Military Mission: 1942 Indian Model 741

Part of the collection at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California, the World War II-era Model 741 was Indian’s primary military motorcycle.

| September/October 2019


1942 Indian Model 741

Engine: 30.5ci (500cc) air-cooled sidevalve V-twin, 15hp @ 4,800rpm
Top speed: 60mph
Carburetion: Single carburetor
Transmission: 3-speed, foot-operated clutch with hand-operated left or right shifting, chain final drive
Electrics: Battery, coil and breaker points ignition
Suspension: Girder front with adjustable friction damping, rigid rear, spring-mounted seat
Brakes: Drum brakes front and rear
Tires: 3.5 x 18in front and rear
Weight: 456lb (205.5kg)
Price then/now: $480/$8,000-$17,000

To better understand the Indian Model 741 U.S. Army World War II motorcycle featured here, we need to start with a bit of background.

Note the foot-operated clutch and the hose from the air filter to the carburetor on the left side of the engine.

During the years preceding World War II, Harley-Davidson and Indian emerged as the two main U.S. survivors in an industry that earlier in the century consisted of hundreds of motorcycle manufacturers. The post-Depression, pre-World War II U.S. motorcycle market was in terrible shape due to the advent of mass production and low-cost automobile manufacturing. Motorcycles had fallen out of favor as basic transportation. Harley-Davidson and Indian both catered to the police and civilian motorcycle markets, but sales were very low. When the Army asked Harley-Davidson and Indian to develop motorcycles for military use, neither manufacturer was in any condition to support a massive buildup. Indian was operating at about 5 percent of capacity, much of its equipment had been sold during the Depression, and that which remained was old. Indian was in terrible shape and might have gone out of business; Harley was only a little better.

The military need

World War II changed Harley and Indian fortunes even before U.S. involvement. The armies of other countries needed motorcycles for their war efforts and that fueled sales for both companies. Indian sold 5,000 Chiefs to the French. Here at home and as the U.S. was swept into World War II, our Army recognized a need for military motorcycles. Motorcycle-mounted military police could lend order to road marches and mass movements of men and equipment; military motorcyclists could get in front of advancing units for reconnaissance. The Army needed motorcycles, and that resulted in a specification to define what the military bikes should be.
8/23/2019 6:53:06 AM

Interestingly enough, there is a Model 841 on display at the Liberty Aviation Museum, Port Clinton, Ohio. I was aware of the Model 741, but it came as a total surprise that Indian had manufactured a Moto Guzzi style motorcycle. Unfortunately there is not a picture of the 841 on their web site, but the museum is well worth a visit.

The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5.00 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $29.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $34.95 for a one year subscription!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter