Alan Cathcart rides a hand-change hotrod
Alan Cathcart road tests a 1936 Indian Sport Scout Racer.
Engine: 745cc air-cooled side-valve 42-degree V-twin
Claimed power: 40hp @ 5,000rpm (est.)
Top Speed: 100mph (est.)
Weight (w/oil): 370lb (168kg)
Price then/now: $300/$20,000-$35,000 (stock)
They don’t come much different than this: Compare the fire-breathing, high-barred Kawasaki that Will Harding manhandled to fifth place in the AMA Superbike Championship back in the mid-1970s and the 1936 Indian Sport Scout that Harding raced to serial success in AHRMA events, complete with hand-change, foot clutch, girder forks and just 40 horsepower from its side-valve V-twin engine.
And yet, one was arguably the product of the other, for the Indian was in every way America’s first Superbike, the dominant motorcycle of early AMA Class C racing, which began in 1934 as a direct response to the hard times of the Depression.
The early 1930s saw the near-collapse of motorcycle racing in the U.S. Indian and Harley both had to drop support of professional factory race teams because of the dwindling number of tracks and reduced available budgets. Indian built just 1,667 motorcycles in 1933, compared to an average of 8,000 bikes a year through the Roaring Twenties. With one-third of the workforce — around 15 million people — unemployed by 1932, it was a wonder that any form of motorcycle competition survived at all.
But survive it did. Faced with this economic crisis, the AMA created Class C racing to permit club riders to race on stock machinery at limited cost by modifying their street bikes within a strict set of rules. The early rules even stipulated that competing bikes had to be ridden to and from each race meeting — it was forbidden to tow or haul them. MC
To read about the history of the Indian Sport Scout Racer and view more color photos, order the March/April 2011 issue of Motorcycle Classics. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email.