How the Lightweights invaded Indianapolis
THE scene was Indianapolis, Indiana, during the qualifying period of the famous 500-Mile auto race. It was an automobile day, an automobile event, an automobile world. But what happened? Over a hundred and fifty of the world’s top race drivers, mechanics, and car owners abandoned their regular duties, stopped adjusting carburetors and checking plugs, to play with a new kind of motorcycle.
Indian’s two new models, an Indian Scout and an Indian Arrow, were taken into “Gasoline Alley,” that famed row of some sixty odd special garages, which at- this time housed more horsepower than is ordinarily found in any five miles of highway traffic. Pandemonium broke loose in the “alley.” The race drivers reacted like kids before a Christmas tree.
They weren’t satisfied with just looking at the new models. They straddled the machines, worked the clutches and brakes, flicked the lights, blew the horns, bounced up and down on the saddles, and worked the aerodraulic front forks.
But, of course, that wasn’t enough. Nothing would do but “start ‘er up an’ let’s hear how she runs”
The motors were started. They started easily, and their steady purr won admiration, approval from the crowd, which included such famous drivers as Rex Mays, Ted Horn, Bill Holland, Duke Nalon and many others almost as well known.
“Can we ride ’em?” asked the racers in chorus.
“Sure, ride ’em and try ’em. That’s what they’re here for.”
And the racers did. America’s top racing drivers, America’s top racing mechanics, racing car owners, millionaire backers, newspaper experts, all had their opportunities to ride and experience the thrill of operating this new kind of motorcycle.
SAM HANKS, Mel Hanson, Mack Hellings, all big names in racing, all owners of high-powered machines and real experts when it comes to handing down a decision regarding motorcycles, agreed that the new Indian Lightweights had no equal. These men all had their chance to put the new Arrow and Scout through their paces.
The roads were not enough. The Speedway infield had to be traversed from a hundred different angles, over a hundred different bumps and depressions. The front forks had to be tested. The racers made it their business to see how the rear frame springs operated over rough terrain. No detail of construction passed their watchful eyes, as they sought a weakness or some reason to complain or criticize. They found none.
During the next few days, men who had never been at the controls of a motorcycle before, other men who frankly admitted, at first, that they were afraid to try, and still other old-timers who explained they had once owned a “Power-Plus,” a Flying Merkel or a Thor, long ago back when-, were all eager to learn to ride. A few minutes of instructions, a little practice, and these same men became raving enthusiasts.
They discovered that they could get all the speed, thrill and fun any man could desire from a lightweight, easily operated motorcycle that was safer and more comfortable than any other motorcycle ever built.
JUST TO name a few who graduated from non-riders to amateurs in a matter of minutes at Indianapolis, Marcel Periat, of California, Robert Mickler, official photographer for the Speedway, and William D. Merritt, editor of “The Lineup” for the Bear Manufacturing Company.
A visiting enthusiast whose weight was more than average (340 lbs.) cast some eager glances toward the new single cylinder Arrow. It wasn’t long before a group began to make book on the effects of the husky visitor on the 250-pound Indian. He straddled the Arrow. The front fork absorbed the shock of some of his weight, the seat springs flattened out a bit as he shifted into first and let out on the clutch.
Once he was on the road, we could hear the distinctive clicks as he shifted into second and then third, but he was out of hearing range before we could catch the last click into high.
We next saw our friend bounding merrily across the infield, criss-crossing paths, gullies, roads and skidding the rear wheel in huge arcs every time he came across a particularly sandy area. Bringing the machine to a stop on his return, he said: “It’s a honey-how soon can I buy one?”
Indianapolis wouldn’t be Indianapolis without the presence of Floyd Clymer, the motor publisher, a recognized authority on all types of automobiles and motorcycles. Floyd’s a motorcycle rider from way back and he couldn’t resist doing a special stunt with one of the new models.
He rode the Arrow backwards, mounting the tank with his back to the headlights, not just once, not just for a few minutes, but over an extended period of time over rough fields and roadways alike. Clymer said he thought the new lightweight was so perfectly balanced that it could be operated with ease sitting either forwards or backwards.
“Cannon Ball” Baker said: “This is a wonderful motorcycle. I like it”. Joe Petrali, one of the idols of motorcyclists all over the world, rode the new Scout. After a tour of the area, Joe remarked: “It’s a very excellent motorcycle.” . . . Gene Rhyne, another great name in motorcycling, who had an opportunity to test and put the new Scout through its paces said: “This new Indian vertical twin will out perform any other motorcycle manufactured.”
SIDELIGHTS: Freddie Agabashion, who races big cars and owns several midget race tracks in California, amazed his friends with the rapidity with which he could get from his garage to the Speedway City to get a quick shave. He used the Arrow to get past the congested gates and roads. . . . “Ab” Jenkins, who has piloted some of the most powerful racecars in the world over the salt beds in Utah, rode the new lightweight to pay visits to his friends in various garages. “I think it’s a knockout,” said “Ab.”
Back in town, the new motorcycles stopped traffic. Visiting motorcyclists and race enthusiasts gathered around the parked Arrow and Scout. Friendly Indianapolis patrolmen urged that the machines, be garaged secretly, fearing that souvenir hunters would make away with any portions that were easily detachable.
And in Gasoline Alley, the new Tucker took second place whenever, one of the new lightweights appeared. Preston Tucker, Jr., who had an opportunity to ride the new Arrow, stated, “It’s the sweetest one e cylinder motorcycle I’ve ever ridden.”
AFTER the 100-Mile-an-Hour Club had had their annual banquet at the Athletic Club, Rex Mays, probably the most popular American race car driver, straddled the Scout and spent a half hour riding around the center of Indianapolis, sneaking in and out of the dense after-theatre traffic.
Rex, who is a real motorcycle enthusiast, was a guest of WIRE’s sport announcer “Tom” Carnegie. He spent ten minutes telling the radio audience the advantages of the new lightweights…. Milt Marion, owner of one of the finest racecars, had his own way of explaining how he felt about the new models: “As smooth as my $22,000 Alpha Romeo.” Ralph dePalma, one of the speedway’s greatest, looked over the new overhead valve engines, marveled at their construction, discussed the design with Rolly Free, Tony Hulman, owner of the Speedway, and the ever popular Wilbur Shaw, president of the Motor Speedway.
Yes, these gentlemen who understand and appreciate a good piece of engineering unanimously agreed that “Indian’s got something there.”