Year Built: 1905
Engine: Inlet-over-exhaust valve single
Horsepower: 1 3/4
Front Suspension: Sprung “cushion fork”
Weight: 115 pounds
Transmission: Single speed, chain drive
Ignition: Coil and dry-cell battery
Brakes: Rear coaster brake only
Owner: Mort Wood
Life was good for the Hendee Manufacturing Company in the early 1900s, and this motorcycle is part of the reason why.
It was the heyday of early motorcycle transportation, and George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom were building a name for their Indian machines. With basic chassis designs derived from Hendee’s bicycle-building experience, and motors drawn from Hedstrom’s self-taught engineering skills, Indians were winning the market.
For that, thank the partners’ first design, created in 1901 and marketed in 1902.
Hedstrom mounted a single-cylinder motor into a bicycle-style frame, using the cylinder as a seat tube. Displacing 13 cubic inches (213cc), the engine featured a mechanical exhaust valve and an atmospheric intake. Hedstrom’s carburetor incorporated an unusual feature for the day: You could regulate speed.
The motorcycle was just what the public wanted, and the pair’s fledgling company sold 143 the first year, doubling sales every year thereafter. In one of its catalogs, the Hendee Manufacturing Company explained its thoughts on the steady sales growth:
“This evidence, this marked evidence, of the spread of the gospel of motocycling—of Indian Motocycling—is, naturally, most gratifying. It indicates that the public is awakening to the practicability of motocycles, to the utility and exquisite pleasure which they hold…’’
By 1905, the year Indian built this single, previously on display in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio, sales were brisk enough to justify some refinements to the design. Engine power was boosted a half-horsepower, and a twist-grip throttle and sprung “cushion fork” were added for a road-going weight of 115 pounds. Top speed was 25 mph. Price: $200.
In time, other changes would come for Indian, including a 38-cubic-inch (633cc) V-twin and other models that would help the company’s output top 32,000 units for 1913. Unfortunately for Indian and motorcycle sales in general, by that time, Henry Ford’s mass-produced automobiles were cheap enough to replace two-wheelers as the vehicle of choice, and the world would never be the same.
But in 1905, life was good on an Indian single.