ADVrider (
-   Old's Cool (
-   -   1937 Indian Chief Project (

kallehof 07-25-2011 11:14 PM

1937 Indian Chief Project
Here's my current project. It's a 1937 Indian Chief. The engine is 74" and the transmission is a three speed. I've been working on it for a year and have been blogging on my personal site but thought I'ld share my trials and tribulations with ADV'ers. You may have seen my 1948 chief on SFMCJohn's posts from our ride to Yosemite for Gary Stark's Harley Vs. Indian Race this past spring and in Death Valley last fall for a AMCA ride. My 1948 Chief was built to be a rider. This project is being built to be a beauty queen. Don't get me wrong it will get ridden but unlike my 48 ($50 flat black rattle can paint job) it will start it it's second (possibly third or fourth) life just as it did in 1937.

So I'm starting this bikes story the middle as the bike sits as of July 2011. It's almost on the road. Most of the hard to fine (not all that hard to fine) parts have been acquired and bolted up to the frame or case. A few parts either are truly hard to find (pre-38 seat pan stubby nose for those in the know) or just down right expensive ( 100mph or 120mph Indian branded Corbin Speedometer).

A few things struck my about a 1937 Indian Chief. The first was nickle plating. Before chrome was ubiquitous, Indian and many Motorcycle manufactures protected everything with nickle. The majority of the hardware in 1937 on a Chief was nickle. Later they turned to cadmium plating which is more of a chalky silver finish. Unfortunately, my understanding is that neither Nickle nor Cad hold up very well over time. Several shops in the Bay Area and in Sacramento can Nickle plate. And there is two process. Electro and Electroless plating. Electricity following the path of least resistance so on hardware and such as bolts, screws and nuts electroplating works well. But for more complex shapes like cylinders with cooling fins electroless is the only way to go if you want total coverage deep between the cooling fins. I can't wait until modern manufactures rediscover nickle.

One thing to be aware of if you have you stuff nickle plated is that even thought you may be paying for prep and cleaning you will get much better results if you clean and prep your hardware yourself too. Really nobody will put the time and energy into your parts the way you would. Another thing I learned is that some of acids and cleaning solutions that are used to prep the hardware can severely etch your parts. Not much you can do about it. Although I suspect that some of the hardware and parts I had nickle plated may have been left in the cleaning solution longer then absolutely necessary. No whining here just a bit of learning. So more pictures and thoughts to come while I wait for parts I've ordered. Next posting: "The beginning"

San Francisco, CA

larryboy 07-25-2011 11:16 PM


Used nickle hardware for the oak strips in my Willys, just has that classy look to it.

ADVPanzer 07-25-2011 11:18 PM

Along for the ride. Look forward to pics of the progress. My neighbor was a Indian dealer during the early 70's. Would love to have an old, "real" Indian.

Nixels 07-25-2011 11:28 PM

:clap :clap :clap

This is the kinda thing I love to read, watch, participate.


larryboy 07-25-2011 11:32 PM


Originally Posted by Nixels (Post 16480239)



Shoot, if'n ya promised not to touch anything I bet Kalle(wicked kewl dewd) would let you come check it out in person!!!:deal

kallehof 07-26-2011 01:00 AM

The Beginning
The beginning of my 37 Chief Project starts at the end of my 1948 Chief project in late 2009. I kept a photo history of my progress while I was building my 48. And when I finished my bike I sent emails to the people who sold me parts or helped me out. It's hard for people to let go of parts for vintage bikes so seeing that the parts went to good use always fun. Several of the people and collectors I traded with I also shared thoughts of future ideas and projects.

To be honest I'm really not a big fan of the skirted Chief Post war look. I never felt like I could trust a bike I couldn't see through. Same goes for modern bikes. When I bought this 48 chief I always envied the prewar rigid Chiefs and British bikes (i.e. Arial's and Matchless). There is something about the simplicity and lines of bike with minimal suspension. Plus I prefer the profile of an 18" wheel over the 16" balloon tire. This being said I have grown to appreciate Art Deco lines on my 48 Chief so back to the story. One of the follow up emails and follow up emails included my interest in starting another project but this time a rigid Chief. 1936-1939 Chiefs are very similar at first glance. 1936 and 1937 Chiefs both share a Speedometer that looks to be an after thought and possibly was since it was not standard equipment but an $15 (or so) option. These years also shared a strangely located headlight above the handlebars. 1937 was the first year of interchangeable rims which make it slightly more of a rider than the 1936 (but not much), 1938 the Speedometer was dropped between the gas tanks and 1939 has the best Oil Pump of all the ridge Chief and by far the most kick ass color scheme of any chief. The "1939 World's Fair paint scheme". So I preferred the high mounted headlight, interchangable wheels, after thought Speedometer and of course Nickle plating. And shared that with people I had traded with.

