The Indian Chief is a proven American Classic, a very lasting design which has always epitomized the Indian brand. Each time the Indian brand has been revived, since the demise of the original company in 1953, the styling of the skirted fender Chief has been a strong influence.
Indian released the first Indian Chief in 1922, about twenty years after they began manufacturing. It is probably their most widely known design, famous for the streamlined skirted fenders and fuel and oil tanks it received in 1940.
Chiefs originally displaced 61 cubic inches, were enlarged to 74 cubic inches in 1923, then to 80 cubic inches in 1950 near the end of production. By 1953 several new pieces of sheet metal were added and the tank insignia proclaimed “Eighty”. Only about 600 1953 Chiefs were manufactured and they are most sought after by collectors. Replacing the traditional girder fork, telescopic hydraulic forks were added in 1950, a year after they showed up on Harley-Davidson’s big EL’s. Harley’s rear suspension remained rigid until 1958, while Indians used the plunger rear suspension. Harley-Davidson developed their overhead valve twin for the 1936 model year, but Indian seemed to focus on styling and got a little behind in engine design, sticking with the flathead twin till the end. Famed Indian design engineer Charles Franklin penned the Chief as a larger version of the very successful Scout. It became Indian’s biggest seller.
For about 15 years up until 1940, E. Paul DuPont owned Indian, and as you will see looking at other Indians in the Museum, paint colors offered reflected the DuPont paint company’s wide array of offerings. Dubbed “The Heavy Duty Plugger” in some literature of the time, the Chief was ideal for sidecar use. Indian offered a very stylish sidecar, color matched, and there’s a fine restored Chief with sidecar currently on display at the Museum. This Chief is on loan to the National Motorcycle Museum by Larry Boreman from Illinois.
- Engine: 80 Cubic Inch, 42 Degree V-Twin
- Type: Air-Cooled, Side-valve
- Bore & Stroke: 3 1/4 x 4 13/16
- Transmission: 3-Speed, Tank Shift
- Clutch: Foot Operated, Wet Multi-Disk
- Horsepower: 40
- Primary: Four Row Chain
- Frame: Lugged, Tubular Steel
- Suspension: Hydraulic/Plunger Rear
- Electrics: 6 Volt Battery/Coil
- Wheels/Tires: 4.75 x 16 / 4.75 x 16
- Brakes: Drum, Front and Rear
- Wheelbase: 62 Inches
- Weight: 575 Pounds
- Top Speed: 90 MPH