El Camino

Dec 9th 2021

In order to keep growing, one has to move out of their comfort zone. We know Indian Thunder Stroke engines, we’ve been building around them for years, but for this project we wanted to use as many stock vintage 1946-48 components as we could. It was a new type of challenge, not one of high performance and shorter lap times, but one of heritage and history.

We located an original fork and crashed, bent, original 1946 Chief frame from our good friend Mike at Kiwi Indian, a perfect donor for the project. These vintage stock frames have castings for the neck and frame joints that were connected with straight steel tubes, tack welded and brazed together, which meant we were able to grind off the tack welds then heat up the joints to melt the brazing and easily disassemble the stock frame. The modern engine is much larger, so we modified the stock castings a bit to get the correct angles needed. Some of the stock joints wouldn’t work due to the angle changes and different motor mount locations so new chromoly versions were made and aged to match. We then fabricated a swingarm and added suspension, replacing the original plunger system with this that would radically improve handling.

In the end, the bike represents the best of two very different worlds. It’s custom, it’s creative, it looks like a WWII-era Indian, but it’s reliable, starts with a button, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to ride.


 

We have set out to tackle another full frame-up custom Indian Chief build. We invite you to follow along the build of this new bike have named “El Camino”. Just like the 3 custom Chiefs we have built in the past, we always like to challenge ourselves and never skin the cat the same way. All of our previous builds, using modern Indian Thunderstroke 111 powerplants, have had completely unique, one-of-one chassis, suspension, bodywork and components. We like to push ourselves out of or comfort zone and this new build is no different.

We wanted to see if we could pull off building this new bike using as many stock vintage 1946-1948 Indian Chief frame components as possible. Plus add a swingarm to smooth out the ride and make this bike really rippable. Vintage rear plunger suspension is complicated and no matter what, doesn’t work that well at modern highway speeds. We built a modernized version of plunger suspension on the last build “The Mescalero” but it was a chopper so it was meant to be a little sketchy. We expect this “El Camino” to handle great and be able to shred through traffic and canyon roads.

We located a crashed, bent, original 1946 Chief frame from our good friend Mike at Kiwi Indian that was a perfect donor for us to use. These vintage stock frames have castings for the neck and frame joints that were connected with straight steel tubes. They were tack welded and brazed together so, we were able to grind off the tacks then heat up the joints to melt the brazing and easily disassemble the stock frame. The modern engine is MUCH LARGER so we have modified the stock castings a bit to get the correct angles needed for the new powerplant. Some of the stock joints wont work due to the angle changes and different motor mount locations so, we are making news chromoly versions and hammering them to look like original castings.

We located a crashed, bent, original 1946 Chief frame from our good friend Mike at Kiwi Indian that was a perfect donor for us to use. These vintage stock frames have castings for the neck and frame joints that were connected with straight steel tubes. They were tack welded and brazed together so, we were able to grind off the tacks then heat up the joints to melt the brazing and easily disassemble the stock frame. The modern engine is MUCH LARGER so we have modified the stock castings a bit to get the correct angles needed for the new powerplant. Some of the stock joints wont work due to the angle changes and different motor mount locations so, we are making news chromoly versions and hammering them to look like original castings.

Kiwi Mike also had a 1946 stock Indian Chief fork that he was willing to part with and we rebuilt it with a new bronze bushings that he keeps in stock to keep these vintage Indians on the road. Reproduction vintage stock gas tanks and seat bracket also came from Kiwi and we were able to harvest the stock ’46 seat pivot bracket to use on the new frame as well.

RSD Traction flat track race wheels with quickchange rear hubs and TT front brake hubs, with modern Galfer wave floating rotors should offer great stopping performance. Mix that with Dunlop’s new 19” K180 DOT approved flat track tires and the stance is starting to look proper to us.

 

This has been fun build so far and we all get more and more excited each day as the pieces fall into place. We are excited to keep you all updated as we get further down the road with this project. Stay tuned.

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