1933 Indian Four
June 23, 2009 3:06 PM
In 1901, bicycle racer and builder George Hendee teamed up with engineer Carl Oscar Hedstrom to build a 1.75 hp single cylinder motorcycle prototype with a revolutionary chain drive. This motorized bicycle met with immediate success, and the Indian Motocycle Company was soon formed in Springfield, Massachusetts. Hedstrom designed a state-of-the-art production facility, dubbed the "Wigwam," then turned his attention to setting world speed records, and improving his machines. Indian was the first manufacturer to incorporate the V-Twin motor, two-speed transmission, adjustable front suspension, and electric lights and starters. In 1904, Indian used the introduction of its Indian Single to introduce what would become its trademark, the Crimson Steed of Steel paint scheme, in a bid to increase riders' excitement and emotional attachment to their bikes. Before long, the Indian was the world's best-selling motorcycle, despite it's hefty price tag.
By 1911, every American speed and distance record was held by an Indian motorcycle. Production ramped up, as 3,000 employees worked a seven-mile assembly line. Around the time that racing was suspended to support manufacturing for WW I, disagreements with management prompted Hendee and Hedstrom to leave Indian, although its most successful years were yet to come.
After the war, William Henderson started Ace Motor Corporation in Philadelphia to continue building his inline four-cylinder motorcycles with chain drive. Sadly, in 1922, Henderson was killed while road testing his new Ace Sporting Solo, and the company soon went into receivership, changing hands several times. It's wasn't until 1927 that Indian bought what was left of Ace, and began tinkering with Henderson's machine. Initially marketed as the Indian Ace, the bike was renamed the Indian Four after substantial tweaks, including a tuned-up engine, five-bearing crankshaft, a sturdier frame, and advanced suspension. Another milestone in the history of Indian motorcycles, the Four's success allowed the company to stay afloat during the Great Depression, helping Indian to become the first manufacturer to produce 250,000 motorcycles.
With many upgrades, the Indian Four was produced through 1943. Built in 1933, Jay's Four sports a 77 cubic-inch 1300 cc engine, and was the first model to feature battery ignition and 14 mm spark plugs instead of the usual 18. It doesn't leak oil, starts in one kick, and is still freeway-worthy, pulling top speeds of 80 – 90 mph. The best thing about the Four? According to Jay, it's all about the incredibly smooth ride, even at the slow speed of 5 mph.