The Vindian: Part Vincent, Part Indian

Part Vincent, part Indian — could it have saved both companies?

| November/December 2013

1949 Vindian
Claimed power:
45hp @ 5,300rpm
Top speed: 105mph (est.)
Engine: 998cc air-cooled 50-degree V-twin, 84mm x 90mm bore and stroke, 6.8:1 compression ratio
Weight (dry/est): 550lb (250kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4.5gal (17ltr)/35-40mpg

What would you get if you married the fastest motorcycle available in the late 1940s with the most iconic cruiser of that time? The answer is the bike you see here — the Vindian.

It’s the frame and cycle parts of an Indian Chief, with a 1,000cc Vincent V-twin engine bolted under the tank. But would it have sold enough to knock Harley-Davidson off the top of the sales charts in the 1950s? Would it have sold well enough to save Indian? We’ll never know for sure, but the builder of the bike on these pages is convinced it could have.

Tough times

By 1948, Indian Motocycle Company was in trouble. To bolster revenues, Indian had become the U.S. distributor for Vincent, Norton, AJS, Royal Enfield and Matchless motorcycles. Ironically, Indian was spending a huge amount of cash on the development of its new “Dyna-Torque” line, designed to compete with the British bikes. Meanwhile, the full-fendered heavyweight Indian Chief, with its outdated 80-cubic-inch (1,311cc), 42-degree V-twin sidevalve engine and 1930s streamlined styling, was losing sales to Harley-Davidson’s new OHV “Knucklehead” series. Dealers were crying out for a new Chief. How to update the image?

In 1948 Philip Vincent, owner of the British motorcycle company bearing his name, visited the U.S. seeking to kickstart sales of the Vincent brand. The brass at Indian appreciated that Vincent’s 998cc, 50-degree V-twin engine with constant mesh 4-speed transmission offered an answer to the Chief’s aging problems. As compared to the Chief’s current engine, the Vincent offered higher power output and a more compact design. A power unit transplant would provide a machine with significantly higher top speed than the Harley. Handling and braking would be adequate, and for a rider who wanted even more, perhaps Vincent could offer an Americanized version of its complete motorcycle, outfitted with tasseled seat and cowhorn bars? The British factory would be happy to build 50 more engines a week for Indian.

The original Vindian is ancient history now, and like much history, there are multiple stories of how it came to be. According to most accounts, Vincent received a 1948 Chief rolling chassis from Indian, shipped from the U.S. to the U.K. with no engine or transmission, and immediately began installing the Vincent twin engine in the frame. Other accounts say that Indian sent a complete bike, which was road-tested before work began.

10/23/2014 11:49:25 AM

I thought Mr Floyd Clymer was involved in the "Vindian" I unfortunately just parted with my "C" series unrestored Black Shadow after 47 years of ownership. Like good health and my beloved Vincent "all good times must end!" ( I would never have sold "Her"for any price, if I was still fit to ride "Her" I am sure it's gender was female. ) All the best to all riders! Ride all the days you can whilst your fit enough, you won't be able to "bring yesterday back!" Sincerely, Bobzilla911

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