Two Big Indian Chief Motorcycles

Big Indians

| September/October 2006

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    It’s all in the details: Jim Parker’s crew pays close attention to every part in a restoration, making sure everything works as it’s supposed to. Owner Chris Eves may not ride his restored Chief much, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t ready to run at a moment’s notice.
    Photo by Frank Kletschkus
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    Whether Jim Parker’s original Big Chief or Chris Eves’ restored Chief, both Indians are a visual feast.
    Frank Kletschkus
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    Jim Parker’s 1928 Indian Big Chief is a rare survivor. Original down to almost the last detail, its patina of age gives it a presence no restoration, no matter how well executed, can ever match. And as long as Jim owns it, it’s going to stay just the way it is.
    Frank Kletschkus

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How do you like your old motorcycles – restored to concours condition or in their work clothes showing the wear and tear of a hard life?

It’s New Year’s Eve and the Golden Nectar is flowing down Aussie throats like it’s the last chance to quench a thirst for another 12 months. It is just 15 minutes to midnight when one of the crowd in the Bundalong Tavern in Bundalong, Victoria, points up to the rafters and says: “Look at that old Indian. I bet you couldn’t make it run in a hundred years.”

Now, Jim Parker knows his Indians. He’s built up quite a reputation as Australia’s foremost restorer of Indian motorcycles, and this cobwebbed relic was one of his beauties. Just because it had been strapped to the roof joists since 1999 didn’t mean it wasn’t a runner. All it needed was a drop of go-juice. “Get me some petrol,” shouted Jim as he clambered on a table and climbed into the saddle. “This is going to cost you a round of beers!”

Someone returned with a Jerry can from the back of a Ute, filled a beer glass and passed it to Jim. “Go on, give her a drink!” yelled one of the boozers. Jim unscrewed the filler cap and poured in the gas, gave the 1,200cc Big Chief full choke, retarded the manual ignition control, cracked open the throttle and swung through two priming kicks. Then he booted the old Indian. There was a belch of smoke from the exhaust, then another. The crowd fell silent.

“More petrol! I need more petrol!” shouted Jim, and a second glass was poured into the tank. Another couple of priming kicks and then the big one. The clock chimed midnight as the Big Chief roared and the crowd whooped and gave a huge cheer. Happy New Year!

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