Back in 2009, I was at the 'Old Indians Never Die' rally (pictures), and I was looking up websites about it when I found this one.
If you watch the video on this page you'll see a bike referred to a the 'Vindian', a Vincent engine in an Indian frame.
I thought I'd try and find out more about this bike, and that's where the story starts......
Not many bikers know about a specific 250cc V-Twin from INDIAN. We all associate the INDIAN Motorcycles with big V-Twin machines. In 1917, Indian motorcycles had a 250cc side-valve flat-twin engine with the cylinders lying for-and aft, magneto ignition and an outside flywheel. Another 350cc single-cylinder Indian Prince was brought out in 1925 as a counter blast to the small English machines, which were beginning to gain a foothold in the American market. It was a more successful model than the Light Twin and was evidently the outcome of a close study of several imported machines. The engine had a detachable cylinder head. The Prince was not very fast, but it was reliable and the Australian rider Vic Barclay broke a couple of intercapital records on one. Then came the 216cc single and 433 parallel twin which were introduced designed for the Indian factory by two Dutchmen named Stockvis. Later on the Stockvis brothers went to the States and became involved in the new Indians which were a costly failure partly because of their low performance and the fact that they were too highly built to be reliable. And also partly because to buyers loyal to the brand, these bikes didn't LOOK like Indians. At the same time, the Vincent was also beginning to penetrate the U.S market following its capture of the American speed record. In 1948 when P.C. Vincent was conducting a sales campaign in North America, he met a very suave gentleman who happened to be the head man in the Indian Company which was by then in very low water. An English businessman named Brockhouse, who owned a number of engineering companies, was anxious to obtain a controlling interest in Indian, and the upshot of discussions by the three was that if the Vincent unit could be fitted in the Chief frame without much alteration, the result would be a very saleable machine with financial benefit to all concerned..
After the legal issues were sorted out, a Chief was shot over to Stevenage and as a preliminary it was road tested. Its 580 pound weight seemed enormous compared to the 450 pound Rapide and while it could attain 88 mph for a short distance, the sustained maximum was only about 80mph. After removing the engine and sawing off some unwanted frame parts, the Vincent unit fitted in like a kernel in a nut. Engine plates were used instead of the standard cylinder head brackets and the existing foot boards and break pedal were retained but some cross-over linkage had to be devised in order to use the near side heel-and-toe clutch pedal as a gear change pedal. The dynamo remained in the original position under the saddle and was belt-driven from a short shaft and pulley.
The conversion job took only a couple of weeks and although the finished article was not much lighter than the original, the performance was vastly improved. Top speed went to 104 mph and it was as fast as it used to be in top. Changing gear by foot instead of by hand improved acceleration. Everything was in sync and to cope with the increased output, orders had been doubled and material was beginning to come in. But the money promised, failed to materialize on the grounds that the plant and stock did not provide sufficient asset backing. Vincent had thus been wangled into an intolerable position with the possibility of an enforced liquidation and sale of the factory to the highest bidder. As it was, the Indian Co. was forced to sell an insignificant 250cc model to keep going at all finally the company was acquired by Associated Motor Cycles in 1953 and the history of the famous company founded by George Hendee, came to an end.
However, that's not the end of the story......
In late 1949, at the request of Indian President Ralph Rogers, the Vincent HRD motorcycle company of England installed a 61-cubic inch (1000cc) Vincent engine in a Chief frame. The “Vindian” would be an Indian Chief with a Vincent Rapide engine.
It was believed the market could support the sale of 30 Vindians and 20 Indian-Vincents a week. A blue Chief was then shipped to England so Vincent’s engineer, Phil Irving, could begin the development.
The problem with this ambitious plan was that it would require a huge capital investment, and with both companies unable to support this venture in the current climate, the only prototype that was completed and test ridden had the motor removed and the Indian sent back to America.
So with three black and white photos of the original prototype in hand, a replica Vindian was underway by club member Peter Birthisel who completed the bike in 2007. The bike was built to be an exact copy with original parts to stay true to the prototype.The motor was sourced by a local Bundalong man, Max Vipond who was well known in the Vincent world. Lindsay Urqhart and Jim Parker were involved with the project as were a few other club members, and neighbours. The 48 Chief frame had to go through some major alterations to fit the motor, so many hours were spent of pulling the motor in and out of the frame to make the adjustments to not only the frame but tank and every other part that had to be shifted or remanufactured to suit the Vincent motor. The Vindian has now travelled over 6000 miles including the Scotland/ Ireland tour of 2009, and many local club rides.
After riding the bike, I feel that if the two companies had completed the original project, the bike itself would have been a success, as it is not only comfortable, but a very reliable bike to ride in today's conditions.