1901-1953 Indian Motorcycle – Parts – Accessories

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Vertical Restoration Considerations


by Pete Sink

Following are items to look for or consider when restoring an Indian vertical.

Primary Drive:

  1. Clutch hub bearing. The bearing is worn out on 95% of the old hubs.
  2. Clutch plates. The four lined and five steel plates need to measure at least 1″ thick, total or add another steel plate.
  3. Retrofit the primary chain tensioner on all that do not have it.


  1. The counter shaft center teeth should not be rounded. Also look at third gear center where it slides on the counter shaft teeth. If rounded, replace both or you likely will not find third gear.
  2. Inspect the ratchet for chipped or broken teeth. Replace as necessary.


  1. The crank shaft plugs should be removed and clean out the center of the crank shaft.
  2. Using new pistons always check the new wrist pin fit to the rod bearing bushing prior to assembly.
  3. Tappets are always worn flat. Either replace or reface.
  4. Rocker arm needle bearing have a hole in the bearing shell. This hole mates to a oil hole in the rocker arm. Remove the adjusting screw and make sure it is open. Oil passes through here to oil the push rod ends. If you replace the rocker arm needle bearing, you will have to cut a hole in the bearing shell to allow oil to pass through.
  5. The Valve guides are always worn out 99% of the time. Replace with new guides.
  6. Valves are going to be a problem on the Warrior. Appears through our normal sources that there is no NOS supply around. You will have to use Raceways valve and GUIDES, or get someone to make new valves. Raceways valve stems are smaller than original valves and NOS valve guides will not work with them.
  7. If you were lucky and got old overhead oil lines, rebuild them with new copper, prior to use. The old copper is guaranteed to spring a leak within 300 miles.
  8. The timing case gears need to be inspected with care. The factory originally cut the teeth on a 20° angle. Engineering made a change to 14 ½0 to quiet the gear noise. The new 14 ½0 were cadmium plated in 1949 to show the dealers the difference. This was fine then, but now the cadmium is gone and you have to inspect very carefully to make sure all eight gears are the same cut. If they are mis-matched you might not get them to mesh together or they will be very tight. You must have gear lash.
  9. Replace the pinion oil seal in the timing case cover.
  10. Remove the oil pump and get two “On rings. Automotive 013 and
    015. Install the 013 in narrow partition between feed and return. This prevents oil from flowing from the feed side of the pump into the return side and on to the bottom end. Install the 015 in the cover to seal the drive gear boss and cover. The steel gear through the aluminum cover does not make a very good seal. All will leak here and it goes into the timing gear chest and on to the bottom end.
  11. I am trying to teflon coat the cam lobes and tappets to see if some wear will be eliminated. I have also tefloned the piston skirts and the rod insert bearings. This technology is being used on NASCAR motors today and might help us get a few more trouble free miles out of our older engines. Time will tell.
  12. Install the cams in the engine cases prior to final assembly and check to see if they are free. If not, ream for a free turning cam.
  13. Rod bearings are almost non-existent. If someone knows of a company that will make rod bearing, please put me in contact with them.
  14. You must fit a new “U” shaped oil ring to the piston. Do not use Indian beveled shaped oil ring. Smoke Signals for sure.


  1. The magneto repair peoples that I have contacted, do not or will not discuss making new coils. The coils were the biggest problem, even back in the ’50’s. The NOS supply has gone and no one has picked up on replacing them. The rotor button on the twins would break the tongue that locks on the rotating shaft. Rotor buttons are few and far between. The armature has a built in magnet and finding someone to recharge them is difficult. \Nhen I have worked on them, you could get them to spark in your hand, but when installed on the motor would not generate enough spark to start it. These are the reason why the only remedy found has been to install a Honda 150 Dream coil under the gas tank and make it look stock. However Honda quit making parts available for the older 6 volt motorcycles years ago and you have to be lucky enough to find a good used one. 


