Indian Model 841: War Horse
The shaft drive, transverse V-twin Indian Model 841 was Indian’s pitch for the perfect military motorcycle.
Indian built a transverse V-twin and a shaft drive motorcycle for the U.S. Army 25 years before Moto Guzzi made their mark with the same design.
Photo By Phillip Tooth
Moto Guzzi may have made their mark with a transverse V-twin and a shaft drive, but Indian got there 25 years earlier with the U.S. Army Model 841.
In the summer of 1941 war was raging across Europe. German and Italian forces were in control of most of the mainland, with Great Britain and its allies standing alone against the onslaught while also fighting in North Africa. The United States War Department realized there was a good chance that America would soon join the conflict, and they would need more equipment.
As part of war preparations, Indian and Harley-Davidson were told to make as many of their sidevalve V-twins as they could. Indian delivered the government-specification 500cc Model 741 and the Model 640B, a military version of the 750cc Sport Scout, while Harley produced the 750cc Model WLA. They were good bikes, even if the Indian Model 500 was underpowered, but the U.S. Army’s top brass knew Germany was making some of the best military motorcycles in the world — flat twins from BMW and Zündapp. They had been used with devastating effect in the blitzkrieg against France, when motorized troops broke through defenses and kept advancing all the way to the English Channel in less than two months.
These flat twins, or “boxers,” could be used as a solo or with a sidecar and, thanks to their shaft drives, be ridden in the sands of the desert as well as the muddy fields of Europe. In the autumn of 1941, the order went out to Harley and Indian: We’ll give you $350,000 each to build 1,000 shaft drive sidevalve twins for testing and evaluation. MC
Order the November/December 2012 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the Indian Model 841. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email.