Archive for the ‘111 thunder stroke engine’ Tag

Hail to the Indian Chief Motorcycle

There’s a good chance, many years from now, that history will judge this particular red-and-white 1948 Indian Chief as one of the most important Indian motorcycles on the planet. No, it wasn’t owned by Steve McQueen or any other celebrity; it’s not a special VIN, not the only or the first or the last of anything; it certainly didn’t win any races or set any speed records either. It’s unremarkable except for one fact: This is the motorcycle that spent two years parked in the Polaris design studio, where it served as the visual inspiration and literal touchstone for the design team that reinterpreted the vintage Indian style for the modern era.

This bike isn’t a static showpiece. It’s fully operational, and Indian Product Director Gary Gray offered us the unique opportunity to ride this vintage classic side by side with the modern Chief that carries so much of its DNA in its lines and design. Gray is the person who actually located this bike for Polaris, negotiating the purchase from a Minnesota collector shortly after Polaris acquired the Indian brand in 2011. It’s a 1948 Chief with the mid-level Sportsman trim package, distinguished by the chromed crashbars, handlebar, headlight and spotlights, and “De Luxe” solo saddle. Riding this bike alongside the 2014 Chief Vintage reveals how far bikes have come in 66 years—it feels like light-years—but it’s surprising how similar the two bikes feel in certain ways. That’s a testament to the fine job Gray and company did translating the old glory to a new generation.

The first difference you notice is scale. Wheelbase and seat height are roughly similar, but the vintage bike, weighing just 550 pounds, is almost 250 pounds lighter than the modern machine. This makes the older bike easier to maneuver, especially pushing it around a parking lot, and it handles well at speed too. Sixteen-inch wheels are concealed under those deep fender skirts, and the ride is surprisingly smooth thanks to the coil-sprung, hydraulically damped girder fork and “Double Action” plunger-sprung rear frame (each shock carries two springs: a top spring for cushioning and a bottom spring for damping) that was a cut above Harley’s then-current rigid frame/sprung saddle combination.

The 74ci (1,200cc), 42-degree flathead V-twin, with roots reaching back to 1920, was already obsolete in 1948 ( Harley-Davidson released its overhead-valve Panhead that same year), but with roughly 50 hp and a broad spread of torque it’s adequate for back-road cruising. Top speed is said to be near 100 mph, but it’s happier nearer the double nickel where it doesn’t feel (and sound) like it’s going to shake itself apart. Besides, the drum brakes—the front all but useless and the back not much better—can’t compete with more velocity than that.

The control layout is utterly unlike the modern bike. Both grips rotate. The right grip “controls” the Linkert carburetor; the left rotates the automotive-type distributor to manually retard or advance the spark for easier starting. “Controls” is in quotes because any grip input to the crude, poorly atomizing Linkert is a mere suggestion. Engine response lags behind grip input by a few seconds, and the lack of a throttle return spring and a solid throttle wire—not a cable—makes rev-matching during shifting all but impossible. Speaking of shifting, there’s no clutch lever. Instead there’s a foot clutch on the left floorboard (a rocker clutch you have to manually engage and disengage, not a spring-loaded “suicide” clutch) and a hand-shifter on the left side of the fuel tank.

Temporarily rewiring your brain to smoothly manipulate that rocker clutch with your foot and fluidly change the cantankerous, non-synchronized, three-speed gearbox with your left hand is the biggest challenge, but once you get the vintage Chief up to speed it’s a delightful back-road ride, with a perfectly upright riding position that’s more natural and less slouchy than the clamshelled hunch the newer bike demands. It’s a classic American motorcycle experience, and Gray and his team have done an excellent job of transposing this vintage vibe onto the new machine. Starting with such sound genetic material as this, though, how could they go wrong?

As read on: http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/hail-to-indian-chief-motorcycle

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RoadRUNNER’s Motorcycle of the Year: The Indian Chieftain

During this past year, we tested a wide range of motorcycles. Our editors have run around on a 700cc scooter, cruised on an Italian V-twin, traversed states on a liquid-cooled adventure bike, and crossed the country on a three-wheeled machine. All of the motorcycles seem to be leaders in their category, and some even excel far beyond what we call fun and adventure. But to win our MOTY award, we look for a game changer—this year it was a clear choice.

We’re pleased to announce that the Indian Chieftain has been voted Motorcycle of the Year by the RoadRUNNER team.

