Through the first part of the 20th Century, Indian was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Indian produced the fastest and most technologically advanced motorcycles there were. Then World War 2 hit. Indian did supply motorcycles to the military for the war effort but Harley Davidson, Indian’s closest competitor, was awarded more of the contracts to serve the armed forces overseas. This caused Indian some financial problems coming out of the war but they hung in there.
After the war, every motorcycle builder was counting on returning soldiers to be buying new bikes as fast as they could build them but, they were counting on smaller, lightweight bikes to be the market leaders. Harley Davidson went to Italy for lightweights, Indian built their own and went to Europe for new bikes, Triumph and BSA also jumped into the lightweight pool but returning GI’s weren’t going for it. Indian and Harley had built their reputations on big V-twins and that’s what the buyer wanted. Harley seemed to grasp the idea a bit sooner than Indian and that was Indian’s downfall. There is a lot of Indian history out there that documents why Indian faded away.
One of the smaller bikes that Indian built was the Arrow. A 220cc single cylinder bike that actually was a great bike for its size, it did however have its problems and Indian ended up losing money on the Arrow due to warranty issues. Sadly, when the motorcycle buying boom really did hit, Indian was becoming just a memory.
I found a true ‘barn find’ Indian Arrow today on ebay. This has all the dust and patina anybody could want in a vintage bike buried in some guys barn for decades. The Arrow wasn’t Indian’s most popular bike and like I said before it was saddled with problems, but still, it is an interesting motorcycle that I think is a good example of what motorcycle manufacturers were building to attract more buyers. The motorcycle buying public wasn’t interested in small bikes, they wanted big, they wanted horsepower, they wanted the classic bike. Come to think of it, not much has changed has it.
The Arrow I found is a left over from a closed dealership in 1949. The motorcycle has just 1874 miles on it and with a bit of clean up I imagine it would look like new. The Arrow may not have the status of the Chief or even the Scout, but it is still an Indian and that makes it special.
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