Put to Pasture: 1948 Indian Chief Roadmaster

This lovely 1948 Indian Chief sidecar rig was restored in the 1980s and still wears all its period-correct accessories today.

| July/August 2016

1948 Indian Chief
1,212cc (73.6ci) air-cooled, 42-degree sidevalve V-twin, 82.5mm x 112.7mm bore and stroke, 5.5-6.5:1 compression ratio (depending on tuning), 40hp @ 4,700rpm (standard tune)
Top speed:
85mph (est.)
Linkert M344
3-speed handshift, chain final drive
Weight (w/out sidecar/dry):
550lb (250kg)
Seat height:
31.5in (800mm) w/Chum-Me seat
Fuel capacity:
3.7gal (14ltr)
Price then/now:
$800 (est.)/$15,000-$40,000 (w/o sidecar)

It was 1945. The war in Europe was almost over and America was winning the war with Japan. After 10 years of the Depression and four years of war, America was looking forward to prosperity and peace. Soon, Johnny would be marching home.

After years of privation and giving it all for the war effort, factories would soon be converting from war work to consumer goods production at a breakneck pace. Ralph Rogers, a businessman and former executive with Cummins Diesel, saw an opportunity. The returning veterans would need reliable, inexpensive transportation, and he was convinced he could sell it to them.

Setting the stage

The 1944 GI Bill meant millions of ex-GIs would be going to school, while others would go back to the jobs they had left before the war. Many GIs were introduced to motorcycles while serving in Europe, and a lot of them wanted to get a two-wheeler as soon as they were demobilized. Rogers figured these veterans would want small, modern motorcycles similar to the motorcycles they had seen in Europe.

bike on highway

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