The controversial 1955 Chief.
I found this picture today of a bike my father claimed was a 1955 Chief. The story is in 1955 the New York city police department asked INDIAN to build 50 motorcycles for them. When they were done with the 50 motorcycles they still had parts and time left and they built an additional five motorcycles these five motorcycles were titled in 1955 even though they were using leftover 1953 parts.
This was the one Indian motorcycle that my dad felt was very valuable and he would not ride it so when he needed extensive dental work done he sold it to pay for his dental work. I do not know where this bike is today.
Some people say the story of 55 Indians in 1955 is bogus. All I can do is relate the story as it was told to me by my father. It’s up to you to decide.
As of 2018 the bike is still around and located in New Jersey. Here are a couple photos:
Below are quotes imported from Facebook regarding this bike:
Mark Richardson It actually did happen. There is documentation supporting the story of the ’55 Indians being assembled at the factory.
Rick Warfield Your dad knew his Indians, I would never question anything he told me. Sure do miss him.
Phillip Hartwell Mr. Bob Markey told me the same story in 2001
Dorsel Thomas If I remember Indian stopped production due to board of directors orders do to loosing cash. They turned there attention to importing enfields even looked at Vincent’s. So it’s possible the sales management still in existence could have had a few mechanics still on hand that could have assembled left over parts. Just an educated guess
Chris M Haynes Harley did the same thing for New York and Los Angeles with the Servi-car. 1973 was the last year. But a couple hundred 73 models appeared in,1974. They are easy to spot as they have 6 lug wheels instead of the 5 used on the actual 73’s
Bill Van Pelt My Granddad had an Indian Dealership he started, back in 1932 and when my Dad was able to, he worked with him and, in 1955, they were selling rebadged Royal Enfield. Now, I am not saying this isn’t true, just that I had never heard of this either. But I also hadn’t realized that there was an Indian Chief built with a Vincent engine, as a possible consideration either. Nor had I heard of or seen photos of an possible Indian Four, based on the Warrior/Scout base either. I learned about these later on. And the Enfield/ Indians ran from 1955-59, passing the Indian/Enfield Chief onto the Matchless lineup, along with some of the Indian/Enfield model names as well.
Donald Muir Regardless the bike looks awesome – it’s a fantastic story and part of the mystical world of this fantastic motorcycle – it’s similar to the world of lambretta scooters – closed in Italy by a British car giant sold to India government – lock stock and barrel (literally) and every now and then an Indian sourced scooter would appear, manufactured well after 1972 – but with all correctly stamped innocenti lambretta original engine and parts – rare but absolutely genuine – so the later built Indian is plausible!! Wonderful share – thank you
Donald Stewart i remember having a conversation with your dad in 70’s about all the left over parts that were used.
Joe Walano I don’t know about the 55 Indians but, in the early 70s I worked for Nichols Motorcycle Supply. Ed Nichols had been an Indian and Triumph dealer after WW2. The parts business had moved out to the Chicago suburbs but, he still owned the building in the city, 69th and Ashland I think. The place was a cave where we mostly stored the overstock of tires. However, I made several trips with the warehouse manager to retrieve NOS Indian parts. I was told that Ed, Beno Rodi and Irv Wagner bought up the left over parts inventory and machines when the plant in Springfield closed. I don’t know how true it is but, I do remember carrying out a Chief frame and several boxes of small engine parts in the original boxes.
John Cooper My 1953 Chief, CS61252, with original tangerine paint under the rattle can red and provenance to DeCommer, the Grand Rapids, MI dealer, is the highest number I’ve seen. Anyone seen a known 1953 produced Chief with a later number?
David Katz I may be mistaken, but seems I recall Bob telling me that they actually assembled them in ‘54. They had been pre-ordered in ‘53 by NYPD(?) & that they were in fact assemble after the Wigwam was officially closed. Either way (‘54 or ‘55)…they are without a doubt the last of the best.
Danny McCoy Many stories…however, Bob Stark got the last one to leave the factory…there was an extra,fully assembled, complete power plant left over after all was said & done. Not a job that was built from NOS parts. (I’ve seen several of those). Engine, tranny, special carb, distributor, & coil…in perfect condition. It is mounted on original factory shipping pallet….it is documented & still exists…80″
Danny McCoy I know of a ’53 chief that is titled as a ’56. They were hard to sell, as no one wanted them at the time…the title was dated the year it sold!
Ed Nichols was my father. My “playground” was the repair shop on Ashland (we lived in the apartment above the shop” playing on the various motorcycles and Castrol Oil cases in the back. I have a picture of him on his Indian as well as a picture of my uncle Bill Nichols (my dad’s brother) on his Indian too. I’ll try to dig them up and post here Great memories.
A historical machine with full of power. I just love this brand.
Only one thing I want to add/ask, is it because the Indian is Green that the story claimed an NYPD connection? The fact is all NYPD motorcycles were red and after Indian stopped production Harley’s for the next 2 years or so were painted Indian red until they switched to silver.
It was nice and nostalgic to hear the name DeCommer Again, the Grand Rapids, Michigan Indian dealer. In the early 50’s Mr Decommer took me on a freight elevator in the back of his shop down to the basement of the building where there were about 30 older Indian motorcycles, most missing some parts, He new that I worked for little money in an A&P store and was still in school, and was kind enough to sell me a 1938 Indian Junior Scout for $75, that needed a front fork.. I made a fork for it in machine shop in high school and put many miles on it, but finally sold it after marriage as I needed money, but have regretted it ever since.
The two pics of the Indian in blue are my 1953 chief and i took them 2012 or 2013 in Stockholm when i just bought the bike…..The frame and engine nr: is CS612XX and the carb was marked with a C on it too and it don’t have a ignition key just a square knob instead
Regards Per Sweden.
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