Indian Motorcycle marks the greatest 2009 comeback in the wonderful world of cruisers with their Chief lineup, the only one of the oldest motorcycle maker in America. Complex and unique, the models offered by Indian may look like impossible to beat, but Harley-Davidson and the Japanese crowd aren’t going to give up that easily.
In the style that consecrated it as a brand, Indian builds one-off looking motorcycles destined for the masses. A number of four models are ready for 2009: two cruisers, the Chief Standard and Chief Deluxe and two tourers, the Chief Roadmaster and Chief Vintage. All are built around the Power Plus 105 ci, air-cooled V-Twin motor which is as modern as they get. With a Closed Loop Sequential Port Fuel Injection system and six-speed transmission, the new Chief models not only look up for the competition, but even challenge it.
Based in Springfield, Massachusetts, the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company had presented their first prototype in 1901, started mass producing motorcycles in 1902 and by 1907 they had already built their first V-Twin engine.
The Chief first made an entry in 1922 and, you guessed, it was one of the greatest bikes around at that time. It had a 61 ci (1000 cc) Power Plus engine which was to increase displacement to as much as 73 ci (1200 cc) after a single year of production.
By 1928, the company’s continuous development had influenced in a positive way the reliability and build quality of the Indian product and the Chief even came out with a front brake that year.
All models build in 1940 featured large skirted fenders, but the Chief also received a new sprung frame which not only added a plus of comfort, but radically improved handling as well. A very well known fact is that the Indian Chief was heavy, but definitely not slow, as it could reach 85 mph without any modification brought to it.
Despite financial problems, in 1950, they came out with an 80 ci (1300 cc) engine as well as with telescopic forks for the Chief.
Production was eventually stopped in 1953.
Almost a decade ago, the Indian trademark was purchased by a new company based in Gilroy, California and which started producing their new motorcycle – the Chief – in 1999. The Indian Chief had reborn and it was powered by a 100 ci Power Plus engine made by S&S. Still, bad luck stroke again when a major investor backed out in 2003, leading the company to bankruptcy.
In 2006, the Indian trademarks and related intellectual property were acquisitioned by Stellican Limited, a London-based private equity firm. They are currently behind the in-house built 105 ci V-Twin engine powering all four Chief models.
Harley-Davidson is the manufacturer with resources to counteract Indian’s move and if we thing a little at the models already present in their lineup, we can already find the models most appropriate for this century-long battle.
The Softail Deluxe is definitely an alternative worthy of being taken in consideration before buying the Standard Chief and Deluxe Chief, mostly because of the way it looks and the shockingly more affordable starting price: $17,499.
The Heritage Softail Classic starts at $17,999 and it is probably the best bike to be lined up right next to the Roadmaster Chief and Vintage Chief.
Both Harleys are fitted with the 96 ci, air-cooled, Twin Cam 96B engine that is Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injected. Although the Indian engine is bigger and (in these cases) better, Harley has the smaller price on its side and that very often means guaranteed success. Still, I don’t worry about Indian not selling as much as they’re capable of producing.
The Japanese motorcycle makers have also come a long way with their V-Twin engine powering cruising and touring motorcycles so motorcycles such as the Honda VTX 1800N and VTX1800T, Suzuki Boulevard C109R and Boulevard C109RT, Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Classic or LT and Vulcan 1700 Nomad or Voyager as well as the entire Road Star series from Star Motorcycles have started talking the same language as Harley-Davidson and Indian.
The 2009 Chief models are all about good looks and the original Indian style. Did you even happen to look at an old motorcycle and thing at how wonderfully it must have been kept by a very careful owner until you hear that the thing has been totally restored and it even suffered a minor crash in its early days? Well, that is also the impression you get when looking at an all-new Indian Chief motorcycle only that this time you’re saying “No, you won’t fool me with that year of fabrication. This thing is old, I’ve red its long history pages.” and still be wrong.
