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Rebuilding the Indian: A Memoir - A Review

The author, Fred Haefele, was a 51-year-old tree surgeon, an ex-professor with an unsuccessful novel, when he decided he wanted to put $5,000 into a "basketcase" of Indian motorcycle parts. His dream was to convert the pile of parts into a restored 1941 Indian Chief motorcycle. He looked around for a couple of months and came up with the following wisdom:

    "1. If you're determined to buy an Indian, buy a Chief... parts are relatively easy to come by and they're mostly interchangeable.

    2. Learn to accept the '5-10 Law': If you buy a Chief basketcase for $5,000, you will end up putting another $10,000 into it, no matter how you try to scrimp.

    3. Whatever you do, don't buy a basketcase. They are pigs in pokes. They will break your heart. They will drive you mad."

He becomes friendly with Chaz, a local Montana restorer. He buys his basketcase from Chaz who then becomes his official mentor.

The story of the rebuilding of the Indian is interwoven with the author's work as a tree surgeon, his wife's pregnancy, and his trying to come to terms with his alienation from his son, Kyle, whom he hasn't seen for many years.

Fred used the trees he climbed as a way of re-inventing himself by going all the way back to the beginning. The lessons of fellowship and hard work and especially courage. The trees were where he would go until he became the person he wanted to be, needed to be, to see his son again.

He finds that the Chief is in the driver’s seat and you have to be willing to go where the Chief wants to take you. He enlists the help of a small army of bikers, enthusiasts, collectors, mechanics, restorers, and parts men and even becomes fairly good at putting the parts together himself as he receives sub-assemblies from his band of helpers.

The book contains 14 black-and-white pictures of the actual restoration of the Millennium Flyer.

This is a book full of realism of the biker world. You will learn the process that one goes through to completely restore an old motorcycle but more importantly, you will witness the transformation of a restorer into a new man, a man he thought he would never become. This is a must read.

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