August 2000 Soapbox
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   New Indians?
By Moen

New Indians?? Why, all of a sudden, am I going on about the "New" Californian "Indians", when I have been known to snort derisively and turn my head away whenever that subject cropped up?

Well... I'm not quite sure, actually. Apart from becoming sort of a fact of
life for even the most stubborn refusers among us, consider this if you

There is no doubt that the current Harley clones are a stop-gap measure, even if replacements seem to drag out. If the current bikes keep selling, and they apparently do, sooner or later the Gilroy, CA manufacturers are bound to feel the need for updating the range. All along there has been talk about this happening "soon", so it seems safe to assume that this really is their intent. These people are shrewd marketers, if nothing else, and the concept of "brand development" can not be strange to them. Meaning, in plain words, that they want to keep moving to continuously come up with something new with their name on to buy.

So even if a large majority (?) of us VI readers consider their present offerings an insult, or at the very least are indifferent towards them, who knows what we may feel in, say, five years. Lots of things could have changed by then, and one of them could be the kind of new and current bikes carrying the headdress tank decals.

What will these bikes be? It's probably safe to predict that they will still be large "cruiser" style bikes, and that they will have as strong links to the pre- '54 Indians as possible. There's no sign of the interest in old motorcycles fading any time soon, and "Real Indians" are powerful icons.

Your guess is as good as mine on this (or maybe better...), but I hope they will come up with uniquely new solutions and not some half-assed copy of the real thing (like the Kawasaki Drifter or, indeed, like their current models). In the long run that will be the only way to gain a loyal following. A good example of this is the modern Triumphs. They are nothing like the old ones, and especially not caricatures of the old ones! They are very good, modern motorcycles who happen to have a famous name. This is the kind of setup where you could have an old one for Sunday trips and fun, and a modern one for zooming across the continent. A pretty good deal. You wouldn't confuse the bikes with one another, even if they carry the same name on the tank, but like each of them for what they were.

In Indian's case, new models along this line of thought could replace the HD's some Indian enthusiasts have for serious touring (yeah, I know you can tour seriously on a Real Indian, but I trust you catch my drift). That would be clever marketing. As things stand now, and as they could develop, if the current line of thinking in Gilroy prevails, I doubt that very many owners of Real Indians would consider buying a tarted up HD clone with fat fenders as their "serious" bike.

There have been rumors of Gilroy skunk works projects, and some of them speak of prototypes with actual Real Indian parts used, presumably to evaluate the possibility of incorporating modern day versions of these parts on the next range models. This might, with a lot of goodwill and positive thinking, possibly lead to less offensive concepts (it's hard to beat the current one in that respect...), but I fear we may end up with girder forked HD TwinCam 88 bikes instead!

Things could go in a whole other direction too, however. 

Consider the massive funding the New Indian Co. has. Then consider the genuine Indian businesses, of whom we know and depend on. A few of them might be "big", but not in the modern corporate sense. Yet they have almost managed between them to make every part needed for complete reproduction '46-'53 Chiefs available. And then, consider all of that in the light of the astronomical cost of developing a whole new range of motorcycles.

Compared to that, getting the parts and know-how together to build true replicas of Real Indians to go alongside a new range would be peanuts. If Gilroy did that, they would have both the "old" and the "new" Indian trade secured.

Could the complete reproduction Real Indians, we have been talking so much about, end up coming from Gilroy, California?

 Your humble VI editor, 
or coordinator or whatever;
executive janitor?
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