  1. The L&L fitted to Arrows and Scouts did not have even an idle adjusting screw. You would adjust the carburetor for idle and it was so lean that it would not pull away from a stop. Adjust it to run good and it would not idle. There is no wonder that the factory offered the AMAL 275, spigot fit, carburetor for replacement. The problem today is the part supply for either of these carburetors. The AMAL 276 which was fitted as standard on the Warrior has been available from England as a new manufactured unit has been priced at about $285 five years ago. Even if you go this route you need to know the slide cut away being 3 ½ , and the main jet being 160.


  1. The Autolite two brush generator was fine as long as you ran the bike out of town. Today with head light on laws and slow traffic the generator has a hard time keeping up.
  2. Voltage regulators have dried up and the only unit I have seen that will work with the two brush generator is the one that Starklite sells.
  3. I hope to check into a company that will retrofit an electronic regulator into your old regulator body. This could be something good if it will charge higher at slow speed and reduce output at higher speeds.
  4. The normal remedy that the Chief riders use of bolting a Cycle Electric 12 volt generator on and driving with the normal belt and pulley is a problem since no one has been interested in finding something that will work in place of the Autolite generator.


  1. The original seat pan was weak up front and could have been reinforced to prevent from breaking. No one has been interested in 
    reproducing the pan to original specifications. The double seat was an even bigger challenge with the big aluminum base, thick foam pad and trim strip. Even if you have an original pan the problem of finding someone with a form to form the leather and cover it is a real problem. It was like they soaked the leather in water and stretched it over a form. There were no pleats or seams.

Handlebars and Risers:

  1. The original risers with one set screw would not take much flexing. If you flexed it too much during dis-assembly or assembly it would crack and break. No one is making a replacement riser for 7/8″ bars.
  2. Handlebars have to be straightened and repaired. No replacement with the silver soldered lever controls in place has ever been offered. This is necessary in order to use the original brake and clutch levers.
  3. Riser bushing is another problem. NOS top fork trees with old rubber bushing in place are good for about two weeks of riding. Bob’s Indian has had a nylatron look alike available in the past. Starklite also sells a set of rigid adapters to use in place of the rubber bushings. These work great with no issues.

Wheels and Tires:

  1. The original rim was made 1/8″ larger than the standard 18n rim of the day. Today this means that you might get a new 18″ tire on if you can grease the tire and rim good and the tube take 100 psi air pressure without failure. Otherwise you will have to take a carpet knife and cut a small sliver from the tire bead all way round on both sides. Then the new tire will fit the original rim. I figured that since Ralph Rogers owned Armstrong Tire and Rubber at the time, he knew that the riders would have to go to the dealer and buy the special Indian tire made for these bikes. No one is making and offering replacement rims that look like original.


The correspondence from the Indian Factory, engineering, service shots, service bulletins, marketing etc. show a lot of problems that were encountered and some never corrected.

  1. Clutch control cable binding. Some of the first Arrows and Scouts had small dia. cables, same size as the brake and throttle . 7 /02148
  2. Cam shaft bushings. After pressing them in the crank case they were distorted. ? /1948
  3. Throttle control cable pin. Seems as though the first ones had a small pin in the throttle control. Enlarged the handlebar slot and supplied bigger pins. 8/20/48.
  4. Front fork oil seals. Change the seal to a spring loaded seal. 9/29/48.
  5. Deficient 249 Crankcase castings. Seems a though the cam cover did not match up to the crankcase. Had to weld additional aluminum on the cam cover and finish it off. 11/30/48.
  6. New Micarta Generator Idler & Drive Gear. Replaced the steel drive gear with a fiber gear trying to solve the problem of breaking generator armature shifts. Break the gear first. 12110/48.
  7. Oil Leakage by oil pump shaft at Pump cover. Reduced clearance between shaft and cover. Also added a counter bore to the cover, “O” ring and thin washer. Still did not address shaft through the pump wear.
  8. Front Fork Oil Seals. Changed the specification to install two (2) spring loaded seals. 3/3/49.
  9. Engine gears with 14 1/2° tooth pressure angle. Changed the gear angle from 20° to 14 1 /2° for quieter operation. This created a mess with a total of eight gears in the timing cover and only identification was to cadmium plate the new 14 1 /2° gears. This was probably OK in 1949 but the restorer today has to look very close at each gear and use a 1/16″ drill bit to determine the difference. Look at the potential mess if they are mis-matched. 3/4/49.

