1938 Indian Four
Year of manufacture1938
1938 Indian 77.21ci Model 438 Four
Frame no. 438577
Engine no. DCH577
* 'The Duesenberg of motorcycling'
* Restored condition
* German registered
Marketed as the Indian Ace for 1928, the Springfield company's first four-cylinder motorcycle had resulted from its purchase of Ace rights and tooling from Detroit Motors the previous year. The Ace company, although bankrupted twice, had developed a fundamentally sound four-cylinder motorcycle based on William Henderson's original design, and this provided Indian with an opportunity to offer an in-line 'four' with minimal development costs.
The Ace was William Henderson's second four-cylinder motorcycle. One of the most charismatic names in American motorcycling history, the Henderson company - founded by Tom and William Henderson in Detroit in 1912 - produced nothing but four-cylinder motorcycles in the course of its 19-year existence. The firm passed into the control of Chicago-based cycle maker Ignaz Schwinn, owner of Excelsior, in 1917 and the Hendersons soon moved on to found the Ace motorcycle company - later taken over by Indian - thereby having a hand in the design of all the major American-built fours.
The first Ace four had been offered late in 1919 for the 1920 season and retained the F-head (inlet over exhaust) valve gear of the original Henderson. (Schwinn's Hendersons went 'flat head' for 1920). The 75ci (1,229cc) air-cooled inline engine employed splash lubrication and was built in unit with the three-speed, hand-change gearbox. A wheelbase of 59" and a seat height of 29" made for a stable and comfortable ride, while weight was kept down to a commendable 365lbs.
By 1926 the reconstituted company was owned by Detroit motors, from which it was bought by Indian in January '27. Having acquired the Ace, Indian made few changes for the next couple of years before beginning to put its own characteristic stamp on the Four, beginning in 1929 with a restyle (Model 401) and following up with a new five-main-bearing crankshaft. Introduced on June 1st 1929 on the Model 402, the latter was the biggest single change made to the motor, which retained the Henderson Ace's basic architecture right up to 1936.
Following the debacle of the 'upside-down' Four of 1936/37, Indian reverted to the tried-and-tested 'F-head' (inlet over exhaust) arrangement on the 438 Four, adding aluminium cylinder heads and fully enclosed valve gear to the specification. Changes after 1938 were few. Production of the Indian Four, America's last four-cylinder motorcycle, ceased in 1942.
One of the world's most beautiful and collectible motorcycles, this restored Indian Four is offered with German registration document and TüV paperwork.