Indian Motorbikes Classic Motorcycle Mecca Invercargill The Ignition 2

The Indian Motorcycle Model That Helped The World

  • 27 June 2017

A Southland classic motorcycle blog is just not complete without a post on the iconic Indian Scout. The Scout helped Indian motorcycles through a pretty tough time and, it can be said, they helped the world through an even tougher time. Indian supplied a reliable, cheap and most importantly, cool motorcycle for people to use throughout the Depression and World War II.

Indian Scouts hold so much history and Classic Motorcycle Mecca is lucky to house six of them. At Classic Motorcycle Mecca guests will find nearly 20 years of Indian Scouts on display, from an original 1923 Indian Scout to a late model 1942 Indian Scout. Let’s begin…

Indian Motorbikes Classic Motorcycle Mecca Invercargill The Ignition

Indian motorcycle

A little background

Indian was a pioneering American motorcycle brand. Founded in 1901 by true enthusiasts Oscar Hedstrom and George Hendee, Indian had come to rival Harley Davidson for the title of top American motorcycle manufacturer. By 1913 it was winning! However, by the end of 1913 Indian had lost its motorcycle-passionate leaders and gained profit-focused shareholders. By 1920, Indian sales were plummeting. Luckily things were about to take a positive turn. Long term employee Frank Weschler became General Manager and motorcycle racer Charlie Franklin joined the design team. Together they began to carry Indian motorcycles into a new era. This innovative pair were behind the design of the Indian Scout.  

Oscar Hedstrom Indian Motorbikes Classic Motorcycle Mecca Invercargill The IgnitOscar Hedstrom
George Hendee Indian Motorbikes Classic Motorcycle Mecca Invercargill The Igniti

George HendeeFrank Weschler Indian Motorbikes Classic Motorcycle Mecca Invercargill The Ignit

Frank Weschler


Charles Franklin Indian Motorbikes Classic Motorcycle Mecca Invercargill The Ign

Charles Franklin

1923 Indian Scout

The Indian Scout model was first introduced in 1920. Charlie Franklin designed a new 600cc V-twin motor that finally improved Indian’s sales. This model was such a success that Indian could not produce enough of them to keep up with demand. This model was sold until 1928 and eventually it became the second-best Indian ever sold! The Indian Scout is considered by many to be Indian’s most influential model. It is considered one of the most successful and popular Indian models of all time because of its lightweight, easy handling and reliability. Anybody could ride it!

The Scout featured Indian’s popular and proven 42-degree, V-twin side-valve engine with two camshafts and larger valves. Larger valves ensured good breathing, which was needed given the poor quality fuel of the period – there was no 91 in the 1920s! The bike's frame was the new innovation and it proved popular. The frame was a double cradle configuration, meaning the three-speed gearbox could be joined to the engine in a ‘semi-unit’ construction. Also, the helical gear primary drive eliminated the need for the primary chain.

Classic Motorcycle Mecca’s 1923 Indian Scout is an upgraded version of Burt Munro’s 1920 model. Burt Munro’s was the original, first year version. Of course he made a few adjustments!

Our 1923 Indian Scout has these specifications.

Engine: 36.4ci (596cc) side-valve, 42-degree, V-twin

Top spee: 55mph (88kph)

Transmission: Three-speed gearbox in a semi-unit construction configuration.

Drive: Primary drive is by a set of helical gears enclosed by a cast aluminium cover and running in an oil bath.

Clutch: Foot controlled.

Frame: Leaf-sprung, trailing-link front suspension, a rigid rear and a sprung seat post.

Extras: Headlamp with a built-in switch.  

1923 Indian Scout Classic Motorcycle Mecca Invercargill The Ignition

 1923 Indian Scout 

1928 Indian Scout 101

The 1928 Indian Scout 101 is the next bike in the evolutionary progression of Indian Scouts. The model started life as a Police Special but by 1928 it was available to the public.

The new model was a more powerful, sexier version of the original. It had an enlarged engine, longer wheelbase, lowered seat and the front brake and leading-link front suspension provided more fork rake. It looked good and handled even better.

Engine: 745cc, 42-degree, side-valve, V-twin.

Transmission: Three-speed, hand-change gearbox were of a semi unit-construction configuration.

Drive: Helical-gear primary drive enclosed and running in an oil bath within an aluminium case. 

1928 Indian 101 Scout Classic Motorcycle Mecca Invercargill The Ignition

1928 Indian Scout 101

1936 Indian Standard Scout & Sidecar

The 1930s were a difficult time. The Great Depression was putting pressure on families, which put pressure on companies to produce cheaper forms of transport. Indian’s answer was to use a larger model’s frame and call it the Standard Scout. It wasn’t exactly a popular model. People loved the 101 Indian Scout so much they did not embrace the change.

Engine: 745cc, 42-degree, side-valve, V-twin.

Drive: Primary drive chain instead of helical gears used in previous models.

Ignition: Coil. The electrical system is recharged by a belt-driven Autolite dynamo.

Lubrication: Dry-sump.

Classic Motorcycle Mecca’s 1936 Indian Scout comes with a sidecar, indicating it was probably used by a family or small business. It was restored some years ago and has seen regular use in Vintage Club rallies in The Netherlands.  

1936 Indian Standard Scout Sidecar Classic Motorcycle Mecca Invercargill The Ign

1936 Indian Standard Scout & Sidecar

1937 & 1938 Indian Sports Scout

Because the 1936 Indian Standard Scout wasn’t a sell-out, something had to be done when the Depression eased off. A new Indian Scout design was commissioned and introduced to the market as the Scout Sport. It was newer, faster and better than the 1936 Indian Standard (even though it used the same 42 degree V-Twin engine). However, the 1937 and 1938 Indian Sports Scouts had new alloy barrels and heads, a Schebler carburettor and an automotive-type ignition distributor. A three-speed, hand-shift gearbox was connected via a double-row primary chain and a multi-plate, wet clutch. The frame was of the two-piece ‘keystone’ type in which the engine provides part of the lower loop, with a rigid rear and girder front forks derived from the Motoplane model.  

1937 Indian Sport Scout Classic Motorcycle Mecca Invercargill The Ignition

1937 Indian Sports Scout

1938 Indian Sport Scout Classic Motorcycle Mecca Invercargill The Ignition

1938 Indian Sports Scout

1942 Indian Scout 741-B 

In 1939, even though the Depression was lifting, World War II was looming. Indian began developing a new bike for the military. However, the US military weren’t interested. They preferred the 45cu Harley Davidson Model WLA. Indian motorcycles did not give up. They supplied substantial numbers of the 30.5ci (500cc) 640, which was designated the 741-B Scout, to allied forces in Britain, Poland, Russia, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.           

Indian used their 640 model as a base because it was reliable and practical. For reliability it featured a T-shaped inlet manifold instead of the Sport Scout’s Y-shape and an oil bath air cleaner was added. For practicality it was higher off the ground. They fitted longer front forks and modified the rear frame and the mudguards were mounted well clear of the wheels.  

Classic Motorcycle Mecca’s 1942 Indian 741-B Scout was in the war somewhere in Europe. It was restored more in the style of an earlier Sport Scout by its previous owner in 1995 in Rotterdam. However, it still holds its war-era heritage.

1942 Indian 741 B Scout Classic Motorcycle Mecca Invercargill The Ignition

1942 Indian Scout 741-B 

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