1905 Indian Single Camelback Bike Find of the Day
1905 Indian Single Camelback
This beautifully restored 1905 Indian Camel Back single cylinder motorcycle represents an superb example of Indian’s first model designs. It comes from the fifth year for Indian Motorcycle production, and if you find one in your dad’s barn, please let us know. We’d be happy to provide you with a couple thousand dollars to take it off your hands and free up some much-needed space to store your collection of AMC Pacers…
The problem here is, that as good as this one would look parked in your shop, all the hard work and the fresh paint will have limited the actual dollar value of the bike to collectors.
Only 1,698 Indian Camelbacks were produced and this model was one of the first ever real motorcycles. With its single cylinder 2.25 horsepower engine capable of reaching a top speed of 30 mph, the machine was most notable for its use of a chain drive and its distinctive rear-mounted gas tank.
The engines were produced through subcontractor Aurora Automatic Machinery Company between 1902 and 1907, and when the model proved a success on the market, Indian pulled manufacturing back in house. The frame and various other parts were out-sourced to Thor during the early years of production.
It was on variants of this early model that riders of Indian bikes went on to win America’s first endurance run in 1902 and the first long-distance track race which followed a year later. The appearance of the torpedo-shaped gas tanks most common on early Indians starting in 1909 was preceded by this hump-shaped tank mounted behind the seat, thus the ‘Camel Back’ name was applied to these early models.
Oddly enough, if you find one in a barn, don’t make the mistake of restoring it to the condition of the one pictured here. According to the experts in the field of classic, antique and collectible motorcycles, a complete restoration of the bike would severely limit the amount of money you can get for one on the market.
“These motorcycles are in such demand because of their condition, and to restore them actually takes value off,” said a Bonhams spokesperson. “These motorcycles should probably be ‘oily-ragged’, which means wiping them down with oil to preserve them as they are.”
Check on that rusting, bicycle-looking contraption leaning up against the wall in the barn one more time as auctioneers see gold hidden in the Indian Camelback models yet to be found.
“These motorcycles have never really reduced in value,” says Bonhams, “If I filled a whole sale with them they’d all go for good prices.”
How good are those prices?
An unrestored version would be expected to sell for somewhere around $75,000, and at that price, there’d be no shortage of potential buyers…