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Indian Motorcycle History


Indian Motorcycle was founded in 1901 in Springfield, Massachusetts, by George M. Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom (The Hendee Manufacturing Company), and quickly became one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers in the world. In 1903, Indian Motorcycle introduced the first V-twin motorcycle and continued to innovate with new designs and technologies.

hendee hedstrom sign

It was chosen for New York City’s first motorcycle police unit in 1907. In 1919 the Indian Motorcycle Military Powerplus helped the U.S. and their allies win the First World War, devoting virtually its entire production to the war effort from 1917 through 1919. When America entered the Second World War, Indian Motorcycle once again switched to providing for the military instead of the consumer market. During the World War the Army bought nearly 50,000 bikes. It was a lucrative government contract, but when the war was over, Indian Motorcycle had lost a great share of the consumer market and by 1945 found itself struggling. It was sold in 1945 to the Torque Engineering Company, which had to halt production in 1953.

police army mil scout

The history of Indian Motorcycle is packed with numerous remarkable performances and accomplishments. One of their greatest eras is the 1950s, where the Indian factory racing team, known as the Wrecking Crew, achieved an incredible winning streak that lasted for years. Another is in 1967, Burt Munro, an Indian Motorcycle enthusiast, accomplished a tremendous feat by setting the land speed record with his modified 1920 Indian Scout Streamliner, which still stands today. These moments further cemented the brand's legacy in the motorcycle world and highlighted the incredible speed and power of Indian motorcycles, making them an essential part of motorcycle history.

wrecking burt

In 1999 Indian Motorcycle was revived, into what is now referred to as the Gilroy Indians, by group of investors led by Stephen Julius that saw an opportunity to revive the iconic American brand. The new models were based on the original Indian designs of the 1940s and 1950s, but with modern features and technologies. The bikes were an instant success and were praised for their classic styling, reliability, and performance. The Gilroy Indians represented a new era of Indian Motorcycle, with production based in Gilroy, California. The company had a strong focus on quality, with many parts made in-house and the bikes being hand-assembled. The Gilroy Indians were produced from 1999 to 2003, with several models introduced during this time, including the Indian Scout, Indian Chief, and Indian Spirit. However, financial difficulties and quality control issues eventually led to the closure of the Gilroy factory in 2003.

Kings Mountain Indian Motorcycle marked the next chapter in the history of Indian Motorcycles, following the closure of the Gilroy factory. Production resumed in 2006 under new ownership and with a new factory located in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. The new Indian motorcycles featured modern technology, while still paying homage to the classic Indian designs of the past. This included the reintroduction of the Indian Chief, which quickly became one of the most popular models. Kings Mountain Indian Motorcycle also had a renewed focus on quality, with a strong emphasis on craftsmanship and attention to detail. Although production was limited during this time, the bikes were highly regarded by enthusiasts and helped keep the Indian brand alive.

Since its acquisition by Polaris Industries in 2011, Indian Motorcycle has seen significant growth and has continued to introduce new models and technological advancements. Under Polaris, Indian Motorcycle has expanded its lineup and has seen an impressive increase in market share. In fact, Indian Motorcycle has been one of the fastest-growing motorcycle brands in recent years, thanks in part to its innovative designs, superior performance, and strong brand recognition. In addition to expanding the number of models in its lineup, Indian Motorcycle has also revamped some of its classic models, such as the Scout and Chieftain, with modern updates and features. The company has also introduced new models like the FTR 1200, a high-performance street bike that has gathered critical acclaim and has helped attract a new generation of riders to the Indian Motorcycle brand.

The Thunderstroke motor was a significant development for Indian Motorcycle, representing a major milestone in the brand's history. The Thunderstroke is a V-twin engine that was designed specifically for Indian Motorcycle and was introduced in 2013 as part of the company's revamp under Polaris ownership. The engine was named after the thundering sound it produces, which is a nod to the classic Indian Motorcycle models of the past that were known for their distinctive rumble. The Thunderstroke motor is a powerful engine, producing up to 126 ft-lbs of torque. It is also designed to provide a smooth and comfortable ride, with minimal vibration and excellent handling. The engine has since become a hallmark of Indian Motorcycle and can be found in many of the company's most popular models, including the Indian Chief, Springfield, Chieftain, and Roadmaster.


The Powerplus motor is a recently unveiled engine from Indian Motorcycle, representing the latest innovation in the brand's proud history. The Powerplus engine was designed as a successor to the Thunderstroke motor and has been engineered to be even more powerful and efficient. The design includes liquid cooling, four valves per cylinder, and hydraulic valve lash adjusters, which all work together to provide unparalleled power and smooth operation. The Powerplus engine is a cutting-edge addition to the Indian Motorcycle lineup and has been designed to meet the demanding needs of riders who demand the very best performance from their bikes. The engine's high-level engineering allows it to produce up to 122 horsepower and 128 ft-lb of torque, making it one of the most powerful engines in the industry. Additionally, the liquid-cooled design ensures optimal performance in all conditions, minimizing wear and tear on the engine and maximizing lifespan.

power plus

Indian Motorcycle has enjoyed significant success in recent years, not only in terms of its motorcycle lineup but also through partnerships with world-renowned artists, companies, and events. One area where Indian Motorcycle has particularly excelled is in flat track racing. In 2017, Indian entered the American Flat Track (AFT) series with a newly designed FTR750 flat tracker. The bike was an instant success, winning every race it entered during its debut season and leading American Flat Track to introduce new regulations to level the playing field for other manufacturers. Indian continued to dominate the series in the following years, winning numerous championships. Its success in flat track racing has helped cement its position as one of the top motorcycle brands in the market. Indian Motorcycle has also made a name for itself in other events, such as the inaugural King of the Baggers race in 2020. The brand entered a heavily modified Indian Challenger, which was piloted by Tyler O'Hara to the race win. The win demonstrated the versatility of Indian motorcycle, showcasing its ability to perform in different types of racing and events.

In addition to racing, Indian Motorcycle has also established successful partnerships with well-known brands, such as Fox Industries, Roland Sands Designs, and Jack Daniel's, and helped create others such as Lloyd'z Motor Works. These partnerships have helped Indian motorcycle create unique and eye-catching designs, from customized motorcycles to limited-edition merchandise. Notably, Indian has also worked with world-renowned artists, such as Steve Caballero, Carey Hart, Go Takamine, and others to create one-of-a-kind pieces that pay tribute to the brand's iconic history. These partnerships and collaborations have brought new attention to the Indian Motorcycle brand, creating new opportunities for growth and expansion.