Indian Motorcycles Reveals the Thunder Stroke 111

The new Indian motorcycles engine, Thunder Stroke 111, debuts.

| May/June 2013

  • Sidecar Vintage Chief
    Polaris' new Indian engine is styled after late 1940s Indian Chiefs like this one.
    Photo Courtesy Indian Motorcycles
  • Sidecar Indian Thunder Stroke
    The new Indian Thunder Stroke 111 takes its styling cues straight from Indians of the past.
    Photo Courtesy Indian Motorcycles

  • Sidecar Vintage Chief
  • Sidecar Indian Thunder Stroke

Call it the company that just won’t die, because Indian motorcycles is rising up yet again — and this time it just might stick.

Launched in 1901 by George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom, Indian produced its first V-twin in 1906, three years before rival Harley-Davidson. And while Indian never attained the level of success witnessed by Harley-Davidson, it was the only American motorcycle company to give the Motor Company any real home-grown competition.

Indian quit making motorcycles in 1953, but the dream to revive the company has never faltered. Sammy Pierce tried in the early 1960s, as did Cycle magazine founder and ex-Indian racer Floyd Clymer with his Enfield and Velocette-powered Indians. Various entrepreneurs purloined the Indian name, splashing it on wholly unworthy machines ranging from mini bikes to mopeds. 

The brand got a serious shot at revival in 1998, when the Indian Motorcycle Company of America set up shop in Gilroy, Calif. The Gilroy company initially used H-D clone S&S engines to power its bikes, but it introduced an all-new 100ci 45-degree V-twin, the Powerplus, before it folded in 2003.

That engine was acquired by British private equity firm Stellican Limited when it bought the Indian name in 2004, and Stellican used the Powerplus as the foundation for a new range of Indians that went into production in 2009 at their Indian Motorcycle Company in Kings Mountain, N.C.

Stellican’s timing couldn’t have been worse: Its new bikes went into production just as the global financial crisis hit, and sales of new $32,000-plus Indians were feeble at best. Stellican threw in the towel in early 2011, selling Indian to powersports giant Polaris Industries in April of that year.

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