On The Warpath: 1941 Indian 741 Military

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While Harley-Davidson reigns supreme as America’s motorcycle company, the Indian Motorcycle Company always managed to hang in there and come back again and again like Rocky Balboa.  What is it about the fabled Indian motorcycle that Americans love so much?  The underdog status?  The brilliant red paint?  The impressive styling?  If you are fascinated with the hard luck story of Indian Motorcycles, then this 1941 Indian 741 for sale on eBay in Seneca, South Carolina may be the motorcycle for you.  This former military version of the Indian Scout has been converted to a civilian bike by a past owner and has a Buy It Now price of $16,000.  Are there enough parts and pieces out there to restore this rare motorcycle to its as-issued condition?

By the 1930s, the Indian Motorcycle Company was struggling to survive.  The Depression was a hard blow to an industry that was never immensely profitable, but Indian continued to produce enough motorcycles to keep the doors open until the start of World War II.  The argument could be made that Indian lost its competitive edge during this time to rival Harley-Davidson.  Many designs the company ended the 1930s with were little changed from what they started the decade with.

When war clouds loomed, companies began to pivot toward pursuing military contracts.  Having the benefit of two oceans separating our shores from the conflict, orders began to pour in thanks in no small part to Lend Lease funds.  The Lend-Lease Act was signed on March 11, 1941, and allowed the United States to pay for food, oil, and materiel for allied nations on the theory that their fighting provided defense for this nation.  This huge infusion of cash into the economy, despite the relatively thin profit margins allowed, was a lifesaver for many companies.  Indian was likely among them.

Harley-Davidson managed to win the great majority of motorcycle contracts offered by the U. S. military, but Indian provided some motorcycles to both our army and the militaries of many allied nations.  Chief among these offerings was a modified Scout.  These motorcycles were all that allies could get because there were only two motorcycle manufacturers left in the United States and the biggest one was otherwise engaged.  The British and other Commonwealth nations put in orders for these Scouts, modified for military use, and they were used extensively during the war.  Another factor that came into play was that the “Jeep” took over many of the jobs that were traditionally held by motorcycles.

These military Indians have always been a rarity on these shores, seen mostly in museums.  The seller of this 1941 Indian starts the ad off with the confusing statement that “It is rough and in good shape at the same time.”  What I believe is meant by that statement is that this is an actual wartime motorcycle in good condition, but converting it to a civilian motorcycle has altered it somewhat.

We are told that the tires, spokes, wheels, frame, and engine are in great shape.  The fins on the engine are also in good condition.  What is brought into question is the lack of a serial number on the engine.  The seller believes that wartime replacement engines were shipped out without serial numbers as a matter of course.  It is to the seller’s credit that they are upfront about not having the deep technical knowledge to provide prospective buyers with the information needed on just what this motorcycle needs to be restored correctly.

This is one of those auctions where prospective buyers should invest the money and have an expert inspect the motorcycle in person.  That expert should also be consulted on the cost of restoration and the difficulty that may be involved in finding the proper parts to bring this motorcycle back to “as-issued” condition.  This is more an investment opportunity than a motorcycle to jump on and drive to the next bike night.  As with any investment, proceed cautiously.

What do you think this Indian will sell for?  Would you get it back on the road or restore it properly?  Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.

 

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Comments

  1. eric22t

    as much as i love indians it’s a hardtail and these old bones don’t take that ride well any more. so for me it would be a restoration back to it’s military specs.

    Like 7
  2. geomechs geomechsMember

    I like these. Never had one of my own nor did I even swing a leg over one. I’d sure welcome the opportunity. I’d have to agree with eric. Restore it to military spec. But I would ride it…

    Like 6
  3. Big C

    Ride it. If you want to restore it like it was? Fine. But these old bikes need to be ridden.

    Like 6
    • KFT

      Maybe I missed it in the story, but the 741 was a 500cc bike. The 640B was the 750cc Army bike.
      The 340B was the Army Chief.
      Like all 741s, converting them to civilian destroys the value.
      The 741 had about 15hp and it was slow.
      The reason Harley got most of the orders was because they submitted a 750cc when the contract called for a 500cc.

      Like 0
      • david

        wow look at you
        thanks dor the indo, that’s interesting

        Like 0
  4. eric22t

    ok ok i really wouldn’t put it under a glass bubble.
    but they would be short rides on very smooth roads

    Like 2
  5. Derek

    Just make it go and ride it. There’s enough restored-to-military stuff around; no need for more.

    Like 3
  6. Steve Repik

    Agreed that Harley outperformed Indian in sales in the early years but The old (and newer) Indians are still the most sought after American bikes today.

    Like 6
  7. FrankDMember

    Why would anyone want one of these bikes. They are slow, uncomfortable. do not handle, impossible to ride and shift w/o training. Do they look cool? Yes!

    Like 0
  8. sourpwr

    Not long after WWII Dad and Mom went on their honeymoon on an Army surplus Indian and pup tent to Yellowstone from Michigan. When they got to the mountains they had to get off and push and couldn’t finish the ride. Many years later they finished the ride, each on their own Sportster and pulling a pop-up. RIP Dad.

    Like 4
  9. CVPantherMember

    Like most Indian bikes, cooler than any Harley, imo.

    Like 2
  10. Duke

    should have left this machine as a military bike—–More unique

    Like 0
  11. chrlsful

    when it sez ‘military’ makes me think of the Harley boxer which corse leads to the Indian 4 thought and so on.
    Love ta have this one here~

    Like 0
    • geomechs geomechsMember

      What comes to my mind when I think of an Indian military bike is the transverse V-twin…

      Like 0
  12. Rick R

    Indian has went broke so many times I don’t know why their allowed to be called Indian anymore!

    Like 0
  13. Rick R

    Oops I meant to say the new ones Polaris is building

    Like 0

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