Bike Find of the Day – 1946 Indian Chief

The 1946 Indian Chief featured a 74-cubic-inch flathead and, new for the 1946 Indian Chief were girder-style spring forks. The new front suspension was originally designed for desert use by the U.S. military during the Second World War.

These new girder layout made the Chief a whole ‘nother machine in terms of ride comfort as it upped the wheel travel to a full five inches as opposed to the shoulder-hammering two inches provided by the previous leaf-spring design.

Indians were the kings of the postwar highways, but they did require an obtuse series of actions to start with the choke, throttle and setting the manual spark advance a necessary sequence to  kick the bikes to life.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about these V-Twin masterpieces is how quiet they are compared to a Harley-Davidson of the same vintage.

Another shocker is trying to come to terms with the left-foot clutch and suicide shifter-school chopper or Harley, you’ll have a learning curve to manage should you decide to buy one. Here’s a typical scenario you might have to deal with to adapt to the Indian Way; you stop a red light which just happens to be on a hill. As you balance the bike with your left foot on the ground and keep the bike from rolling backwards with the right foot brake, you’ll have to lift your left foot off the ground as the light turns green and you want to roll out.

You can likely see the problem here…

As for history, Indian was one of the earliest American motorcycle manufacturers and the company began operation 1901 when former bicycle racer George Hendee decided motorcycles were the wave of the future. The Chief made its debut in 1922 as designed by engineer Charles B. Franklin. Sporting skirted, or ‘valanced’ fenders and a 74 cubic inch engine, the Chief was made to tour in comfort.

  • Engine: 1205cc (73.62 cu in) flathead side valve 42-degree V-twin
  • Power Rating: 40 bhp
  • Transmission: 3 speed gearbox; 4-speed optional
  • Chassis: single tube
  • Wheels: wire 4.50x18in; 5.00×16 optional
  • Suspension: (front) girder forks; (rear) coil compression plunger type
  • Weight: 550lb
  • Maximum Speed: 85 mph

Ready to buy one, check it out here:

1946 Indian Chief in excellent condition. 50 miles on new top end, transmission, clutch, primary, etc. New tires, spokes, paint. Original speedometer, repop ammeter and ignition switch. 12 volt conversion by Indian Frank. Matching numbers frame and motor with clear Ohio title. Tanks, fenders, belt and chain guard have very little or no body filler. In other words this bike is 98% real Indian OEM parts and ready for the road.

One thing to keep in mind if you decide to join the fray and hit the open road on a classic motorcycle like this 1946 Indian Chief; you’ll need to make sure you’re fully insured and that the value of your investment (something on the order of $40,000 for a bike like this) is properly protected.

You can expect to pay something like $50-$100 a month for your “agreed-up value” insurance for a bike like this, so be sure to check out our Comprehensive Guide to buying motorcycle insurance here

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