For the first half of the 20th century, there were two names in American motorcycles that mattered: Harley, and Indian.
At one time, Indian—established in 1901—was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, and the only entirely American-made alternative to Harley Davidson. Best known for its Chief and Scout models, the brand’s reputation was built on timeless cool and tough, durable design—a reputation that outlasted the brand itself, which declared bankruptcy in 1953. No wonder, then, that collectors are willing to fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars to scoop up rare models.
The company went through fits and starts for the next fifty years, most recently as a made-to-order “luxury” business owned by London parent, Stellican Limited. But last weekend, Indian came roaring back to life in Sturgis, South Dakota, where Polaris Industries—which acquired the rights to the company name back in 2011 and also operates Victory motorcycles—unveiled its a revamped 2014 line-up at the city’s annual motorcycle rally. Polaris reportedly spend $100 million developing the bikes.
And we have to admit, 2014 looks pretty good on the classically inspired company. The three new models—Chief Classic ($18,999), Chief Vintage ($20,999) and Chieftain ($22,999)—boast vintage styling with modern engineering muscle. Fans of the classic bikes will appreciate the thick, exaggerated fenders that have long been an Indian hallmark along with glinting chrome accents and war bonnet chief logo (lit with LEDs for a more modern effect).
But the real thrill, of course, is the new Indian engine—the Thunder Stroke 111, a 49-degree V-twin that produces 119 foot pounds of torque. Horsepower remains undisclosed, but expect plenty of “oompf” in this latest tribe, along with nimble handling on wet roads.
To launch the bikes Polaris has unveiled a television spot showing a Harley owner shining his bike. In the ad’s punchline, he slaps a For Sale sign on it and walks away.
All hail to the chief.
For more information visit indianmotorcycle.com.