Indian's 2009 Lineup - Hail To The Chief

When we ran our 2009 New Model Buyer's Guide, some folks "noticed" we omitted the new Indians from the mix. We decided to remedy that, lest some of our more enthusiastic readers show up with scalping on their minds.

Your love for this wayward son is understandable and shared by us as well. Indian played a huge part in early motorcycling here in the United States, often times leading the way with technical innovations that made their mark both on the street and at the race track. Between 1901 and 1953, Indian made a name for itself as one of America's preeminent motorcycle manufacturers. New York's first motorcycle police department rode Indians back in 1907 and four years later the company swept the top three places at the first Isle of Man mountain course race.

There were other firsts too. In 1913, Indian introduced America to swingarm suspension and the leafspring fork. A year later, they debuted the world's first motorcycle featuring electric lights and electric starter. It was that innovative mentality that saw Indian through the Great Depression, and helped them land an Army-Navy contract in 1941, just as America entered the Second World War.

They were still winning big races in 1948 when Floyd Emde took top honors at the first Daytona 200. Following World War II, though, the company struggled to re-enter the consumer market. By 1953, the manufacturer closed its doors. But not forever.

A lot of enterprising folks tried to bring the company back from the dead but a complex web of trademark rights hobbled their attempts until 1998. At this time, there were multiple camps all producing their own t-shirts, and theoretically working on a new engine. In the end a judge decided in favor of the California Motorcycle Company (based on their proven track record of actually building motorcycles)...and they reorganized as the Indian Motorcycle Company. They wasted no time getting started; the first new Indian rolled off the line in 1999 forty-six years after the last one. Sadly, the second coming didn't live up to the dream. Four years later the Indian Motorcycle Company closed its doors again.

Hopefully things go better this time. In 2004, Stephen Julius and Steve Heese turned their attention to Indian, following their success resuscitating the Chris-Craft Boat Company. They acquired all the trademark rights and intellectual property associated with Indian, rolled up their sleeves, and got down to business relaunching the motorcycle maker. By 2008, Indian was ready to go and now the 2009 Chief Standard and its three variants are on the road.

While we love the idea of bringing Indian back from the dead, the new owners need to move forward with better ideas to bring the brand up to snuff with the rest of the industry. Indian's key to survival is its past. Not just adopting the style of old, but wiping out the stigma created during its second coming. The


03 "Indians" were Harley knockoffs in feathers and moccasins; slapping swoopy fenders and a dressed up S&S; motor together and calling it an Indian Chief doesn't make the brand stand out. If anything, it shoves the bike back into the sea of production customs that sprang up in the early 2000s.

If you're going to play the nostalgia card, why not sell it out completely? Don't go half-ass with some fancy fender window dressing, put a big price tag on it, and call it a day. That's what happened with Indian the last time and it worked out about as well as Custer's fated decision at the Little Bighorn. Indian made the first leaf-blade fork. Why not bring it back as either an option or standard? A dedicated motor designed and built in-house wouldn't hurt too much either; something that looks more like the old Chief motor and less like an H-D Evolution mill with cooler rocker covers could only help them. Drawing on its racing roots with a Floyd Emde limited edition bike might not be a bad idea either.

Speaking of historic bikes, where's the Scout? Although oil prices have dropped in the face of this wonderful recession we're experiencing, there's no reason to believe they'll stay in the bargain basement forever. A Scout econo-cruiser in the 750-1000 cc would be a great way to draw in new riders, especially if it were properly marketed. Harley hasn't exactly kicked out all the stops when it comes to selling the Sporty in this category, preferring to ride the Baby Boom nostalgia wave on a Twin Cam, so this is relatively unexplored territory as far as domestic manufacturers go.

