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I am not sure at exactly what age it happened, but somehow I knew that I would own an Indian Scout. From the time I was about 12 until now I have owned and restored over 200 cars and trucks. With a one car garage and salty neighbors, it all came crashing down around me when I came home from work and found my wife in the driveway crying in front of the 1953 M37. She threatened to leave me if I did not do something about the the 17 or so cars and 36 foot RV in front of the house and on the driveway. I eventually relented and sold off everything to appease her as I was out of control.
Fast forward about four years. I am growing restless to begin a project. Not wanting to piss off the wife, I felt that it was finally time to get my Indian. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. I am not sure if I can speak for anyone else out there in Indian land, but I have met the most wonderful people during my motorcycle adventures.
I am not sure if it is a coincidence or simply the fact the this machine attracts people that are generally good natured and surprisingly helpful. I have met some new friends I am sure I will have for a long time. The car restoration folks could take a lesson from the Indian community.
My adventure began with a visit to The Shop to see David Hansen (get well soon Dave!). I mentioned that I was looking for a 741 in any state. Whether it was a nice runner or a basket, I did not care. I recently sold a bunch of stock, and I wanted a Scout. Nothing else would do.
After explaining my situation to Dave, he reached out to his many friends and found out that Calvin Penny had a few Scouts for sale. To make a long story short, I left Calvin’s garage with a beautiful 1940 Indian Sport Scout. I began to get to know my new prize and soon the bug bit me again.
Like many of you, I have read all of the available Indian publications. Over and over! During one such reading, I noticed that once again I found myself staring at a picture of Howard Wagner’s Blue Beetle. I was fascinated by this bike. I had to have one like it. So it began...
I was never going to find a finished Vertical special configured the way I wanted. So I decided to find a cheapo Vertical and start on the job myself. I have many hours of experience with cars, but almost none with motorcycles. I located an interesting 1949 Scout chopper in Santa Maria CA about 50 miles south of my home. After speaking to the owner over the phone I decided I need to see the bike. As expected it was a beater old school chopper that had not been touched since 1967. The owner still had bags of parts with receipts from Pierce Indian in Monrovia CA!
The bike was missing all the stock sheet metal, and it had a Sportster front fork, but for $525.00 how could I go wrong.
After breaking down the bike and removing all the parts, I was able to sell all the old chopper stuff and the vertical engine on eBay for about $1900.00! So I was up 1400 on the deal already.
After some networking, I was able to locate
Howard Wagner’s phone number. What a gentleman. Not only did he send me
his complete file on the bike, he was very willing to answer all the questions
I had. I could not have done this project without him! With his pictures
I began the fabricating process.
1940 Sport Scout.
frame was stripped to metal and all necessary repairs were made. The prior
owners decided to drill holes in various places and also chopped off the
seat mounting weldment. In addition to the repairs, I had my good friend
and scooter/motorcycle guru Mark Wilson of Bulletproof
Scooters in Grover Beach CA. Mark was able to duplicate Howard’s design
to a tee.
Mark added to vertical steel bars (schedule 40) to the rear frame section, he added a shifter tube and some fancy surround work and finally he added an additional horizontal tube to the front frame section, making it more like a Sport Scout frame.
About this time I located an engine/trans core in Wisconson. This was a complete 741 motor and trans minus the kicker/gears, carb, generator, exhaust, etc, but I was still excited to get it.
Next it was on to my friend Randy Benjiman. Randy has an incredible collection of Indian parts as well as about 300 cars and 150 motorcycles on his lot. He is in the movie business. When Hollywood needs Indians and Harleys, they call Randy.
As I approached his house in Sunland CA I noticed the Cheech and Chong Nice Dreams ice cream truck in the driveway. Appearently he built it for the movie. After much haggling, I was able to leave with a 130 Mph Corbin speedo, 741 front wheel for $50.00!, as well as a set of 1939 Ed Kretz racing cylinders to convert the 741 motor into a fire breathing 45 CI motor.
Next I needed the gear drive for the rear mounted generator. One of the first things you find out when you begin this type of project, is that front mounted gennys do not work with full fenders. They rub against the fender. The only way to go is to use a Chief generator with an early rigid chief clamp and a Sammy Pierce gear drive housing and gear. My childs braces for his teeth cost less than this part, but it is absolutely necessary.
Sport Scout style rear frame bracing.
was able to find this and a few other key pieces from Jacob Junker and
his site www.vintagecyclebay.com.
Jacob is very helpful and his parts are near perfect, but don’t try to
After assembling what I thought was a complete motor, I boxed up all the pieces and drove out to Merced CA to meet with Doug Burnett of Burnett Indian. When it comes to rebuilding Indian motors, there is no one else than Doug I would let touch my motor. He is an artist. He also found me a cool set of drilled 45 rods.
Also a quick thanks to Brent Johnson. You may know Brent. He recently crashed pretty hard at Davenport. Get well Brent. Brent was able to provide a few more pieces for the engine that included a title.
Frame fabrication finished. New tube, with head steady, under tank.
has been working on the engine for a few months, as Scout parts are getting
more difficult to find - and as he found that someone had bored the cylinders
upside down, so the bore was no longer at right angles with the base flange.
It looks like it may be done in two weeks.
I was able to trade the Harley fork and wheel for a complete Vertical fork straight across. Thanx Calvin!
Still missing a bunch of Vertical parts and highly frustrated buying them on ebay, I was able to get in touch with Jim Preussner of Southwest Vintage Motorcycle located in New Mexico.
What luck, as Jim had all the missing parts I needed. In addition, his prices were great.
Now it was time to send everything off to the powder coater. Stop your hissing! My good friend and neighbor, Stanton, worked at the local powder coater here in town and was able to get all the pieces, including the wheels, done for an awesome price. Stanton High is not just a powder coater, he is an artist who cares about his work. Unfortunately last month, they laid him off.
All the parts have been powder coated and they look great. Putting the bike together was a snap. Everything fit really well. It officially became a roller. Now it was time to get the powertrain installed. Once again, Howard’s design of the engine mounts proved too be the best alternative. His mounts allow the engine to be lower in the frame. In the case of the rear mounts, stock Sport Scout mounts were used.
Additionally, it is necessary to notch the frame so that the drain plug for the case can clear the frame. Howard’s creation used a Volkswagen generator, I will be using a Chief one. I am also using Chief bars and controls as they are easy to locate.
I have also acquired a set of really nice, slightly bobbed Vertical fenders. They will look great.
Regretably, I am using a couple of Harley parts. The cool pullback risers are vintage Harley, and the seat is from a 1955 Panhead FL. Sorry all you purists.
Now the bike is at Matt Blake’s Iron Horse Corral. This is where all the brain power comes into the project. Matt will be making tanks and oil lines, massaging the bobbed fenders as well as installing the engine and all that goes with it. I am looking forward to bringing you part 2 of this story very soon.
While you wait, check out the cool all-aluminum sidecar body Matt is building.
Coming together - note 50cc 2-stoke powered and disc braked Radio Flyer wagon in the background!