Service Shots:

  • 204 – Gas and Oil Tanks on the 149 Models. Weld flux left in tanks causing rust and corrosion. 9/13/48
  • 205 – Overhead Valve Rocker Arm Shaft Lubrication. Do not drill oil line bolt for additional lubrication. 9/13/48.
  • 206 – Oil Leakage from Engine Breather. This is funny, hammer the
    check valve with a punch. The oil from the tank goes to the oil pump not the check valve. 9/20/48
  • 208 – Check 149 – 249 Front and Rear Wheel Bearing. Wheel hubs left the factory with the hubs being filled with grease. 9/20/48.
  • 209 – Model S-2 and S-3 Carburetors for the Arrow and Scout. Arrow
    piston assembly has three (3) rings the Scout has four (4).
  • 213 – Instructions on Tuning the 249 model to Perform Smoothly at Low Speeds. Point and spark plug settings and valve rocker clearance.
  • 214 – Information on Model 149-249 Forks. Dis-assemble and
    re-assemble. 10/4/48.
  • 215 – How to Overcome Fluid Leaks on Model 149-249 Forks. Gasket seals and shellac. 10/11/48.
  • 216 – Information on Model 149-249 Fork Leg. Dis-assemble and
    re-assemble instructions. 10/11 /48:
  • 217 – New Washer For Locking Gas Cap. How to install a new washer in the locking gas cap. 10/18/48.
  • 219 – How to Improve The Carburetor Choke on Models 149-249.
    Use more cork and shellac.

Changes in Spare Parts Lists:

This involve part number changes or additions. They actually had to add parts to machines already sold. Such as follows.

  1. Tail Light Pad over wiring inside rear fender.
  2. Fork plunger sleeve to be brazed on fork plunger rod.
  3. Fork Fluid Seals. Spring Loaded type.
  4. Fork Impact Cushion – Big thick “On ring for lower bearing to hit.
  5. Exhaust pipe clamp kit. Clamp header to outlet sleeve on head.
  6. Oil line clamps. Added four (4) clamps to oil line.
  7. Copper gasket kit. Apparently the first bikes assembled had fiber
    sealing washers at all locations. Thus changed to copper.
  8. Gasoline filter at tank. Change to porous bronze filter.
  9. Horn mounting kit. Moved ham from rear seat bolt to front engine
    anchor plate.
  10. Speedometer Rubber Mounting Kit on Model 249. Vibration was eating up the Stewart Warner Speedometers. 

The Future:

What is the future of restoring an Indian Arrow, Scout or Warrior today to original specifications or AMCA judging standards. The way it plays out now is the engine parts are in very short supply. Any replacement parts such as fenders, tanks, toolboxes are not there. If you are lucky enough to find a bad used one it will normally cost more to repair it than what reproduced Chief, Sport Scout or Four parts cost. For these reasons it is no wonder that a close friend of mine told me that his recent Warrior restoration exceeded $20,000 and he started with a complete motorcycle. How many of us are willing to spend this amount on a middleweight when you can restore a Chief for less. They may not quite be to the cost of a Four cylinder restoration, but fall in between the Chief and Four.


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  • Daniel Marks ,

    I spent many a happy hour conversing with owner Mr. Stark and mechanic Mr. Wilson Plank back in the 1980s when Starklite was in Fullerton, CA. Also happy to be listed just ahead of Steve McQueen in the member directory of The Indian Motorcycle Club roster. So, I have to ask., is this the same Starklite but re-located? Is Mr. Stark still participating? Is Mr. Plank?

    • MrIndian ,

      Starklite Cycle is owned by Bob Starks son Gary Stark. Wilson Plank still does restoration work in Fullerton CA.

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