Rare 1950s Indian Scout Three-Speed Bicycle

Bicycles were more than recreation in post-war Great Britain, they were vital transportation. A lot of people couldn’t afford cars and bicycles provided a way to get to jobs and run errands. This 1950s Indian Scout bicycle is listed here on eBay in Campbell, Ohio and the seller has a $200 buy-it-now price listed. You can’t fly in and ride it home but let’s check it out.

As a young architecture student, one of our professors had a saying about certain buildings, saying that they were assembled from “a kit of parts”, as in, different components not necessarily designed to go together but in the end they were functional. That’s sort of how bicycles were made at one point, various parts and pieces, different parts and pieces selected by the maker and assembled to be sold with their badge on the front. Parts for this bike, like the seat, were made by others and the shift mechanism was made by the famous company Sturmey-Archer.

We had mostly fat-tire or balloon tire bikes in the United States in the era when this Indian bicycle was manufactured, recreational bikes for having fun riding around in our leisure time. Bikes with tires almost the same size as Indian motorcycles had on them if you think about it. Indian didn’t actually manufacture this bike, they were made by a company called Phillips Bicycle Company in England. Sort of like when Indian motorcycles were rebadged Royal Enfields.

Indian dealerships sold these bicycles from the late-1940s until about the mid-1950s. Here’s a piece of ad copy from a 1951 Christmas catalog: “An Indian 3-speed bike is the best Christmas present anyone could get. Beautifully made, 20 pounds lighter than balloon-tired bikes, and fitted with the Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub. No matter whether it’s uphill or down, the Indian pedals easier and goes faster with less effort. It’s the bike for you! Extra safe, too, with two-wheel brakes” 

These bikes came in the men’s version, the Scout, and women got one called the Princess. This particular example is rough and needs a full restoration. The seller says that it isn’t even ridable which is a bummer. A full restoration wouldn’t be inexpensive if you just dropped it off at a restoration shop but as always, if a person could do the work it would sure be fun to bring to vintage bicycle and even motorcycle shows. I’ve seen Indian and BSA bicycles at vintage motorcycle shows and people love them. Have any of you heard of an Indian Scout bicycle?

Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    A bicycle on BFs? Why, I’m going to have gather some thoughts, but the 1st one that comes to mind, the author. Folks, this guy has “nostalgia” dripping from his pores, who else would post something like this, knowing FULL well, the memories from our “pre-motorized” days, it will generate. Tip of the hat, pal.
    It’s as if a bicycle was issued to all of us at birth. Teaching a kid to ride a bike was one of the 1st things. From the noble tricycle( with hard tires, that made neat skid marks on corners) to our “20 inch Stingray” ( types) to our 1st “big bike”, the 26 inch road bike( can’t remember the make of mine, Murray, I think, there were so many), with HAND brakes, oh boy! Some had the lame 2 speed( back pedal slightly for gear change, I think) and coaster brakes, but it was the impressive “Sturmey-Archer 3 speed, MANUALLY CHANGED,( some, like me conjured up goofy shift handles, like a car) the beginnings of our motorhead ways, shifting gears,, 10 speeds being a few years away. The 3 speed was perfect, and my vintage “Specialized Rock Hopper”, has like 21 speeds, and guess what, I only use 2 or 3 anyway. Most moved on to 10 speeds fast, my 1st 10 speed was a Raleigh, green, natch, then a blue French “Follis”( a cheap Gitane), but it was bikes like this, that we ventured farther than the alley, to that slot car track on the other side of town, or the public swimming pool. I don’t recall an “Indian”, back then, a bike was a bike, and the name long painted over.
    At 67, I still try and ride my bike everyday, although health concerns are limiting that now, but like TV Lenny said( who?) “Buy a TV and get a bike, get a bike, get a bike”,,,They were poor bikes, but adequate. Today, most bikes are purchased with good intent, ridden a few times, and put in the corner because it hurts their butt. I got my late 90’s Rock Hopper, a relatively high end bike for the time, for $30 bucks at a thrift store, almost new condition, it still had the “nubs” on tires.
    Bicycles are amazing inventions, and have stood the test of time as ” a better way than walking”, now, if only I could find a decent seat for MY butt, I know, too far, thanks again, SG,,for the mems,,yer turn,,,

    Like 11
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      You are way too kind, Howard, thanks much. I just remember seeing them at vintage motorcycle shows and thought that folks might get a kick out of seeing something different. Thanks again!

      Like 4
  2. Harvey Member

    Finally,an Indian I can afford!

    Like 10
    • Avinash Gautam

      Me too

  3. Walter

    Rebuilding a S-A hub is not for the faint of heart but everything else on an older bike is pretty straightforward. Thanks to the internet parts, even for old English 3 speeds are obtainable. I don’t like cottered cranks but they are rebuidable too.
    I have spent a lot of time and money on bikes but they will pay you back.
    A nice change of pace write up.

