Engine: F-Head (Pocket Valve) four-stroke V-twin
Displacement: 61 cubic inches(1,000cc)
Ignition: Coil and battery
Brakes: Coaster brake rear only
Transmission: Single speed chain drive
Owner: John Parham
When you think of production racers, you probably picture 600cc Supersport bikes topping out at 160 on the Daytona trioval. But the concept originated a little farther back, with bikes like this 1908 “Torpedo Tank” Indian.
Almost as soon as the Hendee Manufacturing Company began mass-producing Indian motorcycles in 1902, the company went racing. By 1907, motorcycle competition had become a popular form of entertainment throughout the U.S., with Indians dominating speed and reliability contests.
While the earliest machines were powered by single-cylinder engines, Indian built one-of-a-kind V-twins for its race team as early as 1905, and created a twin-cylinder road bike in 1907.
But to keep the brand competitive in local races, where the factory team wouldn’t be on hand, Indian also cranked out a small batch of production racers, starting in 1908.
The bikes, like this machine owned by John Parham of Anamosa, Iowa, previously on display in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio, weren’t as exotic as the factory racers. But they were considerably hotter than the street model, and that was even before this machine got a trick Breeze carburetor and lightened pistons in its 61-cubic-inch (1,000cc) motor.
Indians were the bike of choice for many racers, but Paul J.C. Derkum literally made his name on a 1908 Indian twin like this one. On February 22, 1908, Derkum broke 10 speed records at a one-mile dirt track in Los Angeles—clicking off the fastest time ever for a flying mile, two miles, three miles and so on up to 10 miles.
His achievements were chronicled in newspapers, with one Los Angeles scribe dubbing him “Dare Devil Derkum,” a name that stuck throughout his racing career.
At the time, young men who dreamed of racing could buy this production Indian for $360. It weighed 120 pounds, and, in stock trim, could go 65 mph. All in all, that made it the 600 Supersport bike of 1908.