1939 Indian Scout Racer
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Gary talked to Thuet about the bike, and also learned from racer Ted Evans that the five 1939 Big Base engines were sent to various handpicked riders to compete in Class C racing. Class C was meant to be for the average rider and didn’t allow factory sponsorship of racers or machines. “AMA rules of the time required that 25 bikes be built and offered for sale to the public to meet homologation rules for Class C racing,” Gary says. “This means no ‘specials’ or ‘one offs,’ and motorcycles that were available to anyone.
“The truth is, both Harley and Indian cheated. [Having] their brand in the win column sold bikes. Neither could complain because they were both guilty,” Gary says. In 1941, Indian sent three of the five Big Base engines to the West Coast, where they were placed with Ed Kretz, Jimmy Kelly and Ted Evans. In the hands of such expert racers, the engines proved very competitive.
However, Evans blew his engine in its second race at Southern Ascot in Gardena, Calif., and Indian brought the two remaining engines back to the factory at the end of 1941. In 1942 Kretz received two of the prewar engines, FCI 173 and FDB 381. The first engine, FCI 173, is currently in Kretz’s famous blue and white race bike, while FDB 381 is in Gary’s.
The serial number is significant: “F stands for Scout, D stands for 4, and B stands for 2 [as the motorcycle was given to Kretz in 1942]. The 38 was Kretz’s racing number, and the 1 filled out the three digit number that all Indians have. In short, Scout 1942, Kretz’s racing number 38 and a 1 to make it a legitimate Indian serial number. Remember, these five engines were not legal, and to number them sequentially would be a dead giveaway,” Gary says.
Racing was suspended in 1942, but when the tracks opened again in 1946 Kretz still had the prewar Big Base engines. From his dealership in Los Angeles, Kretz had many top name riders race FDB 381, including Floyd Emde, Jack Horn, Bob Holt and Bobbie Turner. In fact, Horn won the 1947 Daytona 100-mile race, while Holt took third in 1948 and fourth in 1949 with FDB 381. From the archival photos Gary collected, it is evident that FDB 381 has had at least three Indian Scout frames, both early and late style.
The late 1940s and most of the 1950s is when FDB 381 was most competitive, but Kretz sold the bike in 1952 because he had become a Triumph dealer and needed to race the brand he sold.
Shell Thuet told Gary to call racer Bob Nichols about FDB 381, and when Gary talked to Nichols it was suggested he contact Galen Brookins. When Gary spoke to Brookins, Brookins said he had bought FDB 381 from Kretz in 1952. “Jackpot,” says Gary. “This was the first time I knew FDB 381 had a Kretz connection. Galen said he still had the title with Kretz’s name on it. He said he would give it to me when he came across it. I have made a couple of trips out to Galen’s home, but we still haven’t found it.”