Indian Motorcycle® History

The History of Indian® Motorcycles

Indian® Motorcycles is one of the most iconic motorcycle manufacturers in the country. With a signature deep red color and an iconic headdress logo, few bikes have such a striking and distinctive profile. Fans of classic American motorcycles covet these bikes—they like the classic bikes for their vintage appeal and the contemporary versions for their modern performance. Whether you’re a new rider looking for a bike that has some heritage behind it, or you’re an experienced rider who has always wanted to ride one, Indian® Motorcycles are as amazing as ever.

So how did Indian Motorcycle® become one of the most iconic motorcycle brands on the market? Read on to learn their story, and if you want to take one for a test ride, call us here at Indian® Motorcycle of San Diego.

Founding Years

In 1901, a former competitive bicycle racer and engineer named George M. Hendee founded Hendee Manufacturing Company in Springfield, Massachusetts. The company originally built bicycles, but Hendee had an idea for building an engine that could be strapped to one of his bicycles to turn it into a motorcycle. He built a prototype, and over the next year, he developed the prototype until it was ready to be released. Hendee teamed up with another engineer and former bike racer named Oscar Hedstrom, and they released their first full motorcycle in 1902. Their first factory racing bike was released a few years later in 1905 and it featured a powerful V-Twin engine.

Racing Success Leading to Commercial Success

Having two former competitive racers leading the way, Indian Motorcycle® formed a team and began to race their bikes competitively. It was in 1903, only a year after the release of the company’s first model, that chief engineer Hedstrom set the motorcycle land speed record at 56 mph. The more the company won in the racing world, the faster their bikes sold. Then, in 1911, the Indian Motorcycle® factory team took the top three spots at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, a road race that pitted teams from around Europe and America against each other on a small island off the coast of Great Britain.

The win at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, in combination with many other wins, helped cement Indian Motorcycle® as the most popular motorcycle brand in the United States. They continued to be the largest producer of motorcycles throughout the 1910s.

The War Movements

In 1917, the world was at war and Indian Motorcycle® was ready to contribute to the war effort. The company sold the majority of its bikes to the U.S. government. Unfortunately, this led to a massive shortage of bikes to sell domestically, and Indian® dealerships started to either closedown or sell other brands.

This shortage of bikes was a major obstacle for the company, which never quite regained its pre-war stature.

Up until 1928, Indian Motorcycle® was technically still the Hendee Manufacturing Company. They renamed the company Indian Motorcycle® Manufacturing Company in 1928. They would go on to be only one of two motorcycle manufacturers to survive the Great Depression. It was during this time that they would release two bikes that would go on to be their most successful models of all time, the Scout and the Chief. But even the amazing success of these bikes couldn’t forestall the financial blows they had taken during this period, and the company shuttered in 1953.

Indian Motorcycle® in the Modern Era

Over the next few decades, several companies would buy the trademark and sell their versions of Indian Motorcycle®, but it wasn’t until 2011 when the company was purchased by Polaris Industries that the brand would come back in full force. Today, Indian Motorcycle® offers ten contemporary motorcycles. Some of these are based on classic Indian Motorcycle® designs, while others take the iconic design elements and work them into totally new bikes. The company also developed the new Thunder Stroke 111 engine to give their new bikes astonishing power and torque. Climb on a contemporary Indian Motorcycle® and you’ll feel the power and attitude that comes with being one of the most legendary motorcycles on the planet.

Ready for a test ride or to experience our amazing showroom? Stop by Indian Motorcycle® of San Diego today.