• Motorcycle type 
  • Engine number 
    78G817 (see text)
  • Lot number 
  • Condition 
  • Colour  
  • Location


c.1915 Indian 7hp Big Twin
Registration no. SP 5406
Engine no. 78G817 (see text)

• Landmark Indian model
• Gearbox-equipped version
• Fitted with a 1915 engine

Oscar Hedstrom and Oliver Hendee, both active in the cycle racing world, got together to found the Hendee Manufacturing Company and build the first prototype Indian motorcycle in 1901. That machine was powered by a single-cylinder, 'F-head' (inlet over exhaust) engine that formed part of the 'diamond' frame, sloping rearwards to act as the seat tube. An advanced feature in motorcycling's early days, chain drive was used by Indian right from the start. The Indian single proved immensely successful and provided the basis for the first of the powerful, large-capacity v-twins for which the marque is best remembered.

Indian's first, 38.61ci (633cc) v-twin appeared in 1907 with an engine clearly derived from that of the single, though mechanical inlet valves - introduced for 1908 - were an early improvement. The twin's rear cylinder continued to form part of the frame until 1909 when a loop frame of the type favoured by rivals Harley-Davidson was adopted. The Springfield company's first 'Big Twin' debuted that same year displacing 60.32ci (988cc).

In 1911 Indian achieved its famous 1, 2, 3 finish at the Isle of Man TT, a remarkable achievement made possible by the advantages conferred by the use of all-chain drive coupled with the recently introduced two-speed countershaft gearbox and a contracting-band rear brake, all of which gave Indian a distinct superiority in coping with the demands of the challenging Mountain Circuit.

The Big Twin was updated for 1913 with Indian's innovative, leaf-sprung, swinging-arm frame but time was running out for this ageing design, which was superseded at the end of 1915 by a new 'flat head' v-twin - the Powerplus - thus bringing to an end a noble line.

Dating from circa 1915, this gearbox-equipped Big Twin was an early inclusion in the VMCC's Machine Register; it was issued with number '193', so the then owner must have joined soon after the Club's formation in 1946. The engine number recorded therein is '4913F', and there is a letter on file suggesting that this should be '72F4913', indicating the year of manufacture as 1914. The current engine, '78G817', dates from 1915 and thus the machine cannot qualify for a Pioneer Certificate; it is not known when it was installed. The aforementioned letter speculates with regard to this Indian's early history but contains several mistakes and quotes no accessible sources, and thus cannot be relied upon.

The current vendor's father acquired the Indian in 1984. We are advised that no work has been carried out recently, and that the machine is in un-restored condition. Offered with a V5C registration document, this is an ideal mount for the 2016 'Banbury Run'.

Bonhams 1793
101 New Bond Street
United Kingdom
Contact Person Kontaktperson
First name 
Bonhams Collectors’ Car department