History of Indian Motorcycles

Key Dates in Indian History

  • 1901 – Indian Motorcycle founded in Springfield, Massachusetts.
  • 1907 – Indian produces their first V-twin engine.
  • 1910-1920 – Indian becomes largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, dominating both the marketplace and racetrack.
  • 1953 – Indian declares bankruptcy and ceases operations.
  • 1998 – A group of investors acquires Indian Trademarks and starts producing motorcycles in Gilroy, California.
  • 2003 – Gilroy Indian declares bankruptcy and ceases operations.
  • 2004 – Stellican acquires Indian Trademarks.
  • 2008 – Production of Indian Motorcycles is started in King’s Mountain, North Carolina.
  • 2011- Polaris acquires Indian Motorcycles; production is shifted to Spirit Lake, Iowa and engineering immediately begins work on next-generation Indian.
  • 2012 – Last “King’s Mountain era” motorcycle rolls of the line in Spirit Lake.
  • 2013 – Launch of the All-new Model Year 2014 Indian Motorcycle in second half of the year!
Old Indian Bike

112 Years of History – Gilroy Era

In 1998, the trademarks were awarded to a group of investors who formed a new company based in Gilroy, California.

Three models were made during this era:

  • Scout / Spirit: These were the “small” bikes which used a common frame and S&S engine. The Scout was “sporty”, while Spirit targeted light touring.
  • The Chief was the flagship bike. It had its own larger chassis, and was powered by the first new Indian proprietary engine in 50 years, the Power Plus 100. Unfortunately, the Power Plus 100 was plagued by reliability issues.

In September of 2003, Indian Motorcycle in Gilroy California declared bankruptcy and ceased operations.

2003 Chief Vintage ad

112 Years of History – King’s Mountain Era

Indian Motorcycle collage

In 2004, the British private equity group Stellican acquired the Indian trademarks out of bankruptcy. Stellican specialized in buying historically significant brands that were in financial distress (Riva yachts, Chris-Craft boats), and sought to do the same with Indian.

Stellican assembled a completely new team to upgrade and manufacture the Indian motorcycle. Overall quality, fit, and finish of the bike was improved from the Gilroy era, but visually it remained virtually the same bike. The most significant change was the addition of fuel injection.

After four years, production was re-started in 2008. During this era, Indian focused on producing several variants of the Chief. Scouts and Spirits were not produced. Each bike and engine was hand built from start to finish in the Indian Motorcycle Assembly plant that was located in Kings Mountain, NC.

112 Years of History – Polaris Era

Five Indian Cruisers

In 2011, Polaris Industries, Inc. acquired the Indian Motorcycle business from Stellican.

King’s Mountain operations were discontinued and assembly of the bikes was moved to Spirit Lake, IA. Polaris produced the King’s Mountain Indian design from 2011 through the end of 2012, ending with the 2013 model year.

Polaris engineering worked to improve quality of the bike while keeping the Indian Motorcycle historic styling and riding experience.