In the antique motorcycle hobby there comes a dangerous point where the tide changes and machines begin to find you rather than than vice versa. New to this complete turn of events, I'd deliriously kept purchasing pace initially with all offers coming my way but was rapidly coming to the realization that a working bloke's finite funds really had a limit regardless of how conditioned one becomes  to subsisting on bread and water diets to pay for them. Lately, after the usual initial hyperventilation with each "discovery", I was just learning to be more selective.

A crusty old harley shop I’d hung out at for years called right after Thanksgiving in 94 saying someone had strolled in looking to lighten their project bike load and a 48 Chief basket case was one of the machines on offer. Recovering from the financial blow of three recent major purchases I was in no position to even contemplate another but agreed to to go out and inspect it...uh... on the behalf of my local AMCA'rs who might have an interest, of course. Though completely apart and strewn from attic to garage and Morgan building out back, it in fact was a matching number 36th Chief made in the 1948 - first day's production - and an export model at that with the only Stewart Warner speedometer I'd seen in kilometers. It had an interesting history and there was a sizeable amount of spares that came with it including a complete 1953 80 c.i. power plant.

Whew, this was real tempting. But after regaining my composure, relieved not to have succumbed to the temptation to get it myself, I informed the owner that marketing this machine would be simplified immensely if he'd drag all the boxes and pieces into one spot and preferably lean most of the vitals together as a stand-up basket to help fuel the imaginations of potential buyers grasping to visualize a real motorcycle amongst the rubble and then left.

The seller must have been clarvoyant, a couple of weeks later and right about the point I'd concluded none of my friends were going to pull the trigger and maybe I shouldn't let this opportunity slip away he called in a hurry .... a deal was struck on the spot. I'd now own one more than the originally planned two Chiefs - the one crusty/one shiny theme - but we'd worry about that later.


Some Noteworthy Features of the 1948 Indian Chief
Stewart Warner Speedo and stamped steel dash fitted.
Speedo drive fitted to front backing plate.
Alemite fittings added to hubs for lubricating bearings.
Longer more stable side stand fitted to left front motor mount.
Fuel tanks have tighter component fit and back plate overlap.
Return to sealed beam headlight.
Engine case pinion housing modified for straight-thru line boring.
Silent ball lock starter replaces sprag faced gears.
Aluminum geared oil pump (3 pressure/two scavenge).
Later machines changed from a
scraper type sump plate to
      scrapers cast into the cases with a pickup tube.
Bushings replace needle bearings in form pivots.
Welded tube replaces casting for shifter mount on later models.
Rear brake drum strengthened and grease fitting added.
Return to sealed beam headlight.
Starburst horn replaced with more generic looking horn cover
Header and muffler separate units.
Rear muffler clamp changed to simple strap.
Generator light replaces ammeter.
Two-charge regulator replaces cutout.


Pass your mouse over the images for an explanation and good luck with your restoration. Cheers, Peter.




This machine had an interesting history and the objective with this restoration was to preserve the original owner's personalization, primarily excessive chrome plating - what is now referred to in the AMCA as "period modifications" - while building an internally hot rodded reliable Chief with some running improvements yet all correct exterior fasteners and components for year manufactured. This machine was exported new to the Philippines where it was later acquired by a chap in the Navy on shore leave while serving in Vietnam. At the end of the conflict he disassembled it, mailed all the smaller components home with a lot of spares and hand carried the frame home on board the ship. Many pieces where removed from wood crates filled with iridescent ground shells used as moisture absorbent.
Inspiration for the colors selected for this machine. My Grandfather, a very large man who suffered no fools, worked for the railroad for 45 years, the latter half as an engineer and chosen too pull the president's pullman when it came through his territory because of his smoothness at the helm, knowledge of the railroad manual and wilting air of authority. Skills he was justifiably proud of such that driving cars was beneath his dignity, he bought many but never drove one. Railroad engines of that era, though massive and ponderous, moved with a grace imparted by the elegant shape of the engine out front - alot like the skirted front fender of an Indian Chief which also like its namesake has a commanding presence. To the left is a Santa Fe rail road Super Chief pocket watch fob, in black and yellow - perfect.





OK, no dirty laundry left unaired, there'se only been two incidents in 12 years that relegated us to being pedestrians and they've been outlined here. Serving to illustrate that it's a continuing learning experience one has with antique motorcycles as you balance the need for reliability/performance improvement against the preservation of character and the unique riding experience that is an Indian. Unlike Vincents whose performance is so vastly superior - even modern - to their contemporaries leading owners to raise the bar on everything else to match that superb engine with disc brakes, alternators, modern carbs, etc.., the Indian experience doesn't compel one to follow that path. In fact, the weakest link on an Indian is the drivetrain when compared to a comparable OHV Harley. Where it shines beyond the obvious good aesthetics is thoughtful, simple and elegant approach to engineering that chassis, the product of a firm that was founded on racing. Very small discreet improvements here and there can transform one of these machines without need for wholesale changes like fitting aftermarket shocks and telescopic forks. Some of these changes are outlined in the tips below.




Here is a list of product and service providers along with a smattering of the more educational and entertaining reading material available for this storied marque.



The motorized two wheel side of a 40 year 4 wheel - and even one wheel - mechanical journey has distilled itself down to the following machines...at least for the moment. Pass your mouse over the link for a pic and overview and click for the full story. The long road to restoration of the 1941 Indian Four is now complete and it's online. Next up will be a site devoted to the 1940 Indian Four.








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