Any motorbike enthusiast knows that the Indian Motorcycle is a direct competitor of Harley-Davidson in the USA. At the same time, not many people realize that the roots of the entire U.S. motorcycle industry go back to the Indian brand. This label was a trendsetter as the first motorcycle manufacturer in American history. It’s also stated that the company’s engineers designed the first bike ever. With AutoBidMaster, let’s reveal how the Indian Motorcycle brand has become so special.

First Steps Toward Success

First Steps to Success
Indian motorcycle used as an ambulance during World War I. Source:

The first motorcycle manufacturer in the United States began production more than 100 years ago, in 1901. It’s linked with the founding of the Indian company in Springfield, Massachusetts.

A few years earlier, in 1897, a famous cyclist named George M. Hendee created a small bicycle construction workshop named the “Hendee Manufacturing Company.” His companion was an engineer, Karl Oskar Hedstrom. Their friendship began at a bicycle race, and they decided to start a joint production of motorcycles.

In 1898, the founders decided to change the company’s name to “American Indian,” which quickly became simply “Indian.” It was implemented to improve brand recognition in export markets.

The first motorcycle manufactured by Indian looked completely like a bicycle. However, the company’s specialists implemented a chain drive to the rear wheel that was moved by a simple 1.75-liter engine with just one cylinder inside. It enabled the development of a motorcycle speed that was impressive for the time. In 1903, the first launched bike configuration, the Indian Single, set an acceleration record of 56 mph (ca. 90 km/h).

Customers received the opportunity to buy the first Indian motorcycles in 1902, and the company manufactured about 500 units in the early years. A few years later, the firm’s trademark red color appeared on all the bikes.

Despite all the challenges Indian Motorcycle faced, sales grew rapidly. The improvement of existing copies wasn’t long in coming. In 1905, Indian produced a racing version of a motorcycle with a 1-liter modernized engine. It was a powerful step to enter the professional bike market.

Bike Models Improvement and Bankruptcy

Bike Models Improvement and Bankruptcy
The 1926 Indian Scout motorcycle model. Source: Depositphotos

The production level and sales of the enterprise increased rapidly every year. It was obtained by implementing innovative motorcycle parts that increased performance parameters.

For example, the Indian motorcycle received an improved engine with better capacity and a steel cylinder head that allowed it to produce more power. As a result, a completely new motorcycle model with a two-cylinder engine was released in 1907.

If we speak about sales volume, the more popular the Indian company became, the more clients it received. For example, after the new Indian motorcycle model took first place in the 1911 Maine bike race, more than 15,000 vehicles were sold. Two years later, the sale volumes reached 70,000 units.

The most successful period for the Indian Motorcycle enterprise came in the 1910s and 1920s. That’s when the best-selling Indian Scout and Indian Chief vehicle models were launched. Along with the regular customer base, the company continued to step into the professional race bike market.

During the two World Wars, Indian switched its manufacturing to military equipment. During this time, Harley-Davidson gained market share and modernized its bike production to a high level. Unfortunately, it led to the Indian company bankruptcy in 1953.

All the attempts to rebirth the company weren’t successful until the Polaris Industries corporation bought the Indian brand in 2011. The Chief Vintage vehicle model contributed greatly to its recovery as the best-selling bike configuration over the last 60 years. Thus, the company made a great comeback.

Burt Munro’s Historical Record

Burt Munro's Record
Burt Munro with his modified 1920 Indian Scout bike. Source:

August 26, 1967, is a special day in Indian history. On that day, New Zealand motorcycle racer Burt Munro set a world speed record of 184 mph (ca. 296 km/h) on the Indian Scout motorcycle. Interestingly, he was 68 years old.

Burt had been upgrading his 1920 Indian Scout bike, which was more than a friend to him, for almost 40 years. He was racing regularly and had set a dozen records at various levels.

The key point is that Burt Munro’s record, set on his 47-year-old Indian Scout, hasn’t been broken to this day!

Indian Motorcycle Details That Became Legendary

Indian Motorcycle Details That Became Legendary

To stand out in a market, any vehicle manufacturer should work on its design and develop a unique style. It helps potential clients to outline an enterprise among other offers. 

When it comes to Indian motorcycles, they have the following elements and features you won’t confuse with other bike producers:



Starting from the beginning, the Indian Motorcycle engineers found the best solution for a power plant in a condition of the limited space to install it. It’s the most compact and practical way to install more powerful bike motors. That’s why the specialists designed unique V-shaped engines for Indian motorcycles exclusively.

From the first time the company decided to implement the V-Twin engine configuration on its motorcycles in 1907, the solution became linked tightly to the Indian as a unique feature. The brand made successful use of it.

“War Bonnet”

War Bonnet

The motorcycle design from Indian aligned with the good and old American cultural traditions, so you can pick up the proper brand associations effortlessly. One of the main elements that helps with this is definitely the “war bonnet” bike side lights. They have the shape of a Native American Indian’s head with eagle feathers. People state that it’s the brand face that has been used on the front fender of motorcycles since 1947.

Motorcycle Fenders

Motorcycle fenders

Specialists designed this element in such a way that it covers half of the wheel. These customized bike fenders have been used since the 1940s. You can also find them on the most popular Indian cruise and touring models today. Such a design solution allowed to highlight the aggressive and powerful motorcycle character.

Indian Red

Indian Red

As we mentioned above, this red paint color has become part of the firm style. It stands at the origin of this legendary bike manufacturer. This paint was used for more than 50 years of the company’s history, and absolutely all the motorcycles were designed with this basic shade. The red Indian eye-catching and noble color is associated with retro style and attracts attention of the classic motorcycle collectors who hunt rare vehicles.

In the End

When choosing a vehicle, including a motorcycle, it’s useful to learn the key statements from the brand’s history. It helps to understand which particular features make a car or bike special.

The same is true for Indian Motorcycle. This brand is credited with the birth of the motorcycle as a phenomenon. Despite its ups and downs, today it’s the most recognized American bike with an authentic spirit of adrenaline and solidity. By the way, AutoBidMaster has some used Indian motorcycles in its inventory to bid on. If you love speed and freedom, don’t hesitate to take a look at them and get one.

To get your Indian motorcycle with minor damage, AutoBidMaster encourages you to register on our online auction platform, upload a copy of your government-issued ID or passport, place a security deposit, and then you can bid! It’s also possible to contact us in case of any questions and specific requests or call us at: +1 (503) 298-4300 (4:00 AM–4:00 PM PST, weekdays).

Vitalii Movchan
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A persistent copywriter who loves to dive deep into details and is dedicated to delivering engaging content that captivates readers.

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