Stored 25 Years: 1947 Indian Chief 74

The Indian Chief motorcycle was first built by Hendee Manufacturing Co. and later by Indian Motorcycle Co. from 1922 until the company’s demise in 1953. A Chief, like this 1947 edition, is one of those desirable bikes that pops up on the American Pickers TV show when the guys find one of these treasures squirreled away in a barn. This example is mostly original (except for an older repaint) and has a numbers-matching engine. Worthy of restoration, this Indian Chief can be found in Eagle, Michigan, and is available here on eBay where the first bid of $20,000 has yet to be tendered.

As a replacement for the Powerplus, the Indian Chief was designed by motorcycle racer Charles Franklin and had design features similar to the earlier Scout, which included having the gearbox bolted to the engine casings and primary drive by the gear train. The Chief initially had a displacement of 61 cubic inches which was bored out to 74 for use in the companion Big Chief. The smaller-engined Chief was dropped after 1928 leaving the Big Chief to carry the torch. It was the only pre-war Indian product to be carried forward after World War II.

We’re told this Chief has not been on road in 25 years. Perhaps it was parked due to lack of interest as the engine still has good compression, although the seller recommends a thorough mechanical refresh before using it again. Though repainted in the 1970s, the frame is original and is said to be in good overall condition. The machine is not complete, having lost some of its parts over the years like the rear lens, battery box, clutch shift linkage, seat, and maybe more.

The 74 cubic inch flathead engine is original to the bike, so the seller says the numbers match. It’s paired with a 3-speed manual transmission using right-side hand shifting and a left-side foot clutch. The bike accumulated more than 31,000 miles before being out of commission, so it was a well-used machine back in the day. It sounds as though all the fuel was drained out years ago because we’re told the insides of the gas tanks are very clean. The tires are period-correct bias-ply donuts, so they will have to go. Online price guides suggest this could be a $45,000 motorcycle when restored. Who needs a Harley when you can have an Indian?


  1. geomechs geomechs Member

    You could drop this off at my house anytime. At the end of the war there was an enthusiastic group of riders in the Great Falls area. Another strong group just across the border into Canada. From what I was told there was a sizeable Indian riders bunch within the ranks. I’ve been told that there are still some in the region although whenever I’ve attempted to follow up on the stories the trails go cold. I DO know one that would make an identical twin to this one and it’s on a farm about 10 miles west of where I grew up. The engine has been out of it for more than 50 years and is under the bench in the farm shop while the bike languishes out behind. It is NOT for sale and the owner, being about 94 years old now, is going to fix it up.

    There’s a ‘51 or ‘52 Chief right in Sweetgrass itself. The owner passed on about 25 years ago but his widow will NOT entertain any thoughts of selling it. So sad that there are so many vehicles out there still whose owners just won’t let go of…

    Like 23
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    Pop art of the highest order.

    Like 3
  3. Fred W

    A photo passed down in the family shows my sister sitting on an identical bike as a little kid, my Dad’s ’48 Indian “Motor-sickle”. He traded it for a utitlity trailer.

    Like 5
  4. drew

    I had a buddy I met at community college in the ’90s who had a ’47. Completely restored, it was in one of the Batman movies as part of Bruce Wayne’s collection. I remember the front fender lamp with the Indian head, great design.

    Like 3
  5. geomechs geomechs Member

    Lots of these still on the road. This one is a bit modified, I understand, with military fenders. Otherwise stock. Poor pic, I know…

    Like 6
  6. geomechs geomechs Member

    Trip to Sturgis. One that was fixed up pretty much mint. Sure wouldn’t kick it off my driveway…

    Like 7
  7. George

    I don’t know what model, but my grandfather had an Indian in the early 30s. When my mom was born, she told his that she’d “be damned if he expected her to ride in the sidecar with a baby.” He bought a car shortly thereafter.

    Like 2
  8. SMS

    At the local Indian shop a fellow had one of these on consignment. Was mostly original. Smoked a bit but ran well. Was asking $15k. Sold after a couple of months. Not sure what it sold for.

    He said that most parts could be found. Some good reproductions were made. Many parts are very expensive.

    Would be real sweet to have once restored

    Like 3
  9. Derek

    There’s a boy in the Czech Republic that makes really nice replacement parts for Indians. There was a shop here (closed about 15 years ago) that used to get them.

    Like 2
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      There was Sammy Pierce, in California, who was referred to as Mr. Indian. He was a dealer until Indian threw in the towel then he travelled the country, buying up everyone’s inventory. Back in the 60s-70s you could all but scratch-build one from his stock. He passed away some time ago and I don’t know what happened to his business…

      Like 5
  10. luke arnott Member

    I remember seeing one in the Sacramento newspaper for sale about 20 years ago – price $12,600.Really should have bought it.

    Like 2
  11. Greg Gustafson

    Sorry, but I can’t live with the fenders. Ugly!

    • BJ

      Those fenders are what makes it an Indian, without them it’s just another old bike that no one wants!

      Like 3
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Not so fast there, BJ. There’s a lot of guys, including myself, who would love to have an Indian motorcycle. Most of us just can’t afford it…

        Like 1
      • BJ

        Geomechs I wasn’t canning the Indians I was commenting on Greg Gustafson’s comment on the Indian fenders which he doesn’t like, those fenders set them aside from all other bikes, they’re what makes it an Indian and I would kill for one.

        Like 2
  12. Mountainwoodie

    My holy grail…a ’47 Chief!

    But I’m too cheap/broke to buy one that is original and too cheap/broke to buy one that’s restored. Darnit.

    Back in like 1970 I had a teacher who had about 20 Indians, lined up, well like Indians, in a storage shed. All leaning up against each other. From the teens to the fours to the Chiefs. I couldn’t believe it. I wonder what became of him and his bike collection.

    That year I actually went with him to Hershey and had a ball like any normal 17 year old would. Of course today a teacher taking a kid anywhere…….well you can imagine.

    Like 2
    • Johnny

      Some parts of the country –still have common sence people.. Nice Indian motor cycle.

      Like 1
  13. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Auction ended with 0 bids.

  14. Bill

    Auction back up. Now opening at 18K. No bids. I guess the Indian folks know what a basket is worth and are voting with their feet.

    Missing some parts indicates it was used as a source for more viable/desirable bikes. It seems that runners are available for very little above the asking.

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