    Like 7
    • Howard A Member

      Hi Walter, you know, I never knew how that actually worked. I was a curious lad, took apart my 1st lawn mower engine at 7( the old man wasn’t impressed I took it apart) and rode plenty of 3 speeds, and don’t recall ever having to take one apart. They never “missed a shift”, like the 10 speeds resulting in contact with the top bar,,yeah, forgot about that, huh. Turns out, I watched a video and it’s very similar to a semi transmission O/D splitter. Sun and planetary gears and a ring gear changes the ratios. Kind of strange, I spent my life shifting those kinds of transmissions, blissfully unaware, it began at an early age with the Sturmey-Archer 3 speed.

      Like 5
      • Walter

        Yep, sun and planetary gears. The mark of a skilled bike wrench is the ability to overhaul/rebuild an internal 3 speed in the, admittedly pretty rare, instances when a rebuild was necessary. I never mastered that but I switched to external derailleurs when I was pretty young. More prone to problems but lots of advantages, especially weight.

        Nowadays they are electronically shifted.

        Like 1
    • Bill D

      As I recall a company in Taiwan bought the old Sturmey Archer tooling lock stock and barrel and is making both new hubs and replacement parts on the old tooling.

      At least this has caliper brakes rather than coaster brakes. Old-school SA 3-speed coaster brake hubs had a false neutral between 2nd and 3d gears and if you got hung up there you could end up with no brakes! My mom had a bike with one of those hubs.

      If you wanted to “restomod” this bike you can get more modern hubs from Shimano or Sram with 5 or 7 speeds. If you want a real hotrod there’s a 14 speed one from Rohloff. :)

      Like 2
    • berniebike

      back in my time (early 70’s) i could do a sturmey archer SA hub blindfolded.parts rarely broke just wore out or got gummed up from lack of lubrication.parts are getting scarce but theres an abundance of complete hubs out there to use for donors.

  4. Rick Earl

    I don’t think so. This vehicle doesn’t have enough horsepower for me & I never have cared for convertibles!

  5. JimB

    I actually restored a 1952 Indian Scout for a friend. My hobby is collecting and restoring English and French bicycles. I also collect and drive English cars. The Indian Scout I restored was in much worse shape than this one. It came out very nice and the owner rides it in the summer.

    Here are hints if you want to try to restore this one:

    1. The bicycles used decals from the Indian motorcycles. You can buy reproduction decals on the web.
    2. The Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub probably doesn’t need a rebuild. Just clean it up and put some oil in it.
    3. The paint is extremely thick on these bicycles. You can go at it with 0000 steel wool and WD40, followed by rubbing compound and finally a good quality paste wax. It will shine like new.
    4. Use SOS pads and water on the chrome. Don’t wax the rims, but you can wax all of the other chrome. If necessary, send out the chrome for replating. You will be surprised how good the chrome comes out just with a good SOS scrubbing.
    5. I have a special cotter puller for the crank cotters. Don’t pound on them with a hammer. You will never get them off that way. If you are in New England, I can help you with the cotters.
    6. Put new tubes in but try to use the original tires. Modern tires don’t always fit well. The ones for this bike are EA3, not the Schwinn tires in the same size.
    7. Use only oil (3 in one) for the rear hub. Use grease for the crank, front wheel and headset. I typically replace all the bearings with new ones in those three.
    8. Take your time. It typically takes 50+ hours to do a quality job. You will have a bicycle you will be proud of.

    Jim

    Like 9
    • Bill D

      The rule with tires is to use ones that are sized using common-fractions rather than decimals. The common size for old British made 3-speeds is 26×1⅜ (note the “⅜” written as a common fraction, NOT as a decimal like “1.375”). Tires in that size are still commonly available. The decimal tires are for modern mountain bikes that use a 26″ rim.

      Sheldon Brown tells you more than you ever wanted to know, here: https://www.sheldonbrown.com/tire-sizing.html

      Like 2
      • JimB

        Even with the fractional 26 x 1 3/8 size, you need the EA3 for English bikes. The S-6 is for Schwinns.

        26 x 1 3/8 EA3 – English bikes
        26 x 1 3/8 S-6 Schwinn

        I found that the modern 26 x 1 3/8 EA3 tires from Asia are slightly smaller than the English ones. They don’t fit the old rims well. That’s why I try to keep the old tires if possible. I have 24 English 3-speeds. Sheldon Brown rebuilt the 3-speed hub on my 1939 Raleigh before he passed away.