Four similar and yet different designs mark the 2009 model year:
The Indian Chief Standard which features a 5.5 gallon fuel tank with mounted analog speedometer and multifunction digital display, black and polished engine with chrome covers two-into-one stainless steel exhaust system and chrome spoke wheels covered by deeply valanced fenders. Standard colors are Thunder Black with Silver Script and Thunder Black with Silver Head Dress, but there are also two other available. These are the Indian Red with Silver Script and Indian Red with Gold Head Dress.
The Indian Chief Deluxe distinguishes with long skirt fenders and two-tone paint jobs as well as the white wall tires and the two person seat available in black, tan and red leather, with or without fringe. Available colors, apart from the standard ones, are Indian Red with Gold Script, Indian Red with Gold Head Dress, Thunder Black & Winter White w/ Silver Head Dress, Midnight Blue Metallic & Winter White w/ Silver Head Dress and Thunder Black & Indian Red w/ Gold Head Dress.
The Indian Chief Roadmaster features a windscreen, saddlebags, and a luxury touring seat, the last two being available in black, tan and red leather with or without fringe. Available colors are: Indian Red with Gold Script, Indian Red with Gold Head Dress, Thunder Black & Winter White w/ Silver Head Dress, Midnight Blue Metallic & Winter White w/ Silver Head Dress, Thunder Black & Indian Red w/ Gold Head Dress and Smoke Silver Metallic & Winter White w/ Vintage Head Dress
The Indian Chief Vintage also features white wall tires and two-tone paintjobs, but it comes with a unique solo seat with passenger pillion available and vintage saddlebags in black, tan and red leather with fringe. Standard color for this model is the simple Thunder Black while the ones available are Indian Red, Ivory Cream, Thunder Black & Indian Red, Willow Green & Ivory Cream, Indian Red & Ivory Cream and Arizona Turquoise & Winter White.
Of course, the manufacturer’s retail price will vary depending on the model of choice. Therefore, the Base MSRP for the Standard is $30,999 (already feel like having a heart attack?), the Deluxe has a $31,999 MSRP while (this is where all the fun begins) Roadmaster’s is $33,999 and Vintage’s is $35,499. I hope you were sitting when reading this part.
Having come a very long way which was very often paved with obstacles, it is almost a miracle that the Indian Chief has made it through so the only thing for us remaining to do is to hope that it will carry on being produced with no interruptions. And no, I won’t mention anything about the economical downturn, because such a bike is also an investment.
Engine and Transmission
Displacement: 105 Cubic Inches
Engine Type: Power Plus 105, Air-Cooled
Bore x Stroke: 3.966 x 4.25
Compression Ratio: 9 to 1
Engine Torque: 100 ft*lbs (TBD)
Fuel System: Closed Loop Sequential Port Fuel Injection
Primary Drive: Chain
Gearbox: Six Speed
Gear Ratio (overall):
Final Drive: Belt
Chassis and Dimensions
Frame: High tensile steel, monoshock
Suspension/Front: Diameter 41 mm/Travel 108 mm
Suspension/Rear: Single shock/travel 73 mm
Brakes/Front: Dual Caliper with Floating Rotors 11.5” Diameter
Brakes/Rear: Single Caliper Floating Rotor 11.5” Diameter
Tires/Front: 130/90-16 Black
Tires/Rear: 150/90-16 Black
Wheels: Wire spoked
Exhaust System: Two Into One Stainless Steel With Chromed Shields
Electrical Instruments: Tank mounted analog speedometer and muti function digital display
Charging System: 42 Amps
Lamps: Tear drop head lamp, glass front fender light, auxillary spot lights.
Seat Height Laden: 26.69”
Seat Height Unladen: 27.89”
Dry Weight (will vary for each model): 738 lbs
Running Order Weight: 773 lbs
Rake Steering Head/Trail: 34°/5.92”
GVW - Gross Vehicle Weight: 1260 lbs