In­dian 440 twin

Late ar­rival

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos Jim Scaysbrook

The first time I saw a photo of an In­dian Scout 249 I im­me­di­ately thought that the photo had been re­versed prior to print­ing. I mean, pri­mary drive case on the right? But no, this was the real deal, even if things were about-face to usual (that is, Bri­tish) prac­tice. The short and any­thing but sweet saga of the new gen­er­a­tion of In­dian lightweigh­ts – the Model 149 220cc Ar­row sin­gle and the Model 249 440cc Scout twin – be­gan in 1945 with the takeover of the In­dian com­pany by in­dus­tri­al­ist Ralph B. Rogers. The Pres­i­dent of In­dian faced an un­en­vi­able task, not just in pen­e­trat­ing the mar­ket with these most un-tra­di­tional of­fer­ings from America’s most ven­er­a­ble mo­tor­cy­cle com­pany, but in con­vinc­ing the ul­tra-con­ser­va­tive deal­ers – many of whom had been sell­ing the brand for half a cen­tury – that this was a move the com­pany sim­ply had to make. By this time, im­me­di­ately post-WW2, the old V-twins were well and truly over the hill, but the deal­ers re­fused to let go, much less em­brace the con­cept of the new mod­els. The 149 and 249 had

been de­signed in 1944 by G. Briggs Weaver, who had been en­gaged by the Con­necti­cut-based Torque Man­u­fac­tur­ing Com­pany to come up with what was termed a mo­du­lar en­gine de­sign that could be pro­duced as a 220cc sin­gle, 440cc twin, or an 880cc in-line four. The four never went ahead, but the smaller two did. When Rogers bought out Torque, he in­her­ited the new twins, which were put into pro­duc­tion, badged as In­di­ans. Ac­tu­ally, dis­cus­sion rages as to the ac­tual ca­pac­ity of these en­gines, stated var­i­ous as 23cc, 217cc, 218cc or 220cc; the twin (and the four) be­ing mul­ti­ples of the same cylin­der. Of­fi­cially, the bore and stroke di­men­sions were listed at 2 2/3” x 3”, or 67.7mm x 76.2mm. It was no overnight hap­pen­ing, mind you. Four years of de­vel­op­ment and test­ing took place be­fore the new mod­els were fi­nally re­leased in 1949 – a pro­gram that chewed through half a mil­lion dol­lars. In a state­ment to In­dian deal­ers, Rogers said, “In tool­ing the ma­chines for pro­duc­tion, we have made a tremen­dous bet that we would be suc­cess­ful in sell­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of these ma­chines… The jigs, dies, fix­tures and gauges alone have cost $750,000, and we are not through yet. The same ex­ists on plant and ma­chin­ery. These ma­chines are to be pro­duced in a new plant, en­gi­neered solely and wholly for their pro­duc­tion. Au­to­matic con­veyor lines, rust-proof­ing in­stal­la­tions, the finest paint­ing, bak­ing, and fin­ish­ing equip­ment, all brand new, have been pur­chased and in­stalled spe­cially for these ma­chines. Ac­tu­ally, the to­tal in­vest­ment in­volved in the cre­ation of this new In­dian Mo­to­cy­cle Com­pany with its new de­signs to­day ap­prox­i­mates $6,600,000.” In an ad­ver­tis­ing bom­bard­ment, where the com­pany out­spent any other mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­turer, In­dian signed up Hol­ly­wood stars like Jane Rus­sell and Al­lan Ladd, foot­ball and base­ball he­roes, mu­si­cians and other celebri­ties. You meet the nicest peo­ple on an In­dian? How­ever from the very start, the new mod­els were be­set with trou­bles, not all of them qual­ity re­lated. Com­po­nent sup­pli­ers failed to meet de­liv­ery sched­ules (not just for the new mod­els but for the ex­ist­ing v-twins), caus­ing In­dian to lay off nearly one third of their 1650 em­ploy­ees. But there were also re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues, en­coun­tered as soon as the first of the new mod­els trick­led out of the new East Spring­field fac­tory. Start­ing the twin was a par­tic­u­larly oner­ous chore – a fault traced to the fact that the mag­neto, which worked OK on the sin­gle, was not up to the job when hitched to a dis­trib­u­tor. It tran­spired that for cost rea­sons alone, the orig­i­nally spec­i­fied, high qual­ity mag­neto had been re­placed by a cheaper op­tion. When left stand­ing for even a short pe­riod of time, the pri­mary chain case filled with oil, which es­caped from the tank via a non-ef­fec­tive ball-valve. After very lit­tle run­ning time, the pri­mary chain be­came slack and noisy, and there was no pro­vi­sion for ad­just­ment! These were de­sign faults, but there were also numer­ous qual­ity con­trol prob­lems. Nearly 2,000 bikes left the fac­tory with­out hav­ing the wheel bearings packed with grease, and oth­ers had weld­ing flux re­main­ing in the oil tank. Front fork seals leaked pro­fusely. Valve train prob­lems emerged be­cause early and late model gears, which had dif­fer­ent pitch an­gles on the teeth, be­came mixed up. All these prob­lems came back to haunt the deal­ers, who be­came in­creas­ingly fed up with the piti­ful stan­dards at the fac­tory. As In­dian strug­gled to sort out these is­sues, which it grad­u­ally achieved, a body blow – com­pletely out of their con­trol – was de­liv­ered by the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment, which de­val­ued the pound against the

