Yesterday I went to the 2014 Spring Bike Show at the Singletary Rod & Gun Club in Oxford, Massachusetts. This show is held by the British Iron Association of Massachusetts, which is a club of British motorcycle enthusiasts to which I belong. It was a good show and the weather certainly cooperated. It had rained overnight and was quite dull at my house and the Weather Channel forecast said that there was a 30% chance of rain. Looking out the window, I thought that I would be in the 30%, so I left my motorcycle at home and took a car. About halfway to the show, which was 30 road miles from my house, the sun came out and it turned into a glorious day. I felt that I had deprived myself out of a motorcycle ride, so when I returned home from the show, I jumped on my motorcycle and went for a nice ride on some roads near my house. I felt better.
1957 Indian Westener
While at the show one of the motorcycles that caught my eye was a blue Indian motorcycle that was entered in the Competition Class. Upon closer inspection, I learned that it was a 1957 Indian Westener.
The Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company (note that this is correct spelling – it is “motocycle” not “motorcycle”) has a very checkered past and I am not just referring to its competition success. At one time, and for many years, Indian was the main American motorcycle rival to Harley Davidson. There was quite a rivalry between the two manufacturers – both in the marketplace and on the race track. But ultimately Harley Davidson won, and the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company, which was based in Springfield, Massachusetts, just a few miles from my house, went out of business.
I believe that the original Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company went out of business in 1985, but many will say that the Indian motorcycle really ended in 1953. After 1953, Indian quit making all of their own motorcycles and entered into various partnerships with other companies as they searched for ways to keep in the motorcycle business. As a result, Indian motorcycles newer than 1953, are held in less esteem by Indian enthusiasts than the earlier motorcycles.
The Original 500cc Indian Westener
In the mid-1950s, Indian entered into an agreement with the Enfield company in England to buy engines from Enfield and use them in Indian motorcycles. This is the genesis of the 1957 Indian Westener shown in this post. The Indian Westener uses a 500cc single cylinder engine that was essentially an Enfield. The base engine was the same 500cc engine used in the Enfield Bullet.
The Indian Westener Used a 500cc Enfield Engine
The Indian Westener was a competition version of the Indian Woodsman. The Westener had low open pipes, an Amal TT carburetor and racing magneto. As it was a competition motorcycle, it had no lights or speedometer.
The Indian Logo On The Tank Is As Used On Older Indian Motorcycles
As these were competition motorcycles few Indian Westener motorcycles were built in 1957 and 1958, so it is was a treat to see one at the British Iron Association of Massachusetts Spring show. While the Indian Westener is not a true British motorcycle, it certainly has a strong British connection via Enfield. Later the Enfield connection with Indian ended and Indian entered into other agreements with companies like Matchless. Enfield marketed their own motorcycles in the USA under the Royal Enfield brand.
I Like The “All Business” Layout Of This Motorcycle
Over the years, a number of businessmen and scam artists have tried to revive the Indian motorcycle brand – all unsuccessfully. However, at this time there appears to be a real chance that Indians will once again be a common motorcycle in the USA. Polaris, the company behind the Victory motorcycles has started to build Indian motorcycles as a separate model. This support by a major manufacturing company might be the key to a true revival of this once grand brand of motorcycle. I have seen the new Indian Chief Vintage and it is a very impressive motorcycle.
The 2014 Indian Chief Vintage
So while I enjoyed seeing the Indian Westener at the 2014 British Iron Association of Massachusetts, it would even be better to see Indian motorcycles back on the road again.