• Motorcycle type 
  • Engine number 
    CDI 3104 (see text)
  • Lot number 
  • Condition 
  • Colour  
  • Location


c.1939 Indian 74ci Chief
Engine no. CDI 3104 (see text)

* Last of the open fender, rigid-frame Chiefs
* Appears substantially un-restored
* Re-stamped engine number

Chain drive had been one of Indian's advanced features right from the start, when Oscar Hedstrom and Oliver Hendee, both active in the cycle racing world, got together to build their first prototype in 1901. That first machine was powered by a single-cylinder 'F-head' engine that formed part of the frame - in the Indian's case it sloped rearwards to act as the seat tube - and featured an advanced spray-type carburettor of Hedstrom design. The reliable Indian single proved an instant hit and was produced substantially unchanged until 1905, providing the Springfield firm with the basis for the powerful, large-capacity v-twins that it is best remembered for.

Indian's first twin appeared in 1907, its rear cylinder continuing to form part of the frame until 1909 when Indian adopted a loop frame of the type favoured by rivals Harley-Davidson. In 1911 Indian broke new ground yet again with their OHV four-valves-per-cylinder racers and then in 1916 a new 61ci (1,000cc) sidevalve v-twin - the Powerplus - was introduced to replace the F-head type. A smaller model, the 600cc Scout, joined the Powerplus in 1920, and then in the autumn of 1921 the range was extended to encompass a new, Scout-based 1,000cc model - the Chief - the first of an immensely successful line that would endure until 1953.

The Scout had been a big success, so Indian was keen to emphasise the new Chief's close relationship with its smaller predecessor. The Chief retained the Scout's helical gear primary drive and integral gearbox but in most other respects the engine followed the lines of that used in the Powerplus model, which was now renamed 'Standard'. Other Standard components used included the wheels, brakes, foot boards, saddles and sprung front fork, though the Chief frame reverted to a rigid back end. Indian's powerful new Big Twin had a top speed in excess of 90mph in solo form and was deservedly popular as a sidecar 'tug', maximum speed with a chair attached being a highly respectable 70mph. When a 74ci (1,200cc) Big Chief variant was added to the range in 1923, it quickly became a top seller. Constantly developed, the Chief had gained a new frame and forks, dry-sump lubrication and coil ignition by 1940 when the cycle parts were extensively face-lifted.

Appearing substantially un-restored, this Indian Chief is offered with an Automotoclub Storico Italiano certificate. It should be noted that the engine number appears to have been re-stamped and, if correct, corresponds with a manufacturing date for the motor of 1949.

Bonhams 1793
101 New Bond Street
United Kingdom
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Bonhams Collectors’ Car department