CAPTION: Wayne (the Indian guy) has enough Indians to raid a fort. His approach to restoration varies from minimal (in the patina department) to major (in the engine rebuild and frame-cutting department). His enthusiasm for Indians is contagious and the contents of his shed is to-die-for.

THERE’S a shed tucked away in the hills on the outskirts of Perth, Western Australia, where everything old is new again, and everything new is old.

The private collection of Indian motorcycles and memorabilia is akin to a living museum, because a slow but steady stream of magnificent machines come and go — sometimes because the man who owns the shed has sold one or bought one, and sometimes because people who know him have brought in their incomplete, broken or newly-acquired machines for repair, restoration or modification.

And occasionally, a bike comes in the door for some work — but doesn’t leave.

The man at the centre of this shed is a likeable, softly-spoken guy by the name of Wayne. People in Western Australia’s vintage and classic bike community know his full name but, if they are talking about him and there’s any doubt, they will say: “You know, the Indian guy.”

For the uninitiated, the Indian Motocycle (no ‘r’) story stretches back to before the dawn of biketime. In 1897, an American bicycle racer by the name of George M. Hendee started the Hendee Manufacturing Company, building a range of bicycles. One of those bikes was initially sold as the “American Indian” and, later, just plain “Indian”.

In 1901, George hired Swedish-born designer and fellow racer Oscar Hedstrom to build a petrol engine to power a small number of bikes, mostly to be used as pace bikes for bicycle racing. The 1.75 horsepower single-cylinder engine proved reliable and powerful and, predictably, George and Oscar quickly saw the business potential.

CAPTION: Oscar Hedstrom with the first Indian.

George and Oscar sold their first motorcycle to a paying customer in 1902, built their first V-twin in 1906, took out the first three places in the Isle of Man TT in 1911, and by 1913 sold 32,000 bikes in a single year — making Indian the biggest-selling motorcycle company in the world.

Their two most successful models were the Scout, a smallish (up to 750cc) sports bike used in racing (most famously, perhaps, by Kiwi Burt Munro of The World’s Fastest Indian movie fame), and the Chief which was more of a highway bike with a seriously big engine. Both model names have been dusted off by Polaris for the 21st Century Indian line.

Indian’s glory days came crashing down after World War II and, in 1953, the company went bust, leaving Harley-Davidson as the only surviving American motorcycle manufacturer.

CAPTION: The first bike I ever owned was a red two stroke Indian 70, exactly the same as this. I didn’t think it was as cool as all my mates’ Honda XR75s and YZ80s, and every time I hit a good-sized bump the Dellorto carby fell off. I should have kept it, of course. The bike was really an Italian-made Moto Morini, rebadged as an Indian. This one of Wayne’s is awaiting restoration. Everything in good time …

The Indian name subsequently was stuck, painted and bolted onto a whole lot of bikes, from two-stroke Italian-made minibikes to cloned Harleys and rebadged Royal Enfields, until giant American snowmobile manufacturer Polaris bought the Indian name in 2011 and resurrected the brand as a global force.

Polaris had already made a start in the motorcycle cruiser market with a line of well-made and beautifully finished ‘Victory’ motorcycles, but they could not compete with Harley-Davidson in the showroom. The Indian name gave them an instant entree to American motorcycle history and, in 2017, the company gave up on the Victory brand and turned all its two-wheel attention to Indian.

Wayne (the Indian guy) says the new Indians “aren’t real ones” and, not surprisingly, his collection of bikes and bits is almost exclusively pre-1953.


CAPTION: Wayne’s modern-day Dark Horse takes many design cues from the original Indian machinery. “It’s not a real Indian,” Wayne says “but it’s great to ride.”

A modern-day Indian Chief Dark Horse stands in contrast to all Wayne’s vintage machinery. “The bike was written off after a crash,” he says. “I picked it up for a good price and got it back on the road. It’s great to ride!” (We rode a Dark Horse last year, and thoroughly agree. See our ride report here.)

The Dark Horse isn’t the only bike that came into Wayne’s world under unusual circumstances.

One, a 1948 Roadmaster Chief that was first used by the New York Police Department, was a surprise 50th birthday gift from his wife Linda and daughter Abigail. (Me? Socks and undies. Thanks for asking. * See disclosure.)

Another, a 1953 Chief, came in for modification and never left. “The owner had bought the bike but couldn’t come to grips with the hand-operated gear change. He wanted me to convert it to a foot-change. I wasn’t keen. In the end, I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse — I bought him a brand new Indian Chief, and he gave me the old one. We were both happy with the deal!”

