March 2000 Column   
    Home / Features / Editorial
  Wired, and Then What? Indian Parts Buyers' Club?
   By Moen
The turning point in my involvement with Indians came when I signed up on one of the mailing lists. Before that, I knew of only a handful of local riders here in Denmark. Finding information and parts seemed near impossible. After "lurking" on the list for a while, and sucking up the free-flowing tidbits of knowledge, I joined the discussion; mostly, it has to be said, with stupid questions, but I found people willing to spend their time answering them. I soon came to know Indian enthusiasts all over the world, parts were bought and traded, and answers were but a keystroke away. For me, this was a revelation. It is amazing how much becomes possible when a group of like-minded people gang up.
From this central notion sprang the VI website and mailing list. There was (and is) a need for a four speed transmission, and we formed a project group to look into just what it would take to make them ourselves, since few originals were available. This first project stranded on cost. While the cases are the same as our 3-speeders, the special top and shifting mechanism would cost over $2000 to have made in a batch of 20, and the gears would add $1000 to this. Next, we looked at another item, almost all Indians need; a drive line shock absorber, and the Power Flow came up as an example. A project group was formed and found out that the original weak spring was a problem, but that it had been solved (by Kevin Flanagan). Then it seemed only a question of getting enough of the other parts made to go around, but sadly the project never progressed much beyond this point. I very much hope it will be revived in the near future as I believe a reliable bolt-in drive line shock absorber for pre-1950 Indians will be a great help for these bikes. Next in line was a modern, but traditional looking, generator and this time we succeeded. With input from the VI project group, Cycle Electric Inc, makers of aftermarket generators for HDs, were able to modify their HD generator into a bolt-on replacement for Autolites, and they are now available for around $200 from your local Indian dealer.
The new VI magazine format has thrown another couple of cards into the game. We are now getting the attention of dealers and manufacturers of Indian parts around the world, and the VI mailing list is growing rapidly. I think the time is right for considering the next step forward.
One of the purposes of the magazine is to spread the word on which parts are available, but there are several things we could do to actively promote the remanufacturing of yet more parts -and perhaps even of "real" Indians, but let's leave that for a while.
To take an example of where we (the contributors and readers of this magazine) could make a difference, German frame manufacturer Jürgen Hecker has repeatedly stated that he is willing to make any Indian frame or forks if he gets 10 firm orders with a deposit. New late Chief or Sport Scout frames are only a coordinated effort in gathering 10 orders away. Estimated retail price for Chief frames is US $1900, rigid Sport Scout frames around $1600, and complete Sport Scout front forks around the same. When the cost of straightening and reconditioning original frames is considered, these prices start to sound like bargains.
Another example is Peter Arundel's aluminum cylinders for Chiefs. Peter is making regular iron replacement cylinders, and modified his patterns for a one-off run of 5 sets of aluminum jugs to test the idea. So far they have proven themselves over 600 miles in his 1938 Chief, and the extra cooling and a weight saving of over 20 lbs sounds great. But Peter don't think there is enough of us out here wanting a set, so he has no plans to start producing them... If he was convinced to do so, my guess at a retail price would be around the same as the $1300-1500 iron cylinders, currently on the market. I haven't discussed this with Peter, but if 10 or 20 people stood up and waved handfuls of dollar bills at him, he might just change his mind.
So why don't we form an "Indian parts buyers' club"?
Or rather, use the existing VI network as a basis. Write me if you are interested in any of the above parts -or other Indian parts, and I will make a page in the next issue, listing of our "10 most wanted" parts and a note of how many of us are seriously interested in buying them. Then it is up to any of the manufacturers to contact us with an offer, which we can examine before parting with our deposit money.
For an initial "10 most wanted" parts list, I'd like to nominate the following:

1) 1940-42 Sport Scout front frame. When the 741 frame and forks, for which patterns are up for sale elsewhere on these pages, are put into production, a 648 Big Base Scout chassis could be built. When Lyle's and Jim's 648 engine cases are ready, we only need transmission cases and oil pumps. Then more or less complete 648 replicas for racing or street can be built off the shelf. So number 2 and 3 has to be:

2) Sport Scout transmission case.

3) 1948-up aluminum oil pump body. These may already be coming, but the prospective manufacturers could do with a little encouragement.

4) Late Chief frame. As we already have all engine parts available, apart from new oil pumps (and the complete 80" engine from Kiwi Indian coming soon), and all transmission parts apart from the shifting tower, the frame is one of the few remaining major pieces of the puzzle.
5) Late Chief rear shock bodies. With these and the frames, new Chiefs can be built, or hopeless baskets or collections of parts ressurected.
I'm sure you can continue the list yourself...

Your humble VI editor,  
or coordinator or whatever; 
executive janitor? 
 More on generators here.
 More on Hecker frames here.
 VI mailing list subscription here.
 More on 648 engine cases here.