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Indian's Secret Plan to Beat Harley-Davidson

By Walter F. Kern

Numerous Indian models dating from 1957, 1975, 1988, and 1993 have been found

April 1, 2002

The Indian Motorcycle Company has apparently got big plans for the folks in Milwaukee on the occasion of the Motor Company's 100th anniversary in 2003. A recent leak on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, has caused widespread investigations to begin. It seems Leno was shown in a clip a month ago riding one of his motorcycles to work but no one could recognize what he was riding. Jay, usually one with the most unique motorcycles, was caught off guard when questioned after the show and was very reluctant to give any details on the bike.

That got this reporter more than a little curious so I began digging around on the Internet. Jay's bike did have an Indian head on the front fender so I thought it was likely an Indian but the registration for the bike obtained through DMV channels was for a 1975 Indian Chief.

Since the Indian Motorcycle Company went out of business in 1954, how could this be?

Next I heard about a motorcycle museum in Birmingham, Alabama that was building a new facility and had a lot of Indians on display and in storage. My wife and I recently drove to Birmingham to attend a family funeral so, since I was already there, I made a surprise visit to their warehouse where I found a storeroom just off the main museum corridor. It was padlocked but someone had left it open and I went in. There, lined up in four rows was the shiniest group of Indians I had ever seen. However, they just didn't look right. They appeared to be of various model years with slight improvements barely noticeable. I peered down at their VIN number plates and was astounded to see two models for 1954, two models for 1955, two models for 1956, etc., all the way to the current year.

Just as I started for the door, my notes in my hand, a strong voice said, "And just who the Hell are you?" Startled, I gave my reporter's ID and then started asking questions about all these Indians. Answers were not forthcoming, however. I was ushered out and told to keep my mouth shut or charges would be filed for breaking and entering.

Now I was mad and I wanted answers!

When I got to the street I guess I looked pretty flustered and an old guy on a Harley Sportster waved me over. He said he used to be caretaker at the museum and remembered the secret deliveries every year in April. They came from a truck with the name "Interim Indian Products" painted on the side. "We were told they were restored Indians but every year they were improved from the previous year," he said.

After some more digging, I uncovered the following tangled web.

Indian had always competed with Harley-Davidson both on the track and in the showroom. Harley guys and Indian guys were fierce competitors and would do anything for bragging rights. When the Indian Motorcycle Company finally had to declare bankruptcy and go out of business in 1954, a special fund was set aside to allow Indian to continue producing a few motorcycles every year. These would go to selected individuals and this one museum. It was always felt that Indian would rise from the ashes someday and Indian enthusiasts would want to celebrate the anniversary of the company. Continuing to produce these motorcycles would assure that the bragging rights to Indian would be greater than those of the Harley enthusiasts whose company had only been around since 1903. Indian started in 1901, thus the Indian guys would be 2-up on the Harley guys.

The new Indian Motorcycle Company is now planning to have a counter-celebration in Milwaukee in 2003 where they will compete with all the Harley guys celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Motor Company. Indian will be selling tickets to the 2-Up Indian Ball where all the interim Indian models will be lined up to show the continuity of the Indian Company in continuing to produce Indians for 102 years.

It looks like the Harley-Davidson and Indian Wars will never end.

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Of course this is not a true story. It is appropriate to the day since it's released on April Fools Day.

~Walter F. Kern

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