By Mike Dalgaard
Back in the spring of 2011, Polaris Industries, parent company of Victory Motorcycles announced that it had purchased the iconic Indian brand from an offshore investment group and would immediately move all production to its manufacturing facility in Spirit Lake, IA., closing the old facility in Kings Mountain, NC. The reaction from Indian die hards and enthusiasts was one of universal relief and the fervent hope that Indian had finally found the perfect company to guarantee the continued rebirth and survival of the oldest motorcycle company in the country. Then the second guessing began.
Would Polaris simply stuff a tried and true Victory powerplant into an Indian frame? Would that really be an Indian? Not to the true believers it wouldn’t.
Speculation became rumors, rumors became theories, and so on.
Meanwhile Polaris moved quickly to set up a research and design team whose job it was to exhaustively go back and pour over everything they had or could get on previous Indians going all the way back to 1901 when the company started in Springfield, Mass. From the very inception of its ownership, Polaris has said it would honor and respect Indian’s pedigree and place in motorcycle history and would do its best to remain true to what has become the most recognizable motorcycle ever built: The Indian Chief.
Just two short years later, Indian Motorcycle Company stunned onlookers at Daytona Beach Bike Week by introducing a completely new powerplant, the Thunderstroke 111, that will power the all new 2014 Indian Chief when it is introduced later this summer, probably at the Sturgis Rally. Indian says that the TS 111 is the first all new, clean sheet motor for Indian in over 70 years. Owners of the PowerPlus 101 Indians may differ with that but there is no question that this new motor is fresh from the ground up.
Using Indian documents, plans, pictures, articles and more to fully understand the design premise that the original Indians were built to (starting in 1901 in Springfield, Mass. and continuing thru early 1953 when the original “incarnation” of Indian ended), engineers at Polaris-Indian created what looks like a total retro motor, but packed it with 21st century engine technology.
It is a stunningly beautiful motor that packs a massive punch utilizing a 111 CI engine displacement via a 49 degree, V-Twin, air cooled architecture that includes finned heads, left side air intake, down firing exhaust system and parallel pushrods. It includes a unit design large capacity semi-dry sump oil system and an over-sized oil radiator. Timing system includes three camshafts, pushrods, two valves per cylinder, maintenance free hydraulic valve lifters and a forged crankshaft. It has an electronic sequential ported fuel injection system with an electronic throttle control. Compression is 9:5 to 1 and it puts out more that 115 foot lbs of torque. No horsepower rating has yet been provided.
The new motor will be matched up to a six speed overdrive, constant mesh, helical gearbox. The clutch is a low effort, multi plate wet clutch with an aluminum basket and an integrated torsional damper.
Before introduction, the motor built at the Polaris Industries Osceola, WI. engine assembly plant (the actual motorcycles will be produced at Spirit Lake, IA.) was put thru over a million miles of testing including dyno testing, and several hundred thousand miles of real world, on road testing as well. The motor is currently being used in a special custom built steamliner called the “Spirit of Munro” in a tribute to Burt Munro, who built and created the ‘’World’s fastest Indian” as shown in the 2005 movie with the same name. More on that in a future article.
When looking at the accompanying pictures it seems pretty obvious that Indian’s design intent, to fuse modern engine components together in a package designed to invoke its over 100-year heritage, is an astounding success and made even more so that it was done and brought to market in under two years.
We can’t wait to ride the whole motorcycle, an all-new Indian Chief. Stay tuned!