The Star Power of Steve McQueen’s 1942 Indian Sport Scout

This 1942 Indian Sport Scout may have belonged to Steve McQueen, but it’s still a motorcycle, and motorcycles are meant to be ridden.
By Greg Williams
March/April 2013
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Steve McQueen bought this particular Sport Scout in 1975 from Indian parts and restoration legend Bob Stark, proprietor of Starklite Indian in Riverside, Calif.
Photo By Gary Phelps
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1942 Indian Sport Scout
Claimed power
: 22hp
Top speed: 80mph
Engine: 45ci (745cc) air-cooled sidevalve 42-degree V-twin, 2-7/8in x 3-1/2in bore and stroke, 7:1 compression ratio,
Weight: 500lb (227kg)
Fuel Capacity/MPG: 3.5gal (13.2ltr)
Price then/now: $435 (1942)/$25,000-$40,000 

At their core, motorcycles are nothing but steel and rubber, gasoline and oil. It takes people to fire them to life, people to remember riding them, to share their stories and keep the fires burning. Sometimes, those individuals have a degree of notoriety, and their fame imbues a motorcycle with an aura it might not otherwise have gained.

Such is the case with just about anything ever owned by the late actor Steve McQueen, who was, among many other things, a passionate motorcyclist. Motorcycles McQueen collected have long commanded a premium, but what does his previous ownership really bring to the equation?

“McQueen was a cool cat,” says Daniel Schoenewald, current custodian of this 1942 Indian Sport Scout from McQueen’s former collection, “and the McQueen provenance certainly escalates the value, but in the end, it’s a motorcycle that was meant to be ridden, and in the 12 years I’ve owned it, it’s always been running and ready to ride.”

Bikes ready to run at a moment's notice

Ever since he was a young teen living overseas, motorcycles have been an integral part of Daniel’s life. His parents were both from Casper, Wyo., and his dad was a geologist for Mobil Oil. Born in Anaco, Venezuela, Daniel was 6 when the family moved to Tripoli, Libya.

“My first ‘bike’ was a Sears Allstate-badged Puch moped. It had belonged to my older brother’s friend and had not been running for three years,” Daniel explains. “My dad bought it for me, probably to shut me up. It hadn’t run in a while, and he had no mechanical ability or interest. His jaw dropped with surprise when he saw it running for the first time. I am sure he had no inkling that I could make it happen.”

That same year while playing in a baseball game, Daniel watched a friend of his doing donuts on an old BSA M20. He dropped his glove and walked off the field to investigate the machine. “That bike was the most amazing thing I had ever witnessed, and I wanted to be a part of this magical new world,” he recalls. “My friend’s father worked in the oil fields in the Libyan desert,” Daniel continues. “He traveled to the rigs in a DC3 that was part personnel carrier and part cargo plane. He amassed quite a few old messenger bikes that were blown up or abandoned during World War II. I became the lucky recipient of one of these and took guidance from my new mentor, Harry, known affectionately as Mr. Freeman. Thus began a lifelong passion for motorbikes; I wonder where my baseball glove is?”

Today, Daniel is executive vice president of Los Angeles-based Advanced Motion Controls, a high-tech electronics company building servo drives. He is also a consummate motorcycle collector, with a stable of 107 interesting machines, all of them displayed on the mezzanine level in his office/production building. Officially, it’s the Schoenewald Collection & The Lehmann Motorcycle Foundation.

It’s not necessarily rarity or value that attracts him. He loves riding, sharing the thrill of motorcycles with his friends — and creating his own stories. “I don’t buy bikes so much for me to enjoy, to say ‘look what I have but don’t touch it.’ No. They should be shared and appreciated, and every one of my bikes is ready to run at a moment’s notice,” Daniel says.

The Indian Sport Scout calls

First introduced late in 1919 as a 1920 model, the Scout was powered by an all new 37ci (600cc) sidevalve V-twin. Designed by Charles B. Franklin, the Scout quickly earned a reputation for reliability and was a sales success. The Scout engine was enlarged to 45ci (745cc) in 1927, and Franklin designed a new chassis to surround the powerplant. This became the Model 101 Scout, with an extended wheelbase, lower saddle height and larger fuel tank. Favored by enthusiasts, the 101 Scout lasted only until 1931.

In 1932, Indian introduced all new motorcycles, including the larger Chief. To create the new Scout, Indian bolted the smaller 745cc engine into the heavier and taller Chief frame. Sacrilege to some, the new Scout did not have the handling or the appeal of the 101. Perhaps to atone, Indian introduced the Sport Scout in 1934, endeavoring to recreate some of the 101’s magic.

The Sport Scout’s new rigid “keystone” frame, where the engine is a stressed member, was, according to Jerry Hatfield in Indian Motorcycle Restoration Guide 1932–1953, a mistake. “Across the Atlantic, the old loop-style frame had yielded to the keystone-style frame by the late 1920s. By the time the Sport Scout came out in 1934, the keystone frame was being abandoned by the British and European factories in favor of the cradle frame — exactly the type Charles B. Franklin had introduced on the original Scout back in late 1919!”

Indian attached a lighter, English-style spring girder fork and more streamlined, gracefully curved fenders to the new frame. Still, the new Sport Scout weighed 385 pounds, some 15 pounds more than the 101 Scout. Indian continued to produce the Scout engine in a Chief frame, calling that model the Standard Scout, until 1937.

