Indian Motorcycles Re-Redux

The newest native comes from across the pond

Some might say the auctioning of Indian's hard assets in Gilroy, California, a few months ago spelled the death knell for America's "oldest motorcycle manufacturer"-yet again. Those of a more philosophical bent might say it all depends upon whether "death" is really ever final.

That's because the ownership of Indian's intellectual property rights hasn't yet been awarded (though in light of the muddy aftermath, it's not apparent anyone really wants them), and Indian isn't the sole province of Americans-Indian Motorcycles Ltd. of the United Kingdom is owned by Scotsman Alan Forbes, who's been cranking out his own proprietary designs since 1998.

Now that the American Indian has bitten the dust (again), interest in Forbes's company has gone up a few ticks, and the Edinburgh resident is on the prowl for interested dealers. If he's positive about the recent turn of events, it's because this longtime motorcycle restorer no longer has to toil in the shadow of the American operation.

Not that Forbes ever subscribed to the all-V-twin, all-the-time U.S. model in the first place-his 770-pound Dakota Four motorcycle claims a 112-cubic-inch (1845cc), longitudinally mounted four-cylinder engine that breaks the mold, to say the least. The fuel-injected, air-cooled bike is the only production motorcycle in existence with this engine arrangement, which harks back to the original Henderson and Indian motorcycle models of the '30s and '40s.

The hulking, shaft-driven powerplant churns out a claimed 95 hp at 3900 rpm and clocks 150 foot-pounds of torque, so there are some cojones to back up that unusual design. When asked about selecting an inline-four configuration over a V-twin, Forbes remarked that "the V-twin thing has become oversubscribed. It's like if you have a thousand bands onstage all singing the same song."

The first U.S.-made Dakota Four made its debut this past February at the Indianapolis Dealer Expo, and the second-generation model sports a purpose-built fuel injection, a new transmission, a hydraulic clutch and dual disc front brakes.

Each hand-built Dakota will be made only as it is ordered, with no immediate plans to mass-produce complete units. Forbes says, "It's a grow slow, grow sure policy"-a definite contrast to the previous multimillion-dollar efforts of the now-defunct Gilroy Indian company. Growing slow might be the right business model for a start-up that's based on tradition, yet manages to be unorthodox at the same time. It sure didn't work the other way. For more information on Dakota Motorcycles USA, go to www.dakotamotorcycles.com or www.indian-uk.com.-Andy Cherney

Dragbike Figures:
Frame: 2 x 4 Pine timber
Weight: 320 lb. wet, 250 lb. fuel tank empty
Fuel capacity: 5.5 gal.
Wheelbase: 60.8 in.
Rake: 34.5 deg.
Trail: 4.2 in.
Seat height: 30.2 in.
Suspension, front: Split rail 2 x 2
Suspension, rear: Rigid
Front brake: Dragging your feet
Rear brake: Same
Front tire: 1/80 22 plywood
Rear tire: 280/60-16 plywood

Chopper Figures:
Frame: 4 x 8 Pine timber
Weight: 420 lb. wet, 340 lb. fuel tank empty
Fuel capacity: 15.5 gal.
Wheelbase: 66.8 in.
Rake: 38.5 deg.
Trail: 6.2 in.
Seat height: 30.2 in.
Suspension, front: Split rail 2 x 2
Suspension, rear: Rigid
Front brake: Dragging your feet
Rear brake: Same
Front tire: 1/80 22 plywood
Rear tire: 1/60-16 plywood