MY INDIAN 1941 SPORT SCOUT
The next door neighbor on the corner disappeared shortly after we moved into our new house. I would see him riding into the basement garage on a Honda Silverwing, an older guy, but before I had the chance to meet him, I never saw him again. That was in early summer, and I found out later he had become ill and never recovered, and was dead by that fall. The following spring the house had gone up for sale, and the family was in process of a yard sale to clear the house. The wife had already moved into a retirement apartment home. Everyone had left for the day on Friday, so I went over and peered into the window of the garage to see what was going into the yard sale the next day. I could see the Honda Silverwing, but I wasn’t much interested in another Japanese motorcycle. But in the dim light I could see another motorcycle off to the side with what looked like a springer front end. And then I looked again, and it wasn’t a springer front end but a girder and a v-twin motor, so I knew it had to be an Indian of some sort.
The family was there for the yard sale the next day, and I showed up as soon as they had the garage open. It really was an Indian motorcycle and it was for sale. They had an offer on it for $500, and I immediately doubled the offer and ended up pushing the motorcycle across the yard and into my garage.
I bought a six volt battery that would fit a smaller Honda, and I cleaned out the gas tanks and checked the spark. I kicked my ass off for about two days and never could get the Indian to fire. The son of the original owner brought me the title in a day or so and the Indian Owners’ Instruction Book. I followed the starting instructions in the book and the Indian fired up on about the second kick once I turned the switch on. It belched out a cloud of smoke and sat there running and clattering, but I found that’s about what Indian motorcycles were supposed to sound like. It turned out I had bought a 1941 Indian Sport Scout.
The first time I road it was frightening, because I had never ridden anything with a hand shift and foot clutch, and the throttle in the left grip took some getting used to. But damn, it was fun, and it didn’t take too long to adjust. It was like learning to brush my teeth with my left hand, awkward at first, but I got the hang of it in a few minutes.
That was in 1987. In 1997 I had a garage built and a place where I could work on the Indian. I found a shop in Birmingham, Alabama and a guy that specialized in restoring Indian motorcycles, and I took the motor and transmission to Jim Crocker. The shop looked terrible, but Jim had a dozen or so Indian Chiefs of various years that he was rebuilding and restoring and it looked like he knew what he was doing. I started gathering various bits and parts that were missing from my bike, and started sourcing an exhaust system. I got to know Robin Markey, Kiwi Indian, Matt Blake and about a dozen other people that helped me locate parts and reproduction parts. Yes, just shoot me now, but I used reproduction parts when I couldn’t locate originals. The bad news about a 1941 Sport Scout is they were only built for a few years, and parts of any kind are scarce.
If I had it to do over, I would probably have built a bobber. The Indian I bought didn’t have much in the way of original parts, but damn, it turned out pretty. Jim Crocker did a great job on the motor, and it runs great. Stephen Port did a paint job that I copied out of an Indian Illustrated magazine that’s a copy of a World’s Fair Indian in 1939. Robin Markey’s shop built an exhaust system, which I had chromed at Leonard’s shop in Nashville. Gary Sanford did the final assembly after I puttered with it for several years. There were parts that would have been unavailable if I had started a restoration in 1987, and I had small children and could only spend money on the Indian as I had funds available. The Indian was finally completed in 2010.
My Indian is not a garage queen, and I try to ride it on a regular basis. I soon found out it will quickly get to speeds faster than what you can stop in traffic, so I avoid high traffic situations, but there are plenty of country two lanes not far from my house. There’s much more to the adventure, like the time the battery ran out of water and the Indian quit; a shorted generator, rust in the gas tank, and the great people I have met, but this is the condensed Indian story. But damn, it’s fun riding an Indian, especially one from 1941!