We recently visited Wayne’s shed, our trusty Nikon camera in hand, and were given a guided tour of his collection. Here’s some of what we saw …

CAPTION: Most of us presume bikes as old as original (pre-1953) Indians are slow and fragile. Not this one. It’s commonly referred to as a “Chout”, being a Chief / Scout hybrid. It’s a stroked and cammed up 1944, 1340cc Chief engine in a 1927 Scout frame. “I raced it a couple of times at the Albany hill climb,” Wayne says. “My best time was 42.31 seconds, which wasn’t bad.” With reproduction engine parts readily available (well, provided you know where to look) even old Indians like this one can be ridden hard without fear of catastrophe. Frame and ancillaries on this beauty retain an old-as-the-ark patina, maintained with regular applications of WD40.
CAPTION: We’d barely started our tour of Wayne’s collection when his next-door neighbour Jim rolled up — on a 1928 Scout 101. It looked positively prehistoric. (We didn’t need to ask where he’d bought it.) Like all the old Indians, the throttle is on the left grip, ignition advance is on the right, clutch is at the left foot, and gearshift is via the gearstick operated by your right hand. Reckon you can do all that in a hurry? Concentrate! The 101 Scout is one of the most sought-after of the early Indians, famed for legendary handling and made famous as the “wall of death” bike in the USA back in the day. Patina on Jim’s bike was perfect …
CAPTION: … as was the numberplate.
CAPTION: Trouble starting? Unscrew the plunger from your fuel tank, squirt some petrol into the combustion chamber, give ‘er a kick, and away you go. They don’t make ’em like this any more …
CAPTION: A 1934 Chief Bobber. Check out the gearstick.
CAPTION: This lovely Chief is the bike that came into Wayne’s shed for some modification but never left. Wayne restored it to its former glory and it’s now one of his most prized possessions. The ‘Eighty’ badge on the tank signifies an 80 cubic inch (1300cc) motor, the biggest fitted to any of the original Indians. The 80 motor was first produced in 1950, three years before the company went under, but Wayne believes this really was one of the last. “The bike was first owned by the Rhode Island Police and, based on the serial number, was most probably built in the last week of production,” he says.
CAPTION: Another little two stroke Indian, this one a 50cc variant.
CAPTION: So what did you get for your 50th birthday? Socks? Movie tickets? A nice bottle of red, perhaps? Wayne got this, from his wife and daughter … sigh. If you Google ‘vintage Indian Roadmaster’ you’ll find plenty of information on the modern incarnation of the original. We rode one late last year (read our story here), complete with an electric windshield, GPS and a marvellous stereo. There are no such luxuries on this marvellous beast, but it does have leather saddlebags, resplendent with studs and tassels!
CAPTION: This is where it all started; Wayne’s first Indian. He found this 1926 600cc Scout in two main bits — the engine had been driving a windmill for eons, the frame was eventually located in a shed a few miles away — near the West Australian goldfields town of Cue in the 1980s. Where’s Cue, you ask? Well, it’s a bit over an hour south-west of Meekatharra. Meekatharra is the town that then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser’s wife, Tammy, called “the end of the earth” on an official campaigning visit in 1977. Clearly Tammy had never been to Cue. (Cue had a population of 178 in the 2016 Australian Census, down from the 10,000 in 1900 at the peak of the gold rush. Locals are waiting for the next gold rush, but they might be better off scouting around for more old Indians.) Love that rear seat.
CAPTION: Wayne fired up this 1923 Scout for us without much ado, and she settled to a confident idle. Note the leaf-spring front suspension and sprung seat. Sheer luxury. A friend of Wayne’s found this bike in Wiluna in the early 1970s, and traded it to Wayne in return for “a couple of engine rebuilds”. Where’s Wiluna, you ask? Well, it’s near the start of the Gunbarrel Highway, about five-and-a-half hours east of Cue. I asked Wayne if he thought there were many more old Indians rotting away in station sheds out in the West Australian outback. “Don’t think so,” he said. “I think we got ’em all.” (Incidentally, I would tell you where the name ‘Wiluna’ comes from but, since this is a family website, I won’t. Google it.)
CAPTION: Another 1928 Scout 101. This one belongs to one of Wayne’s friends. Wayne rebuilt the motor, as part payment for the ’23 Scout above.
CAPTION: Not every bike in Wayne’s shed is wearing old clothes. This 1941 Scout 750 Bobber is schmick. (The bike in the background is a Honda CT125 cleverly disguised as an Indian. It was a stunt bike in the movie ‘3 Acts Of Murder’, where it impersonated the 1928 Scout.)
CAPTION: An Indian Papoose is folded away on a shelf. The Papoose was a World War II paratrooper bike, designed to be thrown out of an airplane with troops. When they all hit the ground, soldiers would fold out the extended handlebars on the Papoose, fire it up, and ride off into the sunset. (We all should have one in our sheds, just in case.)


Roadmaster test ride

Dark Horse test ride

The ultimate Vincent collection

* Disclosure. In the name of full disclosure, I  didn’t only get socks and undies for my 50th birthday. I also had a six-week holiday in Italy with visits to the Piaggio (Vespa) museum (story here) and the Moto Guzzi factory where I got to see Otto, the most famous Guzzi of all time (story here). But I didn’t get a vintage Indian.

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Peter Terlick