February 2000 Bike Feature www.virtualindian.org   
Home / Features / Geronimo 1
    Geronimo! -Or how to build a hotrod Chief on a shoestring.
   By Grizzy

Project Geronimo started life on a wet, August, Saturday morning before a grass track race on the Sunday. I was called to arms yet again to weld the frame of a good mate of mine when, as normal at these encounters, a healthy discussion occurred about old bikes. We were discussing The Festival of A Thousand Bikes, which happened the weekend before when the subject of Harley vs Indian came up which was provoked by the display that the Indian Riders had put on.   

A spark of enthusiasm came over him as the jolt of a long-lost memory kicked in. "Dad had some spares for one or the other that he got at an MOD sale of Ford 15cwt 4 X 4’s. I think they are under the bench still.” Now, this ‘bench’ was like no other bench in the whole world! It’s about 10 foot wide and 30 foot long, packed to the gun holes with “that will come in handy one day’s”. Nothing would surprise me as lurking around under the “bench” were such diversities as a 1910 Bean front axle and RAF square fin generator bits!   

With the welding finished, we started digging. “Here it is,” he said. After much searching, a box of rust and furry alloy appeared. “Are you sure that’s engine bits?” I asked. “But of course, old chap!” said my friend in his best Sherlock Holmes voice. “Cop a hold of the top of this box! 1-2-3 pull” he instructed. We did and both had a piece of the box each! The rest of it was a rotten mess on the floor.   

Once all the bits were excavated an assessment was made of the contents. It went something along the lines of  “Well it’s got 2 pots, a V-Twin and it’s a side valve”. We concluded that the best thing for this lot was to make hardcore out of it. “You can have them if you can make use of it” he said. “OK.  Cheers!” I replied. 


Once home, I hosed off and cleaned everything up.  It became apparent that Harley had made nothing like the bits that I had – not that I could find from my various sources of information.  Further investigation showed that the bits in the box were, in fact, Indian.  Discovering this was only the start of my troubles!  

That old 16H head gasket isn’t far off the mark for the bore.  What’s the stroke?  No, it can’t be - 600 per pot!  That makes it a Chief.  I’ll need spares - where the hell do you get spares?!  

Bumping into the magazine man at one of the bike shows, proved a real stroke of luck as he gave me a couple of Indian magazines which turned out to be invaluable.  Some information at last!  

The next thing was to pester everybody I met who had an Indian.  Most of the “advice” came in the form of an offer to take the spares off my hands!  And one thing’s for sure - Chiefs don’t grow on trees!  If I wanted an Indian Chief I would either have to dream on or just go for it.  Sensibility lost out big time.  

This was possibly the most depressing time.  Most quotations for parts were way out of my league even if I went for a bobber style.  The cost of raw parts was just a killer to the project and the cost of restoration - well, forget it!  

In the meantime, my cousin got to hear about my new acquisition and paid me a visit.  “Make a good chopper,” he declared (heathen).  “I wonder if it will fit that old A10 frame you hard tailed for me about 10 years ago?”  

Another shed search later produced the said frame but in a state that can only be described as a spider farm.  We had to burn the cobwebs off with an old newspaper.  However, the engine and gearbox just fell into the frame.  That was it - the die had been cast!  
The engine and gearbox were loosely assembled, lined up with the only wheel available at the time (and the one it still has on the back today).  A turned upside-down Z650 (always knew that Kwak would come in handy one day!) produced a nice, snug fit in the frame.  But the steering rake was set for 5’ springers and it did look pooh - not quite what I had in mind.  

After seeing a few bobbers in magazines and discovering the Chase/Burbeck Chout in Jerry Hatfield’s American Racing Motorcycles, I knew that was the style for me.  

So shorter forks were sought.  Armed with the experience of fitting M21 forks in A10 frames in my chopper days (many moons ago) by extending the headstock bolt, my search began. Elk of Rye came up trumps with a set that have been extended by about 18” for chopper use and a deal was struck to part-ex a set of mid-20’s Druid blades that had been cluttering up my Dad’s shed (I wonder if he’s noticed that they’re missing yet!).   

Another £2 got me a front wheel from a YDS2 Yam at an auto jumble.  So at least a start could be made on running gear.  

Out with a hot spanner, 9” grinder and the welding gear and I set to  work.  All this was done in my cellar, as it was the only place I had to work in that was under cover.  

Serenading the neighbours with a 9” grinder on a Sunday and the smell of welding smoke wafting up the stairs to mingle with that of Sunday lunch really stretched my good lady Natalie’s mettle to the edge!  

Another £2 purchase secured a ‘52, ES2 tank with a dent the size of a fork stanchion in it.  But was OK because I had to take the bottom out of it for future modifications anyway.  

The seat was a bit of a challenge (to say the least).  I filled a rubble sack up with wet plaster and then sat on it to get the shape of my bum.  This was then shaped into a mould and a fibreglass cast was taken of the sordid details.  The springs on the seat are from those god-awful springers that came with the frame.  

The handlebars are 1” CDS, hand formed, as are all the controls.  I wanted all the cables and wires out of sight like a “proper” Indian and also, the traditional left hand side throttle.  The foot clutch, brake and pegs are made from old office furniture; the kick-start quadrant is a piece of road plate welded to 1” bar with a Sportster kick lever on the left.  The quadrant was drilled and filed and then hardened in the barbecue by heating to white hot, plunged into 90% charcoal, 10% salt, re-heated, quenched in old oil and re-heated to temper.  Now we’re starting to at least look like a motorbike type of thing.  

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Geronimo on the street. Click on picture to see full size!
Geronimo on the street!   
Next month 
we'll get a bunch of 
"under construction"
pictures - which should
provide inspiration for
other aspiring Indian
Hot Rod builders...


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Fact File: 
Geronimo was really 
called Goyathlay, was 
an Apache chief, and 
lived from 1829-1909.