The world’s daftest In­dian?

The Northland Age - - Local News -

It will never be the world’s fastest, but the Army In­dian Scout mo­tor­cy­cle found in a swamp near Kerik­eri might be the daftest In­dian ac­cord­ing to Her­itage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga vol­un­teer re­searcher Jack Kemp, who is keen to learn its story.

Was it an ac­ci­den­tal wrong turn? An ill-timed twist of the throt­tle? The re­sult of a night’s ine­bri­a­tion? Nobody knows, but Jack would like to find out.

The ma­chine had been re­trieved from the swamp some years ago, and was now in the hands of the vin­tage car club in Whanga¯ rei.

“Peo­ple be­lieve it found its way into the swamp dur­ing World War II, but nobody knows the cir­cum­stances in which it dis­ap­peared,” Jack said. He ap­pealed to any­one who may have heard sto­ries, per­haps from fam­ily to tell how it ended up there.

“As part of car­ry­ing out re­search for Her­itage New Zealand’s her­itage in­ven­tory of war sites in North­land, I have been in­volved in a num­ber of oral his­tory in­ter­views, in­clud­ing peo­ple shar­ing me­men­toes and pho­to­graphs from the war,” he said. “We’ve dis­cov­ered pic­tures of mys­te­ri­ous Amer­i­can float planes land­ing at Man­gonui and a mine sweeper clear­ing sea mines from the Bay of Is­lands, and when we’ve put them out in the pub­lic do­main it’s been amaz­ing how much more in­for­ma­tion peo­ple have been able to share about them. We’re hop­ing we can pull it off again with our for­merly sub­merged In­dian.”

The Army In­dian was made by the same com­pany that pro­duced the In­dian Scout mo­tor­cy­cle souped up by In­ver­cargill’s Bert Munro in his suc­cess­ful bid to break the mo­tor­cy­cle un­der­1000cc world record at Bon­neville in Au­gust 1967. His epic run was later made fa­mous in the movie The World’s Fastest In­dian.

The In­dian was not an easy mo­tor­cy­cle to ride, as Her­itage New Zealand’s North­land man­ager Bill Ed­wards can at­test.

“When I was younger I owned, briefly, an Army In­dian Scout 741B. It was only 500cc, and was a very dif­fi­cult bike to drive, with the right-hand throt­tle set for ‘ad­vance’ or ‘re­tard’ to line up the pis­tons prop­erly for ig­ni­tion. It also had a gear stick and a foot clutch. The throt­tle was op­er­ated by the left-hand grip, and oddly enough you had to take your hand off the throt­tle to change gears,” he said.

“Pre­sented with such a com­plex se­quence of op­er­a­tion, I can see how a driver could lose con­trol of the bike quite eas­ily dur­ing a tricky ma­noeu­vre, or even en­coun­ter­ing some­thing a bit un­ex­pected on the open road.”

Whether the com­plex­ity of op­er­a­tion was a con­tribut­ing fac­tor, or whether other fac­tors came into play, the mys­tery of the mis­di­rected In­dian was worth fol­low­ing up.

“Our re­search has touched on the daily lives of men and women in mil­i­tary ser­vice, vol­un­teers and civil­ians, all of whom have shared some won­der­ful sto­ries with us,” he said.

“We’d re­ally love to hear the story of how the driver of this mil­i­tary mo­tor­bike may have taken the thrill of off-road­ing just a bit too far.”

Any­one who can shed any light on the mys­tery is in­vited to con­tact Bill Ed­wards on (09) 407-0471 or bed­[email protected]­itage.org.nz

The Army In­dian Scout mo­tor­cy­cle found in a swamp near Kerik­eri.

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