Little else changed in Sport Scout specification until 1940, when Indian introduced their now trademark fully skirted fenders. The 1940 Sport Scout continued with a rigid rear frame, but was treated to increased fork rake and a lower saddle height. Cylinders and cylinder heads were restyled and given more cooling fins.

Indian added plunger-style rear suspension, with the rear axle moving on coil springs, to the Sport Scout in 1941. Introduced in 1940 on the Chief and Four, it added a serious weight penalty to the Sport Scout, which now weighed 500 pounds.

By the time 1942 rolled around, most of Indian’s manufacturing was dedicated to military needs and the Sport Scout ceased production, making McQueen’s Scout one of the last. The only civilian model built during the war years was the larger Chief, which continued postwar, although the prewar Sport Scout did not. In 1948, Indian built a special run of 50 Daytona 648 “Big Base” Scouts, aboard which racers such as Floyd Emde and Ed Kretz proved successful.

Steve McQueen’s 1942 Indian Sport Scout

Steve McQueen bought this particular Sport Scout in 1975 from Indian parts and restoration legend Bob Stark, proprietor of Starklite Indian in Riverside, Calif. The story Daniel has is that McQueen was no stranger to Stark’s shop, where the Scout was being restored. When it was finished McQueen wanted it, but haggled over the price. Stark wouldn’t budge, however, and McQueen finally paid his asking price.

The Sport Scout, with its art deco lines, was meticulously restored but deviated from standard with the fitment of a Harley-Davidson saddle. “At that time, when Japanese motorcycles were all the rage, the Sport Scout was an old American machine that didn’t quite yet have classic status,” Daniel relates. “I think, for Steve, that Indian was really two motorcycles. Firstly, it was an American machine that allowed him to go down the highway and be Steve McQueen or every man; he could blend in with Joe Public. Secondly, Steve knew the Sport Scout was a rare machine. Most people weren’t collecting these motorcycles.” This Sport Scout is particularly rare because it was built as a civilian model at a time when most of Indian’s production was for the military.

McQueen’s Scout is fitted with optional 16-inch wheels, which at the time allowed the fitment of large “balloon”-style tires. Standard fare would have been 18-inch rims front and rear. The left foot actuates the rocker-style clutch, and a left hand lever shifts the 3-speed gearbox. The rear drum brake is operated by the right foot, and the front drum brake by a right hand lever. Throttle is a right handlebar twist grip, and ignition advance and retard a left hand twist grip.

The McQueen auction

McQueen died in 1980, and four years later a large portion of his collection was sold at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas during the McQueen Estate Auction Nov. 24-25, 1984. Many of McQueen’s motorcycles and cars, and other objects such as radios, pedal cars, leather saddlebags and vintage gas pumps, were sold to the highest bidder. One of those bidders was a doctor from Orange County, Calif., who noted prices of every object sold in his sale catalog. He bid on and won the 1942 Sport Scout. It’s unknown whether the doctor used the motorcycle at all or simply displayed it, but in 1993 he sold the Indian to renowned collector Otis Chandler. Chandler, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times from 1960 to 1980, displayed it at his Vintage Museum of Transportation and Wildlife in Oxnard, Calif., which he opened in 1987. Daniel lives in Camarillo, just next door to Oxnard, and visited the museum as often as possible.

“I fell in love with it when I first saw it,” Daniel says of the Sport Scout. “Like Steve, I too succumbed to that beautiful art deco machine. I never met Steve, but I know the feeling he had when he first gazed at the Scout in Bob Stark’s shop those many years ago.”

Daniel and Otis discussed the McQueen Indian many times. If Otis was going to sell, Daniel was prepared to buy. When Otis finally called Daniel in 2000 to offer the machine, and gave his asking price, “I told him it wasn’t worth what he was asking, and I gave him a price I’d be willing to pay, and not a penny more,” Daniel says. There were two more conversations, and Otis finally accepted Daniel’s bid.

When he arrived to pick up the Indian, Daniel handed over a check written for the agreed amount, but shy just one penny. “Just looking at his body language, I could tell that one penny was an important detail to Otis, and I thought, ‘uh oh, I just screwed up this deal.’ But then he kind of relaxed a bit and said ‘Sold,’ with a chuckle,” Daniel says. Included with the deal was the doctor’s auction catalog, which on its cover bears the signatures of Terry and Chad McQueen, and Bud Ekins. He also got the bidder’s paddle and letter of authenticity for the Sport Scout.

The Scout showed just 468 miles on it when Daniel bought it. He changed the oil and the battery, and the Indian fired right up. He and his friends have since added a little more than 1,000 miles to the Scout, and Daniel clearly isn’t afraid to use the McQueen bike. Once, while traveling down the Pacific Coast Highway, the head of one of the engine’s four valves separated from its stem. Daniel rode the Indian home, running on one cylinder. A friend disassembled the head, and within two days the damaged pieces had been removed and replaced, and the Sport Scout was back on the road. That’s the only issue he’s ever had.

And while he’s proud of the McQueen connection, that link to notoriety is also just a little bit irrelevant to Daniel — he’s a rider, and the machine was built to move. MC 


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