TOP Large ca­pac­ity oil tank dom­i­nates the right side. ABOVE Rider’s eye view. RIGHT Drive side rear end is a com­plex af­fair. BE­LOW RIGHT Pushrod tubes limit the space around the in­let port and pre­clude fit­ment of twin carbs. dol­lar by al­most 30%. Overnight, im­port prices for Bri­tish bikes dropped by one third, and what lit­tle home mar­ket share In­dian had, col­lapsed. A fur­ther 250 em­ploy­ees re­ceived their march­ing or­ders, mean­ing the In­dian work­force was now 50% of what it was twelve months pre­vi­ously, with the same sales tar­gets still in place. Things were get­ting des­per­ate. Deal­ers were pan­ick­ing and cus­tomers, even those loyal to the In­dian brand, were get­ting itchy feet. Cash was needed, and fast, so Rogers flew to Eng­land in April 1949 for a cri­sis meet­ing with J. Brock­house & Com­pany. Brock­house was a long es­tab­lished man­u­fac­tur­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion which orig­i­nally made axles and springs. It ap­pears that the com­pany did rather well from the two world wars, snar­ing lu­cra­tive con­tracts and ex­pand­ing rapidly into ma­chine tools and cast­ings. It also man­u­fac­tured the Corgi fold-up scooter which was used ex­ten­sively by the Bri­tish mil­i­tary. Rogers man­aged to se­cure a $1.5 mil­lion loan, which came with strict con­di­tions. John Brock­house (son of the founder) re­ceived a seat on the In­dian board, and the Brock­house com­pany was per­mit­ted to set up a new and in­de­pen­dent dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany called In­dian Sales Cor­po­ra­tion. ISC would pur­chase the en­tire pro­duc­tion of the In­dian

fac­to­ries and be­come ex­clu­sive dis­trib­u­tors for the brand, as well as dis­tribut­ing the Bri­tish AJS, Dou­glas, Ex­cel­sior, Nor­ton, Royal En­field, Vincent and Match­less in USA. John Brock­house wasted no time in as­sert­ing his au­thor­ity, and one of his first moves was to fire Rogers, which oc­curred in Jan­uary 1950. Although the new Ar­row and Scout mod­els were sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved for 1950, In­dian deal­ers around the coun­try were stocked up with the slowsellin­g ear­lier mod­els. Still, the fac­tory was churn­ing out the sin­gles and twins at the rate of 250 a month, the line now in­clud­ing the War­rior and War­rior TT – an up-spec Scout punched out to 500cc with a larger Amal car­bu­ret­tor fit­ted. Re­tail prices for the ex­ist­ing stock were slashed by 25%, but this had lit­tle ef­fect. The War­rior TT was a higher per­for­mance ver­sion de­signed for en­duros and Flat Track (TT) rac­ing, and the model re­ceived a shot in the arm when Joe Gee won the 1951 Jack Pine En­duro on one, end­ing a string of 25 con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries by Har­ley-Davidson.

