Christmas 2003 Column
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Brand New Indians!
By Moen  
Five years ago, the question of what it would take for new Indians to become once again available was the spark that set of the formation of the VI mailing list and, a little later, the VI website and magazine.

The answer seems to be that we're there. It looks like a new trend among Indian parts suppliers is going to be more or less complete kit bikes, and pretty much all the parts you would need to build your own Indian now seem to be available. Often in several versions from different souces. How much influence the VI - directly or through the general networking it has encouraged - has had on this is debatable, but at least one of the new kit bike efforts would not have been possible without the VI. 

99% new Chief from IPE.
One of the main reasons for the longer intervals between VI issues is, as some may be aware, that I started up an Indian parts business a few years ago and this has left little time over for the producing the VI magazine. Using contacts and resources from within the VI network, I am about to finish one of the first "99% New" replica Chiefs here in Denmark. The work is far from all mine, though. Chassis parts come from Jurgen Hecker and others, and most of the engine and transmission parts are from Kiwi. Other parts come from Michael Breeding, KING clutch, James Gaskets and Cycle Electric (as well as some of my own IPE parts). All of these suppliers were among the first to take the VI seriously, and without them it would not have been possible to get this far this fast.

The 1% or so of the parts that aren't new have become available after I started on the project, or will be on the market soon (clutch parts, engine sprocket, shifter top and oil pump), so actually a complete 100% new rigid Chief can be built - and probably will be next time. Not a replica of any particular year but a nice, classic looking and usable bike that is unmistakably an Indian.

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"Retro 50" kit from Kiwi Indian.

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"99% New Chief" from IPE.
In addition to the commercially available new Indians of various kinds mentioned in this article, it should not be forgotten that you could build your own version by shopping around among the various parts suppliers - or combine new and old parts to suit individual tastes and budgets. I guess that is pretty obvious but, as I didn't have time to ask every possible source of parts relevant to this article what they have, there may well be a lot of other interesting stuff out there that should be taking into consideration by those wanting to build a new Indian.

Growing interest in custom Indians.
The interest in original or restored Indians is as strong as ever, but I see a growing interest in customized or modified Indians. I think there are two main reasons for this. One is that many Indian owners have now had one or more original bikes for some time and want something a little different. 

The other is that many newcomers to Indians may not have the historic focus of the typical older enthusiast, but tend to view Indians as just Cool Bikes to which mild (or radical) customizing isn't a sacrilege - or as bikes like any other where you can come up with solutions which will get you an improved (or at least personalized) Indian on the road within a limited budget.

Tim's chopper columns on the VI have no doubt played a part in the latter trend, and while I am not sure where the actual inspiration for the first comes from (insofar as these are seperate trends), the fact that the AMCA has instituted a "period modified" judging class (read "bobbers") confirms that it exists. Of course, there is nothing new in modified Indians - people have always tinkered with their bike to improve performance or appearance - but it seems to me that a larger part of the general body of Indian enthusiasts are becoming interested in them.

What does the custom stuff have to do with the new Indians? Quite a lot, I think. The two first kit bikes, Kiwi's and IPE's Chiefs, are not 100% replicas of any particular model from the Wigwam. For economical reasons it has been necessary to use parts already in production but meant for a different model or year. Also, it has been to great a temptation not to take the opportunity to update some things that sort of begged to be updated! Things that improves function (better brakes, electronic ignition) or just plain looks better (stainless parts). When you are building a bike and have an idea to make things better it is hard not to do it.

A few recently built Custom Indians. Don't they look great?

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Geoff Ringlé's Bobber Chief.

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Matt Blake's Bobber Scout.

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Jim Mosher's Bobber Scout
(sort of in the Warpath spirit!)

1931 Scout 101 rolling chassis from Jurgen Hecker.
All this custom talk doesn't mean that the good old restored Indians are being forgotten by parts suppliers. Apart from the many suppliers who have not jumped on the custom wagon and continue to supply ever more faithful replicas of the original parts, almost every single part from the new Chiefs from Kiwi and IPE have their place on original bikes too. Indeed, at least the IPE bike is being built mainly as a rolling exhibition of the parts available. For 101 enthusiasts, Jurgen Hecker in Germany is also almost done with a replica 1931 rolling chassis, and have most other parts for these available to order as well. Pricing for the rolling chassis -or a complete bike- will be in place in the beginning of 2004, and the chassis kit and parts will be available worldwide through IPE.
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101 rolling chassis.
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 The other side.
Chout from Jurgen Hecker.
Coming back to the custom Indian trend for a minute, Jurgen Hecker is also working on a Chout (Chief engine in a Scout 101 frame) version of his 101 rolling chassis. This is a classic Indian hotrod concept. For example, Max Bubeck's long standing LSR record was on a Chout and, built within certain guidelines, such a bike should be eligible for AMCA judging in the period modified class. Being just a little bit busy with other things - it must be borne in mind that Jurgen's operation, like many in the Indian parts business, is basically a one man band - it is a little uncertain when the prototype will be done, but the target is the 2004 Int'l Indian Rally in England in July. The prototype is a mix of new and old parts (including 741 forks and Triumph 2LS front brake), as the main purpose of the project is to test the chassis. Future Chout kits will be built with new chassis parts. Chouts will only be available as complete bikes due to the modifications that must be performed on the 101 frame and Chief engine to make everything fit, and the price is not known at the moment. Jurgen asked me to mention that he can modify and build in your existing engine and transmission if you wish, or supply a new powerplant. 
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Chout in progress in Jurgen Hecker's workshop. For another version see the Garage Raid story.
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   Chout in the snow.
Rigid Bobber Chief Kit from Kiwi Indian.
Mike Tomas at Kiwi Indian has been building on his rigid bobber Chief for some time and has come up with a way cool bike. Mike has also been developing all welded rigid and spring frames, and plan to market rolling chassis kits based on these frames and a selection of forks from leaf spring forks over Aerodraulic in regular and billet versions to a pretty overwhelming billet version of the 46-48 girder fork. More info about the frame and forks on Kiwi's website (under "new products").

