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1947 Indian Chief Barn Find

This 1947 Indian Chief is a numbers-matching motorcycle, but restoring it could potentially be a significant undertaking. However, if you have limited space in your workshop, it could be the perfect project to tackle. It is a classic that would attract plenty of attention if it were to be returned to its former glory. If this sounds like an attractive proposition, then you will find the Indian located in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, and listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has been pretty spirited on the Indian and has pushed the price along to $10,300. At that price, the reserve has been met.

While Harley-Davidson is an iconic motorcycle, the Indian has always had an air of mystique about it. The Chief was introduced in 1922. Except for the war years, it remained in production until 1953. It was available in three trim levels, and I believe that this one is probably the entry-level version called the Clubman. This is not definite because the different trim levels brought with them little more than varying chrome and minor equipment levels. However, the lack of chrome on the headlight makes this seem likely. The Chief is largely complete, although it hasn’t seen service for many years. It has been partially dismantled and is only loosely bolted together so that the owner can take the supplied photos. The Chief was available in three different paint colors, and it appears that this one is wearing most of its original Jet Black. They were also offered in Seafoam Blue and Indian Red. It seems that this one features its original leather saddle-bags, and I believe that an experienced person might be able to restore these. The front fender has been modified at some point, but the rest of it looks largely untouched. The seat will require recovering, and many chrome pieces will need to be sent off to the plater. Probably the most obvious damage is to the gauge cluster. However, this is not the issue today that it would have been a few years ago. A reproduction polished surround to replace the damaged one can be found for $110. The gauge faces can be replaced for between $40 and $100 each, while the glass will cost $10 each. The buyer will still need to send the gauges to a specialist to have them calibrated correctly. This would be a better option than buying replacement gauges because a replacement speedometer will cost somewhere around $2,000! One of the great attractions of tackling a project like this as opposed to a classic car is the fact that the buyer will not be faced with the prospect of tackling rust repairs. A person with decent painting and mechanical skills will be able to complete many of the tasks themselves, which saves money on labor costs.

The Indian’s engine is original and would have a capacity of 74ci. This side-valve twin produced around 40hp, which was sent to the wheel via a 3-speed transmission. As with most motorcycles, a vast array of sprocket combinations was available. However, a good Chief would have been capable of hitting somewhere close to 100mph. The owner has removed the cylinder heads so that we can get a look inside the cylinders. They look pretty clean, but the news here isn’t all good. The owner states that the engine is locked, but it isn’t clear why. It may just be years of activity, or it could be indicative of a larger problem. That is something that can only be determined by a closer inspection.

There is no doubt that a competent person could undertake most of the restoration work required to return this 1947 Indian Chief to its former glory. As we have seen, the prices for some of the parts can be a bit eye-watering, but these sorts of expenses can be offset by the amount of money that can potentially be saved on labor costs. A nicely restored and original example can command a price of around $30,000, although figures above $40,000 are not unprecedented. That has to make this a restoration project that is well worth considering.


  1. phil1

    Cue Mike and Frank…..

    Like 9
  2. Jim in FL

    My wife’s grandfather owned the Indian dealership in Chicopee Mass, I wonder if this is was sold at his dealership.

    I’m actually surprised that the value is so low on this. In the early 90s I bought a chief out of an antiques dealer. He got it in an estate package deal. I paid him 4K, got it running and cleaned up and turned it for 7k – pretty much this bike in this condition but a runner. I thought I hit the jackpot. Now a similar bike comes up 30 years later and only 10k.

    Like 1
    • Poppapork

      So you payed 8 grand in todays dollars and got it running and sold it for 14grand in todays dollars. I dont’t see what kind of argument youre trying to make

      Like 1
      • Jim in FL

        I’m saying that at 10k, it’s still reasonably priced. I would have thought in 30 years these would appreciate more. People understand inflation adjustments but you couldn’t buy for example, an early Bronco for the same adjusted money.

        Like 1
  3. chrlsful

    yup, made right dwn the st here. Bldg is now an apt complex & they make em again – elsewhere. I prefer these. As observed tangentially (of interest, not involvement) it seems one of 2 choices: make it new /or/ leave as is – just get running. Both seem to command the same price. But 1/2 way (either direction)? alota mods? no, no deal. All shinny, oneadoz 3 colors, etc? I’ll take it like this (get running) and go from there~

    Like 4
  4. geomechs geomechs Member

    Lots of these out west back in the day. Rumors of some still stashed away in barns and sheds out in the country. I tried to follow up on some of them but got quickly stonewalled. Maybe there’s some truth to the stories…

    Like 2
  5. Cycle Salvage Kevin

    It’s only original once. Get it running top notch, do your maintenance, replace the tires, brake shoes, etc. and ride it. I wouldn’t even wash/clean it. There are far too many restored* examples, garage queens if you will. *Restored means exactly that, restored right down to the last nut and bolt as it came from the factory. Not many can afford to spend that kind of money and those that can and do are stuffy, too rich, non motorcycle guys who look down their noses at you.

    Like 6
  6. JudoJohn

    Where’s Wayne Carini?

  7. rick reeve

    while i was off in viet nam my folks sold my 1947 chief for 100.00

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