Motorcycle Classics

The Indian Wrecking Crew: An American Dirt Track Story

Reader Contribution by The Motorcycle Classics Staff

The Indian Wrecking Crew, left to right: Ernie Beckman, Bobby Hill and Bill Tuman. Photo courtesy John Holman

The post-World War II American racing scene was unlike any other before or since. With the war behind them, Americans started shifting their focus from the struggles in Europe and Japan to life back at home. Four years of war had left Americans hungry for diversions, and motorcycle racing kicked back into high gear. The amateur race scene, fueled by the emergence of AMA Class C production-based racing in the 1930s, exploded after World War II, drawing a new roster of riders, many of them fresh from the military.

Three of those riders became known as the legendary Indian Wrecking Crew, a trio of racers who tore up tracks across the U.S. on their Indian “Big Base” Scouts. Some 10 years in the making, The Indian Wrecking Crew: An American Dirt Track Story chronicles the racing careers of Wrecking Crew members Bobby Hill (1951 and 1952 Grand National Champion), Bill Tuman (1953 Grand National Champion and the last Indian rider to win an AMA Grand National No. 1 plate), and Ernie Beckman, (winner of three AMA Grand National titles and the last racer to win a Grand National Race on an Indian Scout). From the late 1940s through the early 1950s, their incredible successes on the track, racing and winning on machines technologically rooted in the 1930s, propelled them into the record books and the AMA Hall of Fame.

They were family as much as friends, logging 60,000-mile years crisscrossing the country to race their handshift, hard tail Indians against increasingly more modern Harley-Davidsons and British BSAs and Nortons. Along the way, they became three of the most famous riders of the postwar era.

Produced by former AMA dirt track rider John Holman, The Indian Wrecking Crew: An American Dirt Track Story combines period motion film (a few scenes are artfully recreated in a grainy, faux period style) with contemporary interviews of surviving Wrecking Crew members Hill and Tuman to tell the Wrecking Crew story.

Interviews with Beckman’s son Ernie Jr. and other period racing icons including Harley riders Joe Leonard, Paul Goldsmith and Dick “Bugsy” Mann, and Norton racer Dick Klamfoth and others help complete Holman’s compelling profile honoring three of the greatest men to ever turn a wheel on a track. If you have even the slightest interest in the postwar era of American dirt track racing, you need to watch this film. $24.95 plus shipping. MC

  • Published on Apr 5, 2016
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