Price for the basic rolling chassis kit, with Kiwi's welded rigid frame and Aerodraulic telescopic forks is US$12,500 and, depending on options, a complete powerplant less carb is available from US$13,999. When ordered as a complete kit, there is a $500 discount. Chassis kits and other parts are available to order in Europe from IPE, and European pricing should be in place in the beginning of 2004.

Mike asked me to mention that they are now doing quite a few custom modifications to stock bikes at Kiwi's, and that "many are fitting our forks and disc brake set up to their stock bikes or just fitting our disc brake set up to their forks". For those wanting to read more about Kiwi and their engine there is an article by Jay Leno in the latest issue of Popular Mechanics Magazine.

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Kiwi's Bobber Prototype.
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Neat rear end on Kiwi Bobber.
"Retro 50" kit bike from Kiwi Indian.
Kiwi's spring frame Chief kit is a very close replica of an original 1950's telescopic- fork Chief. The main difference is the all-welded frame and the improved forks. If you like the classic fat-fendered Indian style this should be a great alternative to a restored original bike where you may not be sure how good the restoration work is or how long it will last. Kiwi's 84" prototype engine has done several thousand trouble free miles (including the Century Ride Home and another 6500 mile trip), and just keeps on going with no mechanical attention needed (ok, Mike has adjusted the valves and the rear chain!).

Pricing for the complete bike is not final yet, but the basic chassis kit starts at US$17,500, and the complete powertrain starts at US$13,999. As with the rigid bobber there is a discount of $500 if you order a complete bike.

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 Kiwi "Retro 50" kit bike.
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The other side.
"99% New Chief" from IPE.
The chassis for this bike is based on a replica rigid frame and leaf spring fork from Jurgen Hecker and an 84" engine where most of the parts come from Kiwi. Rear wheel is 16" with modified replica 1946 hub and brake drum + 1931-up brake plate. Front wheel has 18" rim and  modified replica 1946 hub and brake drum with one-off brake plate. I wasn't comfortable putting the small leaf spring brake on it with the 84" engine, and the larger 1946 brake should give better braking. I was thinking of making up a disc brake for it, but decided to go for a semi-original look on this bike. The next one will probably have a disc, depending on what you order! :-)

12V generator by CE, electronic ignition in new aluminum distributor, carb not finaly decided but probably Keihin CV or Dell'Orto. King clutch, Moto Valve and James gaskets, of course.

I like stainless steel, and there will be a "stainless" page on the IPE website when it is updated in January. Some of the stainless parts on the new Chief are: Exhaust (modified 1946), pushrod guides and valve covers (see VI #11), brake and clutch pedals. I couldn't resist a few other mods; cable operated rear brake for one - so the great big original brake rod doesn't disturb the view of the engine. There is also a stainless jockey shifter, by the way, and the shifter top has been cut, turned around to the left side and rewelded. Apart from the nicer shifting, this is pretty much for the same reasons as the brake, and to move some stuff to the less busy left side of the bike.

As I mentioned about Jurgen Hecker above, my little Indian shop is also pretty much a one-man operation (although I now have a very capable part time helper in the fabrication department, thanks Peter!), so while I would like to build more new Chiefs, I don't have the capacity for more than a few every year. If you are interested in one of these bikes - or a rolling chassis - it is a good idea to contact me some time before you need it.

What does it all cost, then? I'm afraid I don't know. I will get down to pricing everything in the beginning of 2004 (this is almost as big a job as building the bike) and have no real idea at the moment where small-scale production versions may end up, but the prototype, painted and run-in, will be for sale in the spring or summer of 2004 for EUR 25000. At the current exchange rates, that is around US$31000, but who knows which way the rates go before then (a couple of years ago the same price in EUR would have been more like US$21000).

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IPE "99% New Chief" at Int'l Indian Rally 2003 in Denmark.
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84" Kiwi engine and 
Hecker chassis parts.
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Cut & shut stainless exhaust and turned-around shifter top.
Replica Rigid Chief Chassis Parts from Jurgen Hecker.
The major parts used for the "99%" Chief are of course faithful replicas of original parts. The custom touches on this bike are mostly smaller stuff. Frame, forks, sheet metal etc are replicas of 1936-39 Indian parts - as close as we know how to get it. For those wishing to build up an original looking Chief from this period, these parts are a good starting point. Just bear in mind that some parts for these models will probably not be reproduced anytime soon - cylinders and cylinder heads are some of these - so you will have to rely on finding and restoring original parts here. The Chief frames and forks are available from IPE, and we have plans for improved US distribution in 2004. Chassis kits with all original parts may also become available in 2004, depending on when/if we can get the last missing parts for this in production.
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Reproduction forks and frame for late 1930's Chief from Jurgen Hecker.

Note on viewing photos in newer versions of Internet Explorer. If you have the program set to automatically resize very large photos to fit on the screen you can click the lower right hand corner of the photos to see them full-size. I bet everybody knew that, but it took me a while to figure out when I last got a new computer.

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