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1908 Indian Twin 3.5hp

June 2015: A new addition to the collection!

Oliver Hendee, a very successful bicycle racer who established the Hendee Manufacturing Company to manufacture ‘Silver King’ bicycles in 1889, saw one of Oscar Hedström’s motorised bicycles pacing bicycle racers at Madison Square Garden in 1899 and commissioned Hedström to design one for general sale. Hedström was a machinist who had acquired skills in developing and producing internal combustion engines, including redesigning the De Dion-Bouton engine. The two men produced their first prototype Indian motorcycle in 1901, establishing Indian as one of the first production motorcycle brands in the United States.

During the early years, the frame and cycle components were outsourced from Thor and from 1902 the Aurora Automatic Machinery Company produced the engine until production was taken back in-house in 1907. Aurora was permitted to use Hedström engines in its own Thor motorcycles and to sell them to other small manufacturers. Consequently, several companies including Thor, Reading-Standard and Warwick marketed motorcycles that were essentially re-badged Indians.

By 1906 the enormously successful single-cylinder model had acquired a sprung front fork and control of the throttle and ignition timing was controlled by twist grips, making it easier to ride that most of the competition. In 1907 the company advanced on the design by fitting it with a 3.5hp, inlet-over-exhaust V-twin engine in which the rear cylinder formed part of the seat post frame tube as the single cylinder engine on the earlier model had done. In 1908 the problematic, total-loss battery-powered ignition system was replaced with a Bosch magneto.

The hump-shaped fuel and oil tank mounted behind the seat earned it the ‘Camel Back’ name and remained a familiar Indian design feature although from 1906 it held only fuel and a separate oil tank was mounted behind the rear cylinder (or the single cylinder on the single model). A torpedo-shaped tank was fitted along the top frame tube in 1909 to increase fuel capacity. Top speed was estimated to be in excess of 60mph (97kph).

The Camel Back design was a huge market success. By 1908 the Hendee Manufacturing Company was producing more than 3,000 motorcycles per year, having made around 15,000 since their debut in 1901.The Indian brand accounted for a 40% market share during the years prior to the First World War.