        Jim

        Like 2
    • Glenn Reynolds

      I still have a can of Sturmey Archer brand oil for my 3 speed Raleigh. Probably the same as 3 in 1.

    • RoughDiamond Member

      @JimB- I’m in TN and have a blue British made Dunelt with the SA 3-speed that belonged to my late father I’d love to find a home for. It’s 100% original and looks nice cosmetically, but the hub does need some work.

      • JimB

        I sent you an email response. At my age, I am not taking in any more bicycles. However, i will help you restore it if you wish. This is a hobby so no charge for labor. I also sent you before and after pictures of the 1952 Indian I restored. Can you post those here? I’m not a member yest.

        Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      “3 in 1” oil, Jim? Boy, that sure dates you. Every cupboard in America had a can of 3 in 1 oil. oddly enough, it is now owned by the WD-40 company, a product that pretty much replaced 3 in 1.( which meant, “clean, lubricate, protect”)
      And don’t get me started on tires and tubes. Here in Colorado, we have what’s called “goat head thorns”, and wreak havoc on bicycles here. I had 4 flats in a month. Also, the tires one buys at Walmart, are adequate, but cleverly designed to be just a hair thinner than the thorns. That, and I read, modern tubes are mostly junk. Most all come from Taiwan, or China, and have, I read, a 65% FAILURE RATING,,,meaning, 2/3rds are junk in the package.
      To solve the thorn issue, I took an old tube, cut the valve out, and all the way around, put the new tube inside the old tube, as a liner, and no flats.

      Like 2
    • Carmanic Carmanic Member

      Thanks for taking the time to share your techniques with us. I have two skip-tooth riders, a JC Higgins survivor and a Firestone Pilot that I sympathetically resurrected without changing it’s character, and I love them more than my cars.

      Like 1
  6. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    I had a Schwinn 3 speed racing bike, 26′ rims, It had the same shifting system but never knew what it was called. Caliper brakes front and rear stopped the bike. I put a lot of miles on that bike as a teenager. It was black, with white pinstripes on the fenders. Fun times but I sure was glad when I got my drivers license at 16 so I could drive around the rural area to my friends houses or wherever I wanted to go in my 35 Chevy Standard 4 door sedan. God Bless.
    It’s encouragement’

    God Bless America

    Like 3
  7. carsntrucks

    I have a Triumph with SA 3 speed.
    Was it also made by Phillips Bicycle Company ?

    It looks a lot like a Raleigh girls bike that’s also here.

    Like 1
    • JimB

      If it’s a 60’s or 70’s Triumph, it was made by Raleigh.

      Jim

      Like 2
      • Carmanic Carmanic Member

        In the early 90s I bought a 1950’s women’s Triumph intermediate single speed with a bent fork for $5. I straightened the fork, replaced the tires, serviced it and gave it to my cousin, who put it in her garage and has NEVER ridden it. I went through it again about 10 years ago because clearly it will belong to me again someday. Pretty little bike.

  8. Walter

    Raleigh made bikes for a lot of different English companies. That would be my first guess.

    Like 1
  9. Howie

    This has to be the cheapest thing i have seen here on BF.

    Like 3
  10. Cap

    I got one of these for Christmas in 1953; always was told it was made by Raleigh. Unfortunately I backed over it when I got my 35 Ford 5 window field car. I was able to get different wheels and get it back operationally.
    I believe mine was maroon- a great bike for a 13 year old.

    Like 1
    • JimB

      Yours was made by Phillips in England. Phillips put Indian decals/stickers/head badge on a stock Phillips and sent them over to Indian in Massachusetts to sell here in the US. Raleigh bought Phillips in 1959.

      Jim

      Like 2
  11. Lincoln B Member

    In the early 70’s I bought a John Deere 10 spd new and still have it, that is enough.

    Like 2
  12. RoughDiamond Member

    Scotty, this was such a cool read. The comments were equally as enjoyable.

    Like 4
  13. trav66

    “And now for something completely different”! LOL! I enjoyed the article and comments, also! Never know what you’re gonna see on BF! This is a nice find.

    Like 1
  14. Carmanic Carmanic Member

    I actually had one of these up until recently, a gift from a friend who collects vintage Indian motorcycles and since I have a thing for pre-war bicycles, he thought I’d enjoy it. Unfortunately the standard-sized frame for this bike was waaaaay too tall for me to ride comfortably (I’m 5’1″ on a good day), so I rounded up the period-correct parts it needed and gave it back to the guy I got it from. He did a quick rebuild and gave it to a friend with terminal cancer who’s last wish was to attend Bonneville Speed Week. He made it, and used the Scout as his pit bike. Happy ending.

    Like 1
  15. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    These are some great comments, folks!
    This auction ended with apparently no bids at all, bummer.

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