Wednesday, February 8, 2023
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President - Starklite Cycle

Ted Williams Custom Cycle


Ted Williams was out in his red barn of a work shop the other day talking motorcycles ‑ real motorcycles, Indian Motocycle motorcycles..

“Some of these things they’re coming out with today don’t even like a motorcycle at all. One looks just like a chemical toilet to me” he said. “A chrome plated Porta‑Potti.”

That is unlike the Indian, a proud American nameplate that hasn’t been manufactured for a generation but is still beloved and remains Williams’ standard by which any motorcycle is judged —— and to which none measures up.

Williams, 44, big, brawny and intense, his sandy brown hair carefully styled, his fingers as clean and manicured as a banker’s, holds forth in a surgically tidy shop behind his house on the edge of town here, earning his living looking after the health of Indian Motocycles.

“If you’ve got all day and you won’t get bored, sit down and I’ll tell you what it is about the Indian,” Williams said with a smile as he took a breather from modernizing the rear brake on a customer’s 40‑year‑old Indian Chief, the most popular and successful of the Indian models.

In essence, he said, it is the machine’s brute strength, the manly vibration of the giant V‑twin engine, the down‑home simplicity of the engineering, that make the Indian superior, in his opinion, to other makes of motorcycles.

“All the nuts and bolts are just stock items. You can go into any good auto‑parts store and buy spark plugs and other ignition parts. The only thing that’s getting a little hard to find now is tires, but you can still get them if you know where,” he said.

He then told a brief history of the nameplate. The Indian Motocycle (no R) burst onto the scene in 1901, manufactured by George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom in Springfield, Mass.

It earned a place beside Harley Davidson as a leading American brand, going strong through World War II. But. after the war, management lost interest in the big, brute force v-twins and began bringing out new models that were beset by bugs.

English interests acquired control during the crisis, and the last 80‑cubic‑inch, deep‑throated, man‑sized Indian Chiefs were built in 1953. (That is, except that 50 were assembled from parts collected from the dusty shelves of the Springfield factory in 1955 to fulfill a contract with the New York Police Department, and five civilian Chiefs that were turned out in the same batch.)

The English owners tried for a few years to palm off various English machines by plastering them with Indian decals, but American Indian buyers weren’t fooled for an instant by such blatant forgery. The company passed into history, but the good, will among the American motorcycle community lived on and is growing.

Williams estimated that 40,000 Indians remain on the road today out of, the hundreds of thousands that wire manufactured. “But that’s more than there were 10 years ago, and there were more then than there were 20 years ago.”

People keep finding old machines and bringing them back to life, which is where Williams comes in.

He said he grew up working on Indians in his father’s Orange County garage, and after a hitch in the Navy and spells of trying such work as air conditioning repair, he ended up working in a motorcycle shop that catered to the faithful numbers of Indian owners.

Then, four years ago, he and his wife, Maureen., decided to move to rural Sutter County out of Orange County’s smog and crowding. The word got out among owners of Indians, and his trade followed him.

Owners are willing to seek him out for his skill in ministering to the fine old machines, including modifications that cure several fatal flaws in the original design and other changes that increase the engine size up to 95 cubic inches and more to make the old Chiefs dazzling performers.

Williams himself owns three Indians in roadworthy shape, a soupedup Scout of indeterminate age and a pair of 1953 Chiefs, one with a 95‑cubic‑inch engine.

“I had a Harley‑Davidson once,” he said with a note of distaste for the name of the rival make. “I bought it as a basket of parts for $5, put it together, and sold it for $50. 1 didn’t want it. I’m an Indian man.”

Editors Note: Ted Williams is still working on Indians and can be reached at: unkown

The Return of the Iron Redskin


As we follow the travels of the latest Indian Revival, let’s look back at the history of Indian Revivals, with this reprint from 1968.
   INDIAN! That magic name recalls the days when All‑American motorcycles, ridden by Red‑Blooded American men, accepted victory as their due at the Isle of Man TT, the GPs of Belgium and Argentina, the sands of Daytona Beach, and every board bowl and marbled flat track from Reading to El Centro. The distinctive bark of the flathead twin became part of the heartbeat of generations of American boys. There was no other Indian but the red Indian from the Wigwam at Springfield, Mass.,glowing redly, frame sharp black, smell­ing of heated metal and fuel, eager for the challenge of throughway or crooked lane. Indian!
If General George Armstrong Custer himself had been put in charge of the Indian works, the post‑World War II massacre of Indian hopes, plans, production, and racing victory could not have been more complete. The Indian tribe died 14 years ago. Yes, the name limped along with some Britishers masquerading in tawdry beads and trade blankets, but Indian, the Indian died.
Ordinarily, it would be safe to state flatly, “The Indian has gone to the Happy Hunting Ground.”
But has it? Those who decry the passing of the Great Red Motorcycle haven’t reckoned with the greatest Indian agent of ‘em all, Sam Pierce. In 43 years of riding, repairing, and haranguing at length on the real and fancied proclivities of Indian motorcycles, Sam, in profile view, has come to resemble the familiar hook‑nosed redman, emblem of Indian. With longer, darker hair, and some feathers entwined therein, Sam could stand as his own trademark signature illustration for the American Indian Motorcycle Co., his company, the outfit that has breathed new life into the once‑expired Indian.
Yes! Indian lives! Where Spanish Padres over a century ago built a mission for settlement of American aborigines, there now exists a neo‑Indian, an American Indian, built by Sam Pierce’s hands as a prototype machine, tribal leader for the American Indian Motorcycle Co. of San Gabriel, Calif.

