December 2000 Bike Feature
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   Arctic Rat - 1936 Chief
   By Torkel

A few words from Norway.  Id like to present my 1936 Chief. The bike was originally sold in Norway, and has been in this country ever since. At some point in  time it lost its motor, and the owner put in a Harley Davidson motor. Maybe this is what saved the bike, because it was bought by a Harley freak in the 1970's. He took the motor and sold the rest. Eventually I struck a deal with the new owner and got the rolling chassis by trading in a complete Powerplus motor and gearbox.  This was in 1979. A few years later I bought a real bad 1947 motor. This motor had been in a bike that had been dropped in the Arctic ocean at 70 degrees northern latitude. Someone had salvaged the motor and thrown the rest of the Indian back into the sea. Originally these parts were intended to be spare parts for my restored 1937 sidecar Chief. 
Click on pictures for full size
 


Torkel and his Arctic Rat!

Nearly 20 years passed, but in 1997 the idea of repairing this bike struck me. I know how much work it takes to do a good job on a rundown Indian motor, and as the spare parts supply is non-existent in Norway I decided to ship the motor to Motolux in Edinburg. There Alan Forbes helped me out with a lot of parts, and Alans Chief mechanic Rick did a real good job on the motor. 

The rest of the bike I did myself,  and despite the looks it is in 100% mechanical condition. One half of the tank was real rusty, and in the process of repairing it it lost its original patina. A late winter night in my basement I thought about the vikings who sailed across the Atlantic 1000 years ago. In America they met natives as fierce as themselves and they called these natives Skraeling . I found that this would be a good name for a Norwegian Indian. Hence I painted the name Skraeling in runic script on the tank. The legend beneath the big letters are also runes and it reads: Hendee Mfg. Co. Springfield Mass.


What would be more appropriate for a "Viking Indian" than "Skraeling" on the tank!

(and no, Virginia, snow won't cause your Indian to instantly dissolve; what do you think people did in winter when Indians were new, and this was their only transport?)

The bike runs very well. As mentioned Rick did a good job with the motor. The motor is always a first kick starter (After two priming kicks). It runs and idles better than most Indians. In 1999, the first season, I rode it 3000 miles. This year I have been busy, and the  weather has been bad, so I have only covered 2300 miles so far. (1300 of these miles with a KING clutch)
  • The headlamp is a 1920ies Chevrolet with a halogen bulb. 
  • The horn comes from a moped.
  • The handlebars were real bad with sections sawed away, so they have been repaired with plumbers' piping. 
  • The saddle bracket has been slightly modified to bring the seat a little further back. 
  • The luggage carrier I have made from plumbers' piping.
  • One half of the crashbar is made from plumbers' piping.
  • An oilfilter from a Citroen has been mounted on the crashbar.
  • Generator is a 12 Volt Bosch generator from an Opel, with a Baardsgaard electronic regulator (A local "research project", regrettably not for general sale. More generator options here).
  • Mirror was bought at the local HD shop.
  • Muffler was home made by welding together exhaust pipes of different sizes.
  • Top box is a 50 year old suitcase, bought at a garage sale for $3.

There are other ways than "factory correct" restorations to enjoy an Indian! (and my personal opinion is that this bike beats any restoration hands down in the "cool" stakes... Moen)
But there is absolutely no doubt. The bike is a real Indian. It is a bike for everyday use, and it is more comfortable to ride than any other Indian I have tried. All the controls work the way I want them to, and I much prefer the solid feel of the leafsprung prewar Chief compared to the soft and unprecise feeling of postwar Chiefs.

This motorcycle has also got everything Im looking for; personality, charm, reliability, performance, it needs no polish, its easy to maintain, everything. It can keep up with modern traffic, I can cruise at 60 mph, it runs 100 miles between filling up. It has virtually no oilconsumption. With the KING clutch shifting is wonderful. No man can expect more from a motocycle.

The best thing is that when I thunder down a gravel road at 60 mph I let the handlebars go and think that this joy was experienced by someone else on this very machine more than 60 years ago. 

Ive been riding Indians for more than 30 years, and my aim in life is to ride this bike on its 100th anniversary in 2036.


THIS is what Indians are meant for!
 
 
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