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Thread: Harley or Indian?

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default Harley or Indian?

    This may stir some controversy, but here it goes. I am in the market for another old motorcycle and am not sure what to buy. I know what I really want, but I just cannot see paying that kind of money, an Indian inline four.
    My lady wants me to get an Indian Chief for a couple of reasons, one being is she has never ridden one before.
    I do not know if that is a good reason or not, but she is very loving and very great to me, so I guess it is a good reason after all.
    The skirted chiefs look nice, but it would have to be an early one with the leafspring front-end. The engines worry the heck out of me because of the tiny main bearings, tiny crank assymblies, the tiny rods and the rod bearings. I know nothing about the transmissions, but they're 3 speeds instead of 4 speeds. In my opinion, the Harley is a much more robust and advanced bike of the same area, I am talking about the big twins of the same era, overhead valves, 4 speeds among other things like a very proven bike over time. They really did not change that much in almost 60 years, yes they changed a lot, but I think you get the drift.
    So please help me get over the fear of the Indian engines and transmissions. The bike must pull a sidecar, with a passenger on the bike and be able to travel long distances on St Rt road speeds. Is this asking too much? The year range is roughly 1948 down to early 30s, although I really do not like the 48 style frontends because they look like they just hit a tree, but that is just me.
    So is there anything that I should nor should not look for? What are weak links on the 40s bikes?
    Any and all help is greatly appreciated.
    Thank you
    Last edited by ryan; 09-17-2020 at 06:09 PM.

  2. #2

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    Your wife already told you what to do.
    And yes, I'd buy a H-D.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by kitabel View Post
    Your wife already told you what to do.
    And yes, I'd buy a H-D.
    Yeah, I guess you're right.
    This short series, 101-104 shows the Indian engine tore down and that is what scared me of the Indian engine.
    In 103, the shop who brought the engine over did decide to fix the engine correctly.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yJpeucoHXTk

  4. #4

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    In my experience, even very nice women do not forget when you go against their advice, even if she's not consciously aware of it.
    I owned an FDB Sport Scout long ago, loved it.

  5. #5
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    [QUOTE=kitabel;192933]In my experience, even very nice women do not forget when you go against their advice, even if she's not consciously aware of it.
    I owned an FDB Sport Scout long ago

    Quote Originally Posted by kitabel View Post
    Your wife already told you what to do.
    And yes, I'd buy a H-D.
    Boy, you hit the nail on the head there. Another reason she wants an Indian is because she is Comanche and I am half Sauk, that reason I do not care about, but she does for some reason. I have to be able to adapt the bike for me to ride in this way: Not sure how easy it would be to adapt and Indian clutch up to the handlebar, a harley mousetrap maybe? My shifter and throttle also need to be on the same side with clutch on the opposite side handlebar. Also how easy is it to come an Indian reverse transmission, are they any good? I could reverse the bike another way, I'm sure, if they are not out there or they are junk.

    I do know Indian changed the chief engine design for, I think, 1937. How are the chief engines before 1937? I would also like to buy a rider bike, not one that does not get ridden. I do not want the issues that was seen in the video above. I, arbitrarily, do not want to buy a 20k bike that needs a 5k motor and trans rebuild.

    Thank you!

  6. #6
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    Indian went to recirculating oil system in 1933, Harley in 1936-7. But Indian went about it with a half-fast pump design guaranteed to leak-down over time and fill up the lower end.
    Only thing I like about the Indians is that the trailing-like forks ride smoother than H-D's leading links.
    Last edited by Sargehere; 09-18-2020 at 03:20 PM.

  7. #7

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    It may be easier to adapt a 1941-73 H-D 45 3 + reverse transmission (left side primary, right side rear chain) than making a jackshaft. It's not cheap to buy, but pretty strong (handles 700 lb. trike and up to 35 hp engine) and many parts available.
    The 45 clutch is already cable-operated and can go anywhere with a little fabrication. The 45's clutch drum & primary chain is the same pitch as the Chief engine sprocket (#35) but 2 row instead of 4 (?), so you may have to either jiggle the transmission laterally or modify the Chief engine sprocket (find a beat-up Chief sprocket for the hub, grind off the teeth, and use a 45 or Sportster tooth ring on it).

    I don't look at constant-loss oil system as a major problem - the chair carries the extra oil, and the oil is always clean & cool.
    Last edited by kitabel; 09-18-2020 at 06:40 PM.

  8. #8
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    Restorers who have owned both makes tell me the Harleys are better made, with thicker engine and gearbox castings and better quality materials. I see VL/UL engine cases at the shows but rarely Indian ones, and Jerry Hatfield's book Inside Harley-Davidson shows Harleys holding second hand values better than Indians back in the day. Indian have the gearbox drive at both sides, so the bushings wear, while Harley has the primary and rear drives the same side. I'm guessing the overhead valve bikes cost way more than $20k these days, so a VL or UL would be a practical choice. The VL is 3-speed only to 1936, but you also have a strong reverse box which is not in great demand and still out there. For 1936 up you have the optional VL four speed then the new Big Twin box in four speed or three and reverse which is another well designed and rugged unit. 1936-41 you have the eighty inch VH/VLH/UH/ULH flatheads available, and still mostly with 18/19 inch wheels rather than the 16s, and recirculating oil after '36. Maybe there is a 1939-41 UH out there which is not seen as an expensive knuck with the wrong motor. Or you could just do what your wife told you.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Slocombe View Post
    Restorers who have owned both makes tell me the Harleys are better made, with thicker engine and gearbox castings and better quality materials. I see VL/UL engine cases at the shows but rarely Indian ones, and Jerry Hatfield's book Inside Harley-Davidson shows Harleys holding second hand values better than Indians back in the day. Indian have the gearbox drive at both sides, so the bushings wear, while Harley has the primary and rear drives the same side. I'm guessing the overhead valve bikes cost way more than $20k these days, so a VL or UL would be a practical choice. The VL is 3-speed only to 1936, but you also have a strong reverse box which is not in great demand and still out there. For 1936 up you have the optional VL four speed then the new Big Twin box in four speed or three and reverse which is another well designed and rugged unit. 1936-41 you have the eighty inch VH/VLH/UH/ULH flatheads available, and still mostly with 18/19 inch wheels rather than the 16s, and recirculating oil after '36. Maybe there is a 1939-41 UH out there which is not seen as an expensive knuck with the wrong motor. Or you could just do what your wife told you.
    Steve,
    Seeing the Indian engine internals compared to Harley was pretty dishearting to say the least. I need to do some serious research on Indian, which engine holds up the best and what upgrades are don e to make this happen.

    I do have a 1954 fl engine, trans, 1957 frame, wheels and front fender, it will take a while to round up the rest of it. I also have a 1939 el engine and trans which will more than likely become a chopper with parts I have laying around because I will never be able to round up parts for it in a costly manner.

    My mom use to ride a 1929 Indian Scout when she was a kid through high school. The bike was however destroyed.

    The Harley U models are a very good choice. One of the reasons for getting a really old bike is all the year model restrictions on long distance rides we would like to get involved in, but that is just a small fraction of it.

    Thanks for the info on the Harley 45 transmission retrofitted into the Chief, that is great to know!
    Last edited by ryan; 09-20-2020 at 03:22 AM.

  10. #10
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    Mar 2017
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    I do know where there is a 1941 Chief is, it has been sitting in a house since the 80s. The frame, rims and cylinders have some rust pitting, carb laying on the floor, silver paint where chrome once was. He wants 20k for.it. It would take 10k or more to repair it. I think that may be too much for it really.

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