The entire industry has been waiting since April 2011 (when Polaris bought Indian Motorcycles) for the reincarnation of America’s first major motorcycle brand. Arguably the most fabled brand on our continent, it has seen its share of mismanagement and bad luck since its inception in 1901. With the backing of a $3.5 billion company, consumers can, and should, be excited about what’s to come. Three models were introduced during the Sturgis Rally: the Chief Classic, the Chief Vintage, and the Chieftain. We chose the latter for its retro-modern styling that resembles a streamliner train from the 1950s, the Thunder Stroke 111 engine, the incorporation of current technologies, and its outstanding ride quality. Indian’s ad slogan is “Choice is here in American Motorcycles,” and the domestic motorcycle industry is about to undergo a transformation. These machines are designed and built in the USA and assembled in Spirit Lake, IA. Although it’s the same facility that Victory Motorcycles uses, they do not share any components.

The 111-cubic-inch Thunder Stroke engine was designed to resemble the look of mid-century Indians with a flat head, multi-directional finned valve covers, downward firing exhausts, and parallel push-rod tubes. Whereas a typical new product launch takes 40 months, Indian’s engineers made it happen in just 27 months. It’s incredible to imagine that they started from scratch and tried to pack a modern engine into the look of an old one. The result is 119.2 lb-ft of torque. The powerful, yet smooth, engine is a joy to ride and produces just the right amount of rumble when rolling on the throttle.

Instead of a traditional key, the Chieftain (along with the other two) has an electronic key fob. In case it’s lost, the owner can press a combination of pre-programmed control buttons to start the motorcycle. The Chieftain also features a power-retractable windshield that lowers into the fairing. A seat made of premium leather and lockable hard saddlebags make it tour-worthy. Features such as full Bluetooth connectivity, a 100-watt audio system, and an onboard computer that gives more than the basic information bring this brand into the digital age.

Trying to take a chunk out of Harley-Davidson’s market share isn’t easy, but the Indian motorcycles have the best chance. Well played, Polaris.

See more at: http://www.roadrunner.travel/2013/10/30/roadrunners-motorcycle-of-the-year-the-indian-chieftain/#sthash.X6saxEBg.dpuf

The Redesigned 2014 Indian Motorcycle

In the decades following its bankruptcy in 1953, Indian Motorcycle was the target of several companies that tried unsuccessfully to revive the storied brand, the leading motorcycle manufacturer of its time.

But now Indian has the financial muscle to make it happen. Polaris (PII), the maker of snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and Victory motorcycles, bought Indian in 2011 and is moving at full throttle to bring it back to prominence.

Standing in the way is industry giant Harley-Davidson (HOG), a longtime Indian rival back in the day that has amassed a 57% share of the heavyweight cruiser market.
Victory was built 15 years ago as a potential alternative to Harley-Davidson but has amassed only a 5% market share, largely taking a piece out of Japanese competitors Honda (HMC), Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki. Now Indian is taking aim at the market leader, even running a television ad featuring a Harley-Davidson bike sporting a for-sale sign outside the owner’s garage.

Perhaps Indian can pick up where Victory fell short, boasting a brand new motorcycle set to debut early next month and a rich heritage that rivals the lore of Harley-Davidson.
Mike Wolfe, who co-stars alongside Frank Fritz on History Channel’s “American Pickers,” likes Indian’s chances for success in the renewed rivalry.
“Will Indian take Harley-Davidson down to its knees? No, at least not right away,” said Wolfe, a pitchman for Indian who often comes across vintage bikes on his travels across the country. “But now there’s a choice.”

Blending Heritage With Modern Engineering

Founded in 1901, Indian traces its roots to the first American motorcycle. It quickly became the top motorcycle brand, having developed the first-ever V-twin motorcycle and first electric starter. The company built a reputation among everyday bikers, racers and with the military, supplying the U.S. Army with bikes such as the Chief.
When I get one of these, I’m going to be as proud as the guy who bought one in 1948.
– Mike Wolfe, “American Pickers”

The resurrected Indian seeks to combine the styling of yesteryear with modern engineering, exemplified by the 111 cubic-inch Thunder Stroke engine that will power the all-new Chief.

“It’s a phenomenal American story with an entrepreneurial spirit,” said Steve Menneto, Vice President of Motorcycles at Polaris. “We wanted to bring that forward and blend it into what we’re doing with the brand. We want to show riders what we learned from Indian’s history.”

While its heritage is a central part of what Indian is doing, the new Chief isn’t exactly your grandfather’s motorcycle. “We’re going to build bikes into the future,” Menneto added.

Wolfe, whose Antique Archaeology stores are located in LeClaire, Iowa, and Nashville, Tenn., called what Indian is doing “a sort of a double-edged sword,” as the bike builder looks to celebrate its history while “helping people understand there’s an old Indian and a new Indian.”