Low an behold one of my emails reached out to someone who had a 1937 Chief Project at the right time when he was willing to let it go. So I bought it based on a few pictures emailed to me, a description of the parts and the reputation of the seller as being an Honest Injun.

Oh. Another thing about a 1937 Chief is that the first civilian to drive/ride across the Golden Gate bridge in 1937 Was Hap Jones of San Francisco. And he rode a 1937 Indian Chief, he was the local Indian Dealer and he was an active member of the San Francisco Motorcycle Club. Next year the Golden Gate Bridge is celebrating it's 75th anniversary and wouldn't it be neat to ride a 1937 chief over the bridge that day? If I finish it by then that is. Next Posting: "Homework"

San Francisco, Ca

Cat Daddy 07-26-2011 03:35 AM

Can you give us a link to the blog you've chronicled this build up in ? I'd like to read more. 07-26-2011 06:05 AM

Congratulations on sticking with your 37 Chief project! It look like you are doing a very high quality restoration! I have been into these old bikes since I was 18 in 1979, and I did a 39 Sport Scout. I too am very partial to the 1930's Indians, they are more streamlined and elegant than the 1940s.
Here is pic from 1980 of my Sport Scout. I no longer have it.

I do have a 1953 Chief, CS61082, under way. It is a very expensive undertaking, but I am doing all my own work, where possible. I have loved Indians for over 30 years, and never get tired of them!
The bike has been in boxes the last few years, so to get motivated and not loose site of the goal,
I mocked up the chassis. There will be lots of chassis tuning, suspension sorting and wheel/frame alignment checks to come.

Again, great job! It takes a lot of passion to stick with a restoration.

vorg 07-26-2011 06:22 AM


Gotta keep the love alive. :wink:

kallehof 07-26-2011 08:23 AM


Originally Posted by Cat Daddy (Post 16480770)
Can you give us a link to the blog you've chronicled this build up in ? I'd like to read more.

I like your style: "Jump to the chase". It's not actually a blog with pictures and words. Just has the pictures. SFMCJohn has been bugging me to share my project on here on ADVRider. So the point of this thread is to add the words. We'll see how long I stick with sharing my trial and tribulations or as SFMCJohn put it my "informed opinion". So that I don't spoil it for everyone I'll PM you the link.

San Francisco, CA

ceebaileys 07-26-2011 08:28 AM

excited for the outcome! can't wait! =)

hope we can be of help,

Cee Baileys

chiefrider 07-26-2011 09:28 AM

I like it! Keep those old Indians on the road.

The Oregon Trail Chapter of the AMCA had it's road run last weekend. Out of about 35 bikes, eight were Indians.

Tom in Salem

England-Kev 07-26-2011 09:35 AM

I can but dream....


crazydrummerdude 07-26-2011 12:32 PM


Originally Posted by kallehof (Post 16480442)

Izzat 20 Mule Team Canyon?

kallehof 07-26-2011 01:30 PM


My first Indian project (1948 chief) was all about getting a bike on the road. There was a bit of reverence for originality but if it fit and functioned it worked for me. This served me well and speed things along. To most this bike fits the bill and for a rider it does. To those in the know the modern cycle electric generator, brass kicker pedal, 50's tank graphics. 39ish solo seat, flat black paint and aftermarket exhaust are an eye sore. When you start a project I suggest you decide what the purpose of the bike is. There are many options and they are all good.

One option would be to roll with your own style and build the bike just as you see fit. Take history and improve on it. Put disc brakes on a board racer, if one engine is good two must be better or maybe ELVIS!, ELVIS!, ELVIS!. These tend to draw the comment "you must have a lot of spare time on your hands" or "I bet you don't have kids". I generally clump all of these responses into the jealous category as these are some of my favorite bikes.

Barn fresh. You can spend a life time driving around the back roads of the midwest for that old barn finds. They are still out there. Some enjoy just building a bike to look old. Ebay has every thing you need to get this type of bike up to snuff. "The Lawrence Welk Champagne Tower" water transfer stickers, revolver foot rests and a raccoon tail or something or other that looks dead and nasty.

In the Case of my 37 Chief I thought that I would build the bike as close to original (dare I say and AMCA 100 point bike - and set that as my goal. To me that meant take the project I had just purchased and get it on the road in two years as original as I could.

Now with an Idea of how I wanted my bike to be I set off looking for parts I didn't have. Or replace the warn out part that came with the bike. Some NOS (new old stock) parts came with my bike and how exciting it is to open up packages sealed 60-70 years ago. It truly makes you appreciate the luxury of riding down to your local dealer and ordering a part or finding original serviceable part on ebay. Next Posting "Magneto"

San Francisco, CA

Times are GMT -7.   It's 06:51 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.5
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright ADVrider 2011-2015