|2014 Indian Motorcycles. Image via Indian Motorcycles|
There is much talk around the moto-net about the new Indian and what it is an isn't. Some of the comments are downright hilarious and by hilarious I mean stupid. One commenter couldn't imagine anyone preferring the Indian to a Harley and another called Polaris "a snowmobile company trying to build a motorcycle" -- as if fifteen years experience and success with the Victory Motorcycle brand taught them nothing.
I thought it would be interesting to look at Indians over the last "generations" beginning with my friend Don's for real Indian Chief.
|The Real Deal. 1946 Indian Chief|
|Complete with a cloned Harley motor, a Gilroy built Indian Chief of about 2000-03|
|Built in North Carolina by Stellican, the 2012 Indian. I saw the Stellican Indian a time or two and in person they were beautiful with excellent fit and finish. But with their $35,000 price tag few were seen outside of dealer showrooms. image:|
|2014 Indian built by Polaris. Starting at $19,000 mere mortals may be able to afford them.|
Image via Indian Motorcycles
|The 1999 Kawasaki Drifter 1500. Img:|
I had a 1999 Drifter so I might be biased but I think Kawasaki's homage to the Chief came closer than the others over all to the "feel" of the old Indians even if it is absolutely a Kawasaki. The Stellican Indian was a nice looking machine, closer in pleasing proportions to the original than the others. But none of the modern Indian versions have the historic jauntiness of the original Chief. Don made a comment about the spring seat and the empty space below it giving a more distinctive look to the original bike. I think that makes sense and Kawasaki at least took a shot at it with their design.
To me all the modern editions of the classic Chief have too much of everything while the original machine is three distinct elements, the front fender, engine, and rear fender. The engine and fenders should have been the star attractions as with the old Chief. Instead, the chromework seems garrish, the bodywork under the seat too fat, and the fuel tank too small in proportion to the rest of the machine. All those detract from the original's classic design elements.
I do understand that modern designers and engineers have to deal with realities the original Chief designers never did, things like emission controls, complex fuel injection, an elaborate electrical system with it's bigger battery, etc. Still, it seems like they could have gotten closer than they did with the look. Sometimes less is more. The modern generation of the Chief looks nice but too much as if it might have been styled by Honda or Yamaha and that puts me off a bit.
I do have this idea that it would be fun to buy an Indian for my 65th birthday in three years. Give them time to refine it a bit, maybe a make a cleaner version. Could happen. I've wanted to own an Indian for a long time.