October 2000 Bike Feature 
Home / Features / Doug's 346
   The Story of a 46 Chief Restoration
By Doug Dinicola

Back in '69, wow, am I starting to sound like my dad or what? Anyway, I had two unrestored Indian Chiefs; one was running the other not. The Easy Rider movie was out and so were the clunky old man style fenders on my Chief... Later, after an accident, I bartered them for a front end. So, having chopped the '47, I rode it a couple of years, and then had the accident that stopped my riding for thirty years. 

Since that time I had a dream about the Indian motocycle I would have some day, but every time I woke up I was a little dissapointed that it was just a dream. Well, thirty-odd years of dreaming came to an end when I purchased a '46 Chief from a large Perris, California dealer, who sold me what could only be discribed as a pice of running junk. The cases were wrong, the tanks were leaking, all the bearings were gone in the wheels etc. Indian fever, like buck fever, made me do strange things that I would never do under normal situations.

The leaking tanks were repaired by the dealer but upon my restoration Wymond Walkem, who did the new paint you see in the pics, saw that the tanks were still leaking and repaired them at no charge to me, thanks Wymond. 

Prior to the restoration I went to a guy who did my '47 thirty years ago; I must say that engine ran great. However, after six trips to his sloppy upstate New York barn and a lot of wasted dollars later, I decided to rip the bike apart and do it myself. With a little help from Mike "Kiwi" Tomas, Jerry Greer and John Bivens, I was able to restore it to a riders bike, as I had determined that was what I wanted.

The first thing was a lot of coffee cans and bins, second, a lot of grunting and wrenching to get them into cans and bins. Next the frame and all the parts to be black were sent to the powder coater. All the areas where the surfaces had to be clean of paint were discused beforehand with the powdercoat company, Rainbow PC of Long Island, NY. 516 5864019. The sheet metal went to Walkem's Cycle of Norval, Ontario, Canada. 905 877 6775. The engine went to Bill Manton, master machinist and engine builder of Long Island, NY. 516 798 2178. His prices come from this planet, not from outer space like so many other engine builders. 

During the waiting period I collected part that I felt needed to be new. Being that I was going to ride it, I wanted the bearing surfaces and axles to be new so if I rode hard I would have no worries. 

Waited about a month and finally recieved the parts and frame back from Rainbow, went right to work on the frame. I froze the new neck bearings upper and lower and cleaned the inside of the neck, they went in quite easily. The next step was to flip the frame on its side and install new seat post bushing and new seat post as my old one was shot. The center stand and the side stand were next.

Ahhhh! The front end, truly a test for the amateur restorer, this is where I threw my first of many wrenches at the basement wall. Finally after six hours of rockers and links and bushing and those hard to fit springs, I finished the front end, now it was starting to look like something. By the way, this bike was built the old-fashioned Brooklyn, NY way -on a milk crate! While I waited for the sheetmetal I worked on the hubs, installing new bearings and neoprene seals from Kiwi Indian who then got the job of installing the spokes to Hallcraft chrome rims. 

I did not trust UPS to deliver the sheetmetal from Canada, so I conned my next door neighbor Jim, also a biker, into coming with me on a little ride. After nine hours, in three-hour shifts we arrived at Walkem's Cycle. The owner, Wymond gave me a lot of help on the electrics. I had converted a 6V Indian generator to 12V, but he told me if my intention was to ride long distance then go to a 12V 65 amp HD generator. So, he turned down the clamp and the pully to fit the HD genenerator. I now have over 11,000 miles on it. I run a halogen headlight and have had no problems and plenty of light. Finally when Wymond brought the sheetmetal out I couldn't have asked for a better job, it exceded my expectations. 

So in the course of 22 hours, I had my painted parts and a quick visit to those famous waterfalls of Niagra. Back home in Staten Island I began to do the final assembly and realized how easy everything went together because of the pre-fitting I did when the sheetmetal was unpainted. 

After the bike was together I waited for the engine, Bill built his own dyno and my engine was the first one to be run on it. It was great to hear it come to life on the stand, now it was ready for the bolt up to the frame! 

Enlisting the help of my friend Steve (by the way, you need a lot of friends to build one of these bikes!) we were able to install the engine. 

Next the controls and the cables were hooked up and I was finally ready for a run. On a cool day I fired it up in one hot kick, off I went and in that one moment of motion all the work paid off, the dream became a reality, riding my own Indian Chief after a thirty-year wait. All my thanks to Mike and Steve at Kiwi Indian, and Jerry Greer and John Bivens as well as Bill Manton and my friends, without all this project might not have happened.

Happy Trails, Safe Ride. Doug

Click on pictures for full size



Taking the Chief apart

Coffee cans...


Front end

Leaky tanks

Parts for powder coating

Fitting sheet metal before paint

Wymond Walkem paint job!

Back on the road
(note; the seat and bags in this picture are for sale on the ad page)

Home  -  Features  - Archives  -  Back Issues  -  VI Network  -  VI Mailing List  -  Contact VI