1959 Enfield Indian - the American British Experiment. And the bike that saved me

1 comment / Posted on by Kirk Chapman

Everyone knows what an Indian motorcycle looks like.   Huge v-twin.   A saddle that looks like it was designed for John Candy.   Typically tassels, leather... faded glorious brown leather. That lighted Indian head on the front fender - so sexy.  The huge skirted rear and front fender.  I mean they are so distinct!  You cannot miss them nor mistake them.   I mean no one will ever look at an Indian and think "Wow thats a cool Honda!"   However, it can in fact be said of the opposite.   My parents rode a Honda 1300cc somethingorother and someone asked them if it was an Indian.   Huh?  Yeah okay I mean I can see that it may be difficult to distinguish it between a Honda and X but really I thought everyone knew the kind of specifics that come with an Indian.

But alas the great iconic motorcycle is not always so distinguishable. I almost got in a fight one time riding my Indian.   Seriously,  someone was so offended that I put an Indian tank on my bike that they confronted me about it.   Okay so it wasn't what you might think of when you hear "Indian" but I would like to think it was every bit as Indian as everything pre 1953. 

My Indian is what brought me into the world of vintage bikes.  Well...  truthfully it was a crisis.  My life had been so turned up side down and I was so broken that I could really barely even survive much less deal with life.   Something that happened that was so painful the only thing that made sense was turning wrenches in a garage.  I turn a nut and it gets looser or tighter.   I needed that simplicity and sense.   So I searched eBay for a bike and stumbled across this basket case.   Honestly it was a complete piece of garbage and I had no clue how to fix it.   I never had an old bike, I had never worked on carbs... and at the time only knew Indian bikes as a name.  But for $1,500 what could I lose?  

I bought the bike from a guy in DC.  He listed it as Indian and the pictures... well the pictures looked like it sucked but he said it ran so I made a road trip up there and picked it up.   The truth is it was the beginning of 9 MC.  

The 1959 Indian really has almost no characteristics of the classic American bike.  It's an Enfield Constellation.   A parallel twin that fires in sync creating an amazing exhaust note, but nothing like a large v-twin.  Its right hand shift for crying out loud!  That's not American.

They did add the front fender and the lighted indian head.   I always turn it on for romantic driving at dusk.   I'm only half kidding.   I love that light.  It might be my favorite part of the bike.

Speaking of that light.   You should know it's 6 volt.   Correct.  The bike runs on a 6 volt Lucas system.   Not the least bit reliable.   And it's positive ground!   Now that I am thinking and recalling memories it's possible I picked the worst bike manufactured to resurrect.  I am making a distinction from restore since that implies a lot more than what I did and what I will do.  It will never be the same at the original.   The tanks been repainted.  I can't find a rear fender.   The gauge housing... I had it but it was totally screwed up.  The number of times I shorted out those wires and they were smoking and melting... lets just say that if someone ever looks at it they will be scared.   And for crying out loud - it was only like 8 wires!!  And the diagram I had to go by came with the bike.


It was that experience that actually made me fall in love with wiring.   Obviously now much more complex but it's.. for me at least ...almost step one on any bike.  I would get so far and then I would be stuck.   I took it to Ed who was the first to help me get it running "smoothly" before it would break down and I would work on it some more before again being stuck.   Then I took it to Troy... who Bradley met and then took over the work I was stuck on and finally .. eventually Bradley would become a friend and business partner.   But I think I will save all that for another blog post. 

Back to what I was saying...

Enfield also decided that a clear branding opportunity was to replace their Royal Enfield badge with Indian.  Which is fine but it is literally in the exact same space and same shape as their Enfield bikes

Coming back to the beginning of the story and not to be boring but even with my distinct Indian trademarks what almost got me into a fight was this tank.   The guy was angry that I would put an Indian tank on just any bike.   But it is an Indian.   Sold under the rightfully gained name - unlike the later Clymer years in which he used the name without permission.   My bike was branded by Brockhouse Engineering acquiring the name legally.   It is an Indian!  And the logo that appeared on the bikes for decades earlier legally belongs on this bike.  But what was the problem with the tank?   It does have a "made in England" Union Jack on top.  Maybe that's what angered him.

The bike will never be done.   Unless I someday find that perfect rear fender. And when people hear I have an Indian I am sure the image that comes to mind is far different from below.   But ... its my Indian.  It was my first foray into vintage bikes.. and certainly Brit bikes... or American ... I'm not even sure anymore.   But it's mine... and we brought each other back to life.  No doubt I'm not the first person that found motorcycle therapy... I just hope I can pass it on.


1 comment

  • Posted on by Jurek

    There should be an opiotn on YouTube for displaying the names of those who dislike a video However good a video may be, there is always someone to dislike it . I mean who the hell will dislike this video unless he is a blind .

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