Which brings us to Indian Part Two's next big blunder-failure to properly target the competition. This is Sun Tzu 101; attack your rival where they are weakest, not strongest. By aiming at Harley in the high priced cruiser bracket, Indian ran straight into the dragon's mouth, covered in barbecue sauce. Thus far it looks like the new company is repeating that mistake. With the no-frills Chief Standard tipping the financial scales at $30,999, Indian locks horns with Harley's Ultra series and CVO models in the same price bracket. Why would you pay that much money for leather bags, fringe, and a light up fender ornament when you can get custom paint, a bigger motor, and a stereo with MP3 hookup for the same price? Don't want all the extra bells and whistles? Then why not get a Road King, Kingpin, Stratoliner, VTX, or other big cruiser for a third or half the price, with the added bonus of a warranty from an established manufacturer? Psst, just to let you in on a little secret, none of those bikes are selling like they used to either.

Anyone who's into motorcycles enough to know a little about Indian's past has probably shopped around enough to know all of this and buy accordingly. Those who don't know are most likely new to the sport and aren't going to care too much about the brand name when they go to buy a bike.

Judging by the flotilla of mail we got over Indian's exclusion in the buyer's guide, there are a lot of us who want to see the company succeed. It's a great chance for an historic brand to write new chapters in the current millennium. We just hope the new bosses don't drop the ball like the last ones did.

2009 Indians
Type: air-cooled, fuel injected, 45-deg., Pushrod V-twinDisplacement, Bore x Stroke: 105 ci, 3.966 x 4.25 inches
Transmission: 6-speed

Rear Suspension: High tensile steel monoshock, 41mm travel
Front Suspension: 73mm travel
Brakes: Brembo (dual brakes up front, single rear)

Seat Height: 27.89 inches
Wheelbase: 68.4 inches
Rake: 34.0
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gal

Indian's Factory Delivery Program
If you don't want to wait for your bike to hit the showroom before you buy it, consider Indian's Factory Delivery Program. It's a 4-step program designed to help riders out in that regard. You start by ordering your bike at a dealership, then make your way to the Indian factory 37 miles west of Charlotte, NC. Once you get there they give you a tour of the place, after which they hand you the key. Getting it home is up to you.

Indian Motorcycle
(877) 380-8686

Indian Chief Deluxe

Available Colors: Thunder Black with Silver Script, Thunder Black with Silver Headdress, Indian Red with Gold Script, Indian Red with Gold Headdress, Thunder Black/Winter White with Silver Headdress, Midnight Metallic Blue/Winter White with Silver Headdress, Thunder Black/Indian Red with Gold Headdress
When outfitted with the optional long fenders, the Deluxe is a nostalgic step into Indian's past, as are its whitewall tires. It's the Chief Standard, only with more aesthetic options and a 2-up seat instead of a solo.
Chief Roadmaster

Available Colors: Thunder Black with Silver Script, Thunder Black with Silver Headdress, Indian Red with Gold Script, Indian Red with Gold Headdress, Thunder Black/Winter White with Silver Headdress, Midnight Metallic Blue/Winter White with Silver Headdress, Thunder Black/Indian Red with Gold Headdress, Smoke Silver Metallic/Winter White with Silver Headdress
The Roadmaster is Indian's touring rig, sporting a windshield and black leather bags as standard operating equipment. Those riding on the back will appreciate the passenger back rest during a long ride; the thick touring seat doesn't hurt either.
**Chief Standard
**Available Colors: Thunder Black with Silver Script, Thunder Black with Silver Headdress, Indian Red with Gold Script, Indian Red with Gold Headdress
The Standard, is just that: the bare bones workhorse of the Indian line. It comes with a solo saddle and you won't find as many color options as with its more elaborate brethren, but it does have a smaller price tag.
Chief Vintage

Available Colors: Thunder Black, Indian Red, Thunder Black/Winter White, Midnight Metallic Blue/Winter White, Thunder Black/Indian Red, Willow Green/Ivory Cream, Indian Red/Ivory Cream, Navajo Turquoise/Winter White
Indian's Vintage is their pimped-out classic ride, combining a full windshield and old style leather saddlebags with other vintage cues, like whitewalls. The solo seat has a chrome grab bar like the bikes of old, and unlike the models, its long swoopy fenders come standard, not as an option. So do the engine guards.