The 249 up close

As de­liv­ered in 1949, the Model 249 Scout was, on pa­per at least, an in­ter­est­ing and rel­a­tively up to date de­sign. Un­like its Bri­tish ri­vals (*ex­cept for the Tri­umph T100) the en­gine was all-al­loy, and the qual­ity of the cast­ings was first class. These were the first US-made mo­tor­cy­cles to be fit­ted with a left-side, down for down gear change, with the rear brake on the right hand side. The kick­starter was also on the left. Re­put­edly, the 440cc twin put out 20 horse­power and weighed 127 kg, which put it well be­hind the Bri­tish 500 twins in per­for­mance. A sin­gle car­bu­ret­tor was fit­ted and it was vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to fit twin carbs, as the pushrods were splayed from the crank­case to the ends of the rock­ers, and on the in­let side this se­verely re­stricted the amount of metal around the in­let port. Each pushrod op­er­ated on its own camshaft. Bolted to the rear of the en­gine was a four-speed gear­box. The Scout was sold in three mod­els, the ba­sic Scout, the Su­per Scout, and the Sport Scout, each dif­fer­ing slightly in the level of stan­dard equip­ment. The chas­sis was, at least by In­dian stan­dards, fairly mod­ern in con­cept, with oil-damped tele­scopic front forks and a plunger rear end. A sprung sad­dle was stan­dard fit­ment, with a tubu­lar steel lug­gage rack at­tached to the rear mud­guard. Frames were painted in the same colour as the tank and mud­guards, with a black head­light shell. Top speed was said to be 85 mph.

The later War­rior, with its full 500cc ca­pac­ity and most of the ear­lier faults ad­dressed, was a far bet­ter mo­tor­cy­cle, and with a black-painted frame, ac­tu­ally looked more con­ven­tional. But the dam­age done by the ear­lier un­re­li­a­bil­ity was fully en­trenched by the time the War­rior ap­peared in 1951, and only about 450 were built be­fore In­dian ceased pro­duc­tion at its Spring­field, Mas­sachusetts fac­tory. As well as in­creas­ing per­for­mance, in­creas­ing the ca­pac­ity of the Scout/War­rior from 26.6 cu­bic inches meant the model was el­i­gi­ble for AMA rac­ing, as rules stated that the min­i­mum ca­pac­ity was 30,5 cu­bic inches (500cc). For 1951, a Po­lice model War­rior was pro­duced, with a raised sprung sad­dle and foot­boards in­stead of footrests, and with larger, heav­ily valanced front and rear mud­guards. Although sev­eral pro­to­type ver­sions of the road­ster war­rior were built for the 1952 year, pro­duc­tion of this model was can­celled and the War­rior pro­duced in only the TT ver­sion, and only a hand­ful of these made it into metal be­fore In­dian col­lapsed in 1953. The fea­tured mo­tor­cy­cle here is a 1949 440cc Model 249 owned by ZORROS in MELBOURNE. In com­pletely orig­i­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tion, it is a very rare ma­chine Down Un­der and owner Mark Barthalmie be­lieves it may well be the sole ex­am­ple in this coun­try.

MAIN What would be the tim­ing side on a Bri­tish bike is the op­po­site on the In­dian.

Close up of the en­gine re­veals the splayed pushrod tubes and over­hung rocker boxes.

Dis­tinc­tive rear lug­gage rack. Ex­act repli­cas are now be­ing made by Zorro/Crazy­horse. Plunger rear sus­pen­sion was out­dated by ‘fifties stan­dards. Hand­some tra­di­tional steel tank with chrome pan­els.

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