Early Indian Motorcycle
The "Indian Motocycle Co." was founded as the Hendee Manufacturing Company by George M. Hendee and Carl Oscar Hedström. Both Hendee and Hedström were former bicycle racers who teamed up to produce a motorcycle with a 1.75 bhp, single cylinder engine in Hendee's home town of Springfield. The bike was successful and sales increased dramatically during the next decade.
1901, Prototype and two production units successfully designed, built and tested. Work began on these in previous years. 1902, First Indian motorcycles, featuring innovative belt-drives and streamlined styling, sold to public. 1903 Indian co-founder and chief engineer Oscar Hedstrom sets world motorcycle speed record (56mph).
In 1904, the so-called diamond framed Indian Single, whose engine was built by the Aurora Firm in Illinois, was made available in the deep red color that would become Indian's trademark. By now, the production was up to over 500 bikes annually and would rise to its best ever 32,000 in 1913.
In 1907, Indian built its first V-twin, and in following years made a strong showing in racing and record-breaking. One of the firm's most famous riders was Erwin "Cannonball" Baker, who set many long-distance records. In 1914, he rode an Indian across America, from San Diego to New York, in a record 11 days, 12 hours and ten minutes. Baker's mount in subsequent years was the Powerplus, a side-valve V-Twin, which was introduced in 1916. Its 61ci (1000 cc), 42 degree V-twin engine was more powerful and quieter than previous designs, giving a top speed of 60 mph (96 km/h). The Powerplus was highly successful, both as a roadster and as the basis for racing bikes. It remained in production with few changes until 1924.
Competition success played a big part in Indian's rapid growth and spurred technical innovation, as well. One of the American firm's best early results came in the Isle of Man TT in 1911, when Indian riders Godfrey, Franklin and Moorehouse finished first, second and third. Indian star Jake De Rosier set several speed records both in America and at Brooklands in England, and won an estimated 900 races on dirt and board track racing. He left Indian for Excelsior and died in 1913, aged 33, of injuries sustained in a board track race crash with Charles "Fearless" Balke, who later became Indian's top rider. Work at the Indian factory was stopped while De Rosier's funeral procession passed.
Oscar Hedstrom left Indian in 1913 after disagreements with the Board of Directors regarding dubious practices to inflate the company's stock values. George Hendee resigned in 1916.