Sunday, January 07, 2018

1949 - the end of the Indian and Vincent motorcycle companies... but I didn't know until reading this, that Indian killed Vincent like a drowning man pulls a lifeguard under.

The year 1949, the Indian Motocycle Company, beleaguered on several fronts, was circling the drain mostly (entirely) due to finances.

The president of Indian was envisioning the future of motorcycling, and realized it belonged to lightweights, like the Japanese manufacturers would confirm in a few short years. Getting lightweight Indians into the market would give Indian an advantage over the British bikes (due to import fees)

His Torque series motorcycles were six months delayed leading to a loss of income, plus the manufacturing costs were double the estimated costs, and the deathstroke was the British currency getting devalued

Indian invited the Vincent Company to visit and the two company presidents devised a concept to create a blend of the Indian Chief and the Vincent motorcycles. The compromise would have helped Indian with a modernization of the venerable Indian Chief with less investment funds, and also would have helped the Vincent by supplying engines.

 The plan entailed two prototypes; one would be a Chief with a Vincent engine installed and the second would be a standard Vincent Rapide customized with Indian parts recognizable to the Indian faithful. The proposal would supply 50 units of the former prototype, the Vindian, per week and the delivery of 20 units per week of the latter prototype, the Indian-Vincent.

Well Indian never followed through on the plan, leading Vincent to enter into receivership due to purchasing materials for the business plan that would never happen.

Vincent engineer, Phil Irving took on the project of the Indian and Vincent combinations. He completed the Vindian project within a month of hard work, fitting the engine from a Vincent Rapide into the 1948 Chief.

The bike was road tested and following the necessary photo sessions, the project was dismantled, the Indian put back together and returned to the U.S. The second project entailed the blending of Indian parts to a 1949 Vincent Series C touring Rapide. The Indian-Vincent wore a Delco generator and regulator, a 1940 style fender light, a stock Indian tail light and headlight, an Indian ignition/lighting switch, stoplight switch, dimmer switch and horn. This prototype used a later die cast kick starter cover and timing cover which had Vincent on the cover instead of H.R.D.

The president of Indian resigned due to mounting internal pressures, and in December, Phil Irving also retired from Vincent. Irving was presented with the Indian-Vincent, now stripped of its Indian parts which he mounted his Blacknell sidecar full of this tools and moved to Australia.

 Irving rode the "Vincent" until 1953 when he traded it for a Vauxhall Wyvern sedan. Then the Vincent disappeared until 2001. It came into the hands of the current owner who started to recognize that certain parts weren't correct when he learned the true history of this very special motorcycle. Pieces of the motorcycle which had been modified for the fitting of Indian parts still remained, and correspondence with Phil Vincent's son-in-law confirmed that his Vincent was the actual prototype for the Indian-Vincent. Special stampings and the serial numbers were vindicated in this research.

The owner had to decide how to restore this relic of a motorcycle. Should it be returned as a Vincent and go unrecognized among other Vincents, or should it be restored as the iconic project between two great motorcycle companies? Luckily its history has been preserved as the Indian-Vincent won out.


  1. Interesting take on the subject, though it runs against practically every other story I have read on the subject. Both companies were on the way down, Indian in large part because of bad management, and Vincent because of an excellent but way too expensive product. The former got by for a while badge-engineering mainly Royal Enfields, the latter by license production of small NSU motorcycles and mopeds. (Then everybody died, not just thse two companies).

    As for the hybrid, Vincent was very keen on selling his engines to Indian, and claimed optimistically/erroneously that it was an easy fit. Twenty years ago Aussie Peter Arundel built a replica, learning in the process that the fit was all but simple.

    Aside from the companies' financial management, market forces and other external factors doomed both companies, and with them the dream of a Vindian. I'd love for it to have happened, because the Vindian looks stunning - even better than a stock Indian Chief. However, I don't think the prospective Indian owners would be able to keep one running properly for very long: It'd be like expecting your average US muscle car owner to switch to a Ferrari or a Maserati. Vincent engines were (and remain) sophisticated and delicate machinery, requiring more attention and expertise than those of most other motorcycles of that era.

    1. I'm not smart enough to make this stuff up, read describing the bike they were trying to sell. I just copy and paste. Well... first I stumble across such incredible history stories... then I post it.