One step forward, one step back. That’s the way the motorcycling world seems to progress sometimes.
Take this 1932 Indian Scout. In the minds of many experts on the brand, it represents a real crossroads for the legendary American company.
Those who appreciate the styling that became synonymous with the Indian name point to this as the era when that distinctive look was coming together. The 1932 Scout (750cc) and Chief (1,000cc) models were the first Indians to feature rounded, saddle gas tanks. Valanced and skirted fenders arrived over the next several years, creating a silhouette that still says Indian many decades later.
On the other hand, fans of the technical innovation that marked the company’s early years might argue that the ’32 Scout represents progress of exactly the wrong sort.
Previously, Indian had built a separate, smaller chassis for its 750cc line of motors. That line culminated in the 101 Scout, a machine renowned among racers and sport riders for its sweet-handling characteristics.
But in 1932, Indian dropped that 750 chassis and started putting Scout motors into Chief frames. The result was a bike that was larger, heavier and, some say, less rider-friendly.
Rocky Halter of Massillon, Ohio, owner of this original-condition Scout, on display as part of the “A Century of Indian, presented by Progressive Motorcycle Insurance” exhibit at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio, says the switch to a single frame for Scouts and Chiefs may have had more to do with economic factors than styling considerations.
“It was the Depression,” he notes, “and I guess it was a budget-cutting measure to use just one frame.”
Halter is among those who defend the ’32 Scout, noting that it was only slightly heavier than the 101 it replaced, hardly enough to justify the criticism the