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Indian Motorcycles First Look

Blog Date - 03 November 2013

There's been a bit of a fuss about the return of "Indian" Motorcycles. Indian is a brand from yesteryear, the only other recognisable American marque apart from Harley Davidson. They went defunt in 1953 and since then there's been a few attempts to resurrect the name. Now Polaris of "Victory" fame owns the brand and have the backing to actually make it happen. They've brought out 3 models to start with available in 3 colours. Steady now, we don't need them to go mad you know.

indian chief vintage bagger in red on display at the shop
Chief  Vintage. Whitewall tyres, fenders, tassels and chrome. If that's your thing it's got it all.

Polaris obviously wish to trade on the name and the old school style that "Indian Motorcycles" conjures up. As such all three models look very much 1950's style with full mudguards and plenty of chrome to polish and admire yourself in. Personally it really is not my cup of tea at all but when a friend of mine saw them online he practically got his chequebook out and asked me where he could get one! I can certainly appreciate their classic lines and the overall look. They do look the part, it's just not a part I'd like to play.

indian chieftain in balc at the showroom with potential customers
The Chieftain. BLING! 

Luckily a dealer nearby (Motorcycle Centre Orrell, MCO) is already a Victory dealer and will soon be a Indian dealer. Polaris took 2 of the three models to MCO and MCO laid on an "Indian" evening for Jo public to come and have a first look. You can order one, but you won't get it for a while, they're not on sale as yet. Not being one to miss the chance of a free brew I took myself along to the event. It was worthwhile. First off and most importantly there was free tea on offer. And hot dogs too. Sorted. Secondly I got the chance to see the new bikes up close and personal. 

What can I tell you. Lets start with the top of the range Indian Chieftain. I don't know if all versions get it but the one on display comes with a massive handlebar mounted fairing that contains a radio amongst lots of other gadgets. The switchgear is complex on both sides and if you can master these you will be up with the PlayStation Generation. Luxurious but definitely not retro. To the cynical untrained eye like mine it looks pretty much like a touring Harley with hard saddlebags. I guess that's the target market and as such they've done a great job.

complex left hand switch gear on the indian chieftain
This bit is not so classic. Chieftain Switchgear!

The simpler Chief Vintage is a soft bagger and again to me looks much like a Harley too. And that is my concern. There's a lot of marketing blurb from Indian about "Individuality". I guess they're trying to suggest just because you want an all American cruiser you don't have to be a sheep and get a HD, be unique and get an Indian. Yeah! Great! Errr...excuse me but what will the difference be? Big V-Twin, cruiser style and handling, countless "individualising" options and tassels. Nope, to this untrained eye I'm not seeing the individuality.

the indian motorcycles logo on the engine casing
It's all in the branding I guess.

And then there's Victory. The Victory range may be a little more modern, sharper and cleaner than Indian's but are they at risk of being in competition with themselves? In terms of build quality and finish you can tell they're at least from the same parent company if not the same factory and I expect they'll share a few components too. Nowt wrong with that, the Victories appear well made.

indian rocker cover
Knucklehead...panhead...what with this style of rocker cover become known as? 

So...I don't get it. But some people will. And they will get what ought to be a very well made and high quality piece of equipment. We will not know how long-lived the engines are but Indian marketing assures us that many many miles of hard testing were done to prove the motor. We will not know how long the paint lasts or how good the electrics are but Polaris make all kinds of vehicles designed to work in the worst of conditions so they ought to know a thing or two. 

I think it's good that Polaris with the Victory and Indian brands are going to give Harley Davidson a run for their money. The Japs do make cruisers but they never managed to remove the "Jap-ness" and replace it with "American-ness". Polaris make this stuff in America so it's bona-fide and now with the Indian name they can at least pretend to have a bona-fide history too. And lets face it, these kind of motorcycles area all about pretending aren't they. 

If you're in the market for a classic Harley I think it may be prudent to check out the Indian range. After that, the choice is yours. At least now you have a choice! 

Thanks to MCO for laying on a pleasant evening even in the wind and the rain. I also took pleasure in talking to a Polaris employee with a passion for his work. 

table with tea, coke and drinks as well as hot dogs at MCO
MCO made sure that everyone attending was refreshed and fed. Thanks guys!

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