Indian Revival: Kiwi Indian Motorcycles, Inc.

Kiwi Indian keeps vintage Indians on the road by supplying parts and expert help.

  • It’s in the details: Kiwi Indian’s 1939 Chieftain Indian replica looks like the real thing, but closer examination shows usable upgrades like a front disc brake and electric starting.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • A fantastic 1941 Indian Dispatch-Tow, recently restored by Kiwi Indian.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Mike Tomas does customs, too. The “Hendee-Deviant” took third in its class in the 2012 AMD World Championships in Sturgis, South Dakota.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Mike’s “Round the World” 1944 Indian Chief is a rolling test bed for new parts.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Gas tanks line the shelves at Kiwi, ready for the next build.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Engines coming together at Kiwi Indian and a new cast head stock (shown) ready to become part of a Chieftain frame.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Mike recently returned this nice barn find 1948 Indian Chief to running condition, keeping it looking as found. It’s now for sale.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Kiwi Indian’s replica 1953 Indian Chief. The disc brakes are about the only visual clue it’s not an original machine.
    Photo by Robert Smith

Though the last Springfield Indian left the Massachusetts factory in 1953, the iconic brand lives on more than 60 years later — though it did, over the years, keep some questionable company.

First came Britain’s Brockhouse Engineering, who kept the brand alive by distributing Royal Enfields rebadged as Indians, also selling their Corgi minibike as the Indian Papoose. When Britain’s AMC bought Royal Enfield in 1960, the company also acquired the Indian name and started selling Matchless motorcycles with model names like Apache, Tomahawk and Arrow. When AMC itself went bust in 1962, American entrepreneur Floyd Clymer stepped in, selling a variety of small motorcycles under the Indian name until his death in 1970. The last of the Clymer Indians was the Velocette-powered, Italjet-built Indian 500. There followed a string of Taiwanese-built 2-strokes sporting the Indian name, including mini-bikes, through the 1970s.

It says much for the strength of the brand that it survived these ignominies, retaining sufficient value to be worth investment into the 21st century, first by California Motorcycle Company (the “Gilroy” Indians); and then by U.K.-based turnaround specialists Stellican in 2006, (producing the “Kings Mountain” Indians in North Carolina). Both of those efforts failed, but Indian’s future now seems secure with solid investment and national distribution courtesy of Polaris Industries, which bought the brand in 2011 and started manufacturing new Indians in 2013.

That’s great for fans of the Indian brand and its heritage, and it means a whole new generation of riders can buy a new Indian. But it doesn’t help owners of classic and vintage Indians needing parts and expert help. That’s where Mike Tomas of Kiwi Indian Motorcycles, Inc. in Riverside, California, comes in.

Kiwi Indian

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