There it is, the Indian “Super Scout,” frame black as the inside of a mystic Kiva, tank red as warpaint ‑albeit metalflake red as a concession to modern times and this first of new Indians carries well the echoing names of its forbearers Prince, Chief, Warrior, Scout.
Indeed, the frame is Warrior, drawn from the vast stock of Indian motorcycle frames Sam Pierce has gathered from across the land over the years since ’53. Lithe as its namesake, fabricated of chrome‑moly steel in single toptube, single downtube configuration, the Super Scout frame carries Indian’s own telescopic, hydraulically damped fork forward, and rigid axle mounting at the rear. The fork is fitted with new seals and compound springs ‑ more modem practice ‑ but that rigid rear end is purely Indian. Sam plans to build rigid frame models for those who desire, plunger frame units for those who want them, and swinging arm Indians for the third group, though the latter may be custom fabricated.

“Forty‑five inches, forty‑five horsepower,” is how Sam describes his 45‑cu. in. flathead Indian engine ‑also built from stacks of cylinder barrels, a broom closet full of Timkin crankpins, drawers full of pistons, boxes of bearings, shelves of crankcase castings, and the hodgepodge of American standard thread nuts and bolts that make up the utterly indescribable ordered confusion that comprises Sam Pierce’s one Indian‑a‑day assembly plant.

Indian power need not be solely from 45‑cu. in. engines. For a thousand bucks, plus a few hundred or so more or less, Sam will recreate the Indian of his customer’s heart’s desire. The 30.50 (500 cc), or 600, 825 or 900 cc are available to the latter‑day Indian buyer. The engines are there, new or restored to mint condition, with freshly forged pistons and rods, glinting in the newness that abounded at the Wigwam 30 and 40 years ago.
Among the heads, liners, brakes, wheels, spokes, and tanks, is the collection of transmissions, some removed from defunct Indians, some discovered in a distant warehouse, embalmed in cosmoline, as if preserved especially against the day of resurrection in Pierce’s shop. The prototype Indian Super Scout is fitted with 4.02:1 Scout gearing, driven through the notoriously grabby‑when‑cold Indian assembly known to every schoolboy in the 1930s as the “suicide clutch.”

This left foot operated clutch, in conjunction to a left hand shift lever, complete with aluminum Indian head knob, comprises a gear change mechanism that is classic. Pierce, however, will locate the shift lever to customer taste, or, if present plans don’t go awry, fit more currently conventional left hand clutch, left foot change lever controls. However, Sam clearly regards this modification as something akin to leprosy, something unclean, un‑American, un‑Indian.

The red metalflake fuel/oil tank/seat combination is a molded fiberglass product of Don Jones and American Competition Frames. The sleek unit construction tank/ seat gives the newest of Indians a very healthy, competitive, contemporary appearance ‑ and contributes to the motorcycle’s lightweight, a mere 296 lb. without lighting equipment. Though Pierce minimizes the fact, in preference to redskin red, the tank/seat is available in any color.

Electricals are standard Autolite components ‑American as . . . as . . . as Indians. The chain driven generator for the prototype Scout 11 is clamped to the downtube, forward of the engine. However, if the buyer desires, this unit may‑be tucked neatly under the battery box and gear driven off the rear of the clutch housing. This simply is one more roll‑your‑own feature offered by Pierce’s American Indian Motorcycle Co.
Pierce has combed the U.S., from cliffdweller country to the land of the moundbuilders, for parts. He has bought out the stocks of numerous dealers who once sold and serviced the great red machines.


The answer to that question was laced with exquisite badmouth for the HarleyDavidson Motorcycle Co., its people, and the machines it produces, but when the answer did filter through, it was as clear as human conviction can be. Sam Pierce said: “I aim to build what I think is the best motorcycle ever.”

After that one concise statement, Sam said he believes his American Indian will appeal to the sport rider, the individual who desires a motorcycle that can be flipped end over end and continue on in the brush, or can cruise at 75 mph when called upon for a day’s tour of the turnpikes.

Folding footpegs and riser handlebars, alloy engine mounting plates of Sam’s own design, a hearty mixture of absolutely standard Indian parts, and “$25 per cu. in., with lights, and a guaranteed 100 mph” are part of the Super Scout of the 1960s.

“I’m setting up for 300 machines. I plan to build one a day ‑ and I figure to sell ‘em faster than I can build ‘em. And, I’ve got enough Indian parts to keep all the Indians in the world running for the next 2000 years.”
The old‑time motordrome rider, the flat tracker who showed numerous competitors the hind end of an Indian through a haze of dust and castor oil, exudes confidence that the American Indian Motorcycle, indeed, will live on for 2000 years and that he’ll be around to try for 3000.

The boast is brash. The boast is Sam Pierce. He will turn out 300 American Indian Motorcycles at $1000 per copy.
Even in the shadow of the full‑to‑bursting parts warehouse, the incubator of the new American Indian Super Scout, Sam Pierce, now 54 years of age, is forced into this admission: “I can’t go on forever.”