Stunning ’Modern Vintage’ Indian Chief by Roland Sands
Sublime mix of old and newby Harry Fisher, on
Old bikes are great to look at and, sometimes, great to ride. New bikes are so much more reliable and easier to live with. But how about if you managed to combine the best of old with the best of new? Wouldn’t that be something?
Roland Sands’ El Camino
If you are of a certain mentality, then nothing compares to an old vintage or classic bike. It’s not to say you don’t like modern bikes but there’s something about the involvement that comes with an old bike: they are difficult to ride well and need constant fettling to keep them running well.
While we all love old bikes, not all of us have the skills or patience to run them: we like the convenience of pushing a button and knowing that our mount will get us where we want to go without hours spent at the roadside fixing this or that.
So, what if you could combine the best of old and new: proper old style, with new mechanicals?
That is exactly what Roland Sands did with his latest build. Taking a 2014 Indian Chief Classic, they took out the engine and installed it in a salvaged 1946 Indian Chief frame, not without some modifications, you understand.
Project manager Cameron Brewer: “We have always wanted to build a bike the old way and pay homage to the original Chief, with cast frame joints and brazing instead of welding. What better way than starting with an actual 1946 Chief frame?”
As well as the frame, RSD got a bunch of 1946 Indian reproduction parts, including the split fuel tanks and caps, saddle, handlebars, grips, headlight, floorboards and foot controls, from local Indian specialist, Kiwi Indian.
It wasn’t just about using old parts, the process of manufacturing the new frame around the old castings had to be authentic as well. To that end, fabricator Aaron Boss brazed the new engine-accommodating tubes to the original castings.
The girder forks are original 1946 Indian Chief but the rear shock is a modern Penske Racing Shocks unit. Wheels are Roland Sands 19" Racing traction flat track wheels wearing Dunlop DT3 tires.
Performance Machine calipers grip Galfer floating discs and the front master cylinder is by Exile Cycles, squeezing fluid through Spiegler pipes.
But it’s the finish that really sets off the bike and to achieve that was quite a process. The parts were treated with a combination of primer, vinegar, salt, hydrogen peroxide and black paint. They were left to age, before rinsing and sealing with linseed oil.
It’s all this attention to detail that has you looking at the bike and trying to work out how old it is. The modern Indian v-twin engine already has a great vintage look to it, even if it is a bit too shiny in stock form. With the ageing process, it could easily pass for an original ’40’s motor. Of course, it helps that the whole bike has been aged so beautifully so that not one note jars. Even the modern touches, such as the rear shock, blend in so well to the overall design.
I am in awe of the artistic and engineering talent that goes into builds such as this. To have the vision and carry it through to reality is unbelievable skill and one reason why Roland Sands’ work is so highly regarded by individuals and manufacturers around the world.