universal frame. Unfortunately the frame proved too heavy and bulky to have the same success as the 101. During this time, Indian Motorcycle Company attempted to appease sport bike fans who displeased with the Standard Scout by producing the Motoplane. This bike fitted with the Scout engine into the discontinued Prince series frame. Unfortunately the engine overpowered the frame, also resulting in its cancellation. However, the Pony Scout- a less powerful Motoplane bike with reduced engine displacement- continued production. It was later renamed the Junior Scout and nicknamed the “Thirty-Fifty” Scout because the engine displacements was reduced to 30.50 cu (499.8 cc).

In an attempt to bounce back from the failed Standard Scout and Motoplane, the Sport Scout was introduced in 1934. This new line corrected the flaws with both bikes with a lighter frame, girder forks, improved carburation and alloy cylinder heads. The frame was produced in two pieces, making it sturdier than the Prince, though it was 15 lbs heavier than the 101 Scout. A specialty Sport Scout won the first ever Daytona 200 in 1937. Three years later the Sport Scout was outfitted with full-skirt fenders, lowered seat, and increased fork rake. In 1941 Indian also added a plunger-style rear suspension.

Despite fluctuating commercial success, Indian Motorcycle Company contributed quite a bit to war efforts during World War II. Their most common contribution was the 741 military bike, which shared a design with the Thirty-Fifty bikes. During WWII Indian sold more than 30,000 bikes primarily to British and Commonwealth forces.In the United States, Indian Motorcycle Company produced the 640-B, a military version of the Sport Scout which was used solely on American soil. In total they produced about 2,500 units.

Return to civilian motorcycles began with the continued production of the Indian Chief, the only surviving model from the pre-WWII era. While company attempted to improve the 647 Scout, they eventually abandoned those efforts in favor of developing a new line of motorcycles. These new lightweight, single-cylinder and vertical-twin bikes included the ultra-rare “Big Base” 648 Scout, sold solely to racers. The 1948 Daytona 200 was won by Floyd Emde on a 648; these 50 motorcycles also marked the end of the traditional Indian Scout.

The next year in 1949, Indian designed and produced the 249 Scout, the first in a line of modular-engined standard motorcycles with a straight-twin engine. Thei 249 Scout featured a 436cc twin with 2 ⅜ in x 3 in bore and stroke.This bike would only be in production for one year before being replaced by the 250 Warrior in 1951 to better compete with European 500cc twin-engine motorcycles.

In modern times, Indian reintroduced to the Scout with a new low-end price in an attempt to engage new markets. At this time, they included a 100-HP liquid cooled V-twin engine. 2016 saw the introduction of the Scout 60 at a lower priced with a similar, less powerful design.