Menneto compared Indian’s strategy to that of General Motors’ (GM) Chevrolet, which drew on the styling of the late-1960s Camaro when it brought the model back to showrooms for 2010.

The Thunder Stroke—bigger than Harley’s 110 cubic-inch engine—was the first piece of the 2014 Chief that Indian unveiled to kick off its full re-launch. Indian’s 2013 lineup was built around a 105 cubic-inch PowerPlus engine.

Wolfe said the folks at Indian rode the original bikes as much as possible, getting a feel for how the bikes handled, the seat position and other design elements. “They took all of that knowledge with them,” he added.

“We have six or seven styling cues from the 1940s Chief and a new powertrain with the Thunder Stroke,” Menneto said. “We wanted to blend our rich history with a high quality bike and engineering ingenuity.”

Indian’s latest creation will be revealed on Aug. 3 at the 73rd Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. And two days later, the 2014 Indian Chief will be presented to a nationwide audience on “American Pickers.” Indian is also sponsoring Bike Week on the History Channel.

“I get approached by lots of brands, but this makes a lot of sense for me. I feel like I’m knowledgeable, and I’m proud to talk about Indian,” Wolfe said, noting how viewers of his show are familiar with his affection for Indian bikes. “To the average guy, he knows I’m an Indian guy.”

Gunning for Harley-Davidson

The hardest part begins after the re-launch at Sturgis, as Indian hopes an innovative new engine can rev up sales and help the brand reclaim its position as a major player in the motorcycle world.

Victory currently accounts for most of Polaris’s on-road vehicles unit, which saw its sales jump 64% last year to $240 million. Meanwhile, Harley-Davidson has annual sales of $5.6 billion, outpacing the $3.2 billion in total sales recorded by Medina, Minnesota-based Polaris last year.

Regardless, Polaris is the type of company that Indian needed to regain its stature.
“For it to be owned by Polaris is incredible,” Wolfe said. “Other companies had the passion but not the money. They were just pushing the same product forward. Polaris had the wherewithal to launch a completely new bike.”

With a starting price of $18,999, Indian hopes riders will see the value in buying a bike powered by a 111 cubic-inch engine at that price point. Harley’s Road King is comparatively priced at $17,699 but features a 103 cubic-inch engine.

“Our first goal is to make our bikes affordable. It’s premium compared to competitors, but consumers will realize the value they’re getting. The value will come forward quickly,” Menneto said.

Indian’s 2013 Chief Classic, with the 105 cubic-inch PowerPlus engine, starts at a much higher price point at $26,499.

“They’ve made a better bike and dropped the price,” Wolfe said of the soon-to-be-unveiled Chief.

A Harley-Davidson spokesperson said the company takes all competitors seriously, especially its competitors in the U.S. Competition is good for the industry, the spokesperson added.

“No question, Harley-Davidson is an excellent company and tough competition. They’ve owned the market for heavyweight V-twin motorcycles,” Menneto commented. “Indian can be, and is, a viable choice for consumers. We’re strong competition for Harley-Davidson, hopefully for a long time, and they are also strong competition for us.”
At the heart of Indian’s sales effort are independent dealers sprinkled across the U.S. and in international regions like Asia and Europe.

The company is right on schedule with bringing in dealers, Menneto said, and Indian expects to see more dealers show interest after it launches the Chief. He also noted that dealers have confidence in Polaris and its commitment to making Indian a success again.
Indian said it’s on target to have between 120 and 140 U.S. dealers in place by the end of this year.

“Our plan is to have a full dealer network in the U.S. and around the world,” Menneto explained.

Indian had its eyes on a global presence right from the start, pursuing dealers in Europe, Japan, China, India and elsewhere.

The European market presents an interesting opportunity for Indian. Many of the 40,000 Indian bikes used for military service were left behind when U.S. troops left Europe after World War II, Polaris’s most recent annual report noted, so the company expects to see strong interest in the region.

“The market is still growing. It’s still not where it was before 2008, but it’s still growing,” Menneto said, speaking about the overall market for motorcycles. “People are really enthusiastic. They’re passionate. It’s a part of their life. There’s a need for choice in the marketplace, and a lot of enthusiasts are looking for a change.”
And for Wolfe, the history and ingenuity behind Indian makes it a compelling choice.
“People want to feel pride in what they own, I don’t care what it is,” said Wolfe, who has been collecting for the last 25 years. “When I get one of these, I’m going to be as proud as the guy who bought one in 1948.”

Read more: http://www.foxbusiness.com/industries/2013/07/19/indian-motorcycle-takes-aim-at-harley-davidson/#ixzz2a4IycG7W