Lee’s Indians: A Collector’s Dream

Story: Gary Koz Mraz Photos: Marc Yskamp

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IMG_3891Born in Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon) Lee and his brother Randy grew up surrounded by Indian motorcycles. Their father Alfred Chandrasena owned a 1944 Indian Chief with sidecar and their uncle Herbert Fernando, who loved motorcycles more than life itself, was a hill climber. In 1957 Herbert started racing both in the solo and sidecar division, racing against British and Italian motorcycles and won most of the races on that ‘44 Chief .“I grew up around motorcycle enthusiasts, I watched my uncles ride and work on the engines. When I was old enough Randy would take me in the sidecar; this was the most exciting time of my youth,” Lee reminisced.

_RS_3863Years Later Randy moved to the U.S. as did Lee and both continued their love for Indians. Randy purchased his 1st Indian Chief in the USA in the 1990‘s. Since then the brothers have amassed a collection of about 13 different model Indian Chiefs ranging from 1937-1951, some with sidecars, and most have been restored to original condition.

_RS_3763Indians first incarnation was from 1901 to 1953 with their reputed demise caused by a struggling management. The Indian four cylinders were first released in 1927, and stopped in 1942 when the government ended the sale of motorcycles to civilians due to the war effort. They have a 1939 and a 1941 Indian Four. Mechanically, they’re almost identical, left side hand 3-speed shifter, sliding pillar rear suspension and 40 horsepower motor. The distinct esthetic difference in design between the 1939 and 1941 Indian Four is of course the signature covered fenders that began in 1940.

_RS_3867I saw an ad for a 1989 Indian Four in a local paper and knew there was no such thing,“ Lee said. “Upon talking with the owner he confirmed it was a misprint and would be corrected to 1939 in the weekend edition. I went the next day. The motorcycle was in a hanger at the Camarillo airport in Ventura with the owner’s vintage plane. It turned out to be a rare magneto model Indian, and I offered to purchase immediately. When I picked it up, the previous owner told me he was getting calls from another collector who was pretty persuasive, turned out the other collector was Jay Leno. I have been offered over 100K but have no intention to sell.

IMG_5380For Lee and Randy it’s more than just a collection; they ride them all the time. In fact his brother Randy puts 100 miles on the 1939 Four every weekend (weather permitting), in the canyons and wine country. Lee lives in Palm Springs and can be seen riding one of his vintage Indians to Big Bear or back from Phoenix. “Every time I stop by for a visit and we go for a ride, people stop dead in their tracks and circle around to ask questions.

My ultimate goal is to have a mini motorcycle museum in Palm Springs, and would like to start a vintage motorcycle auction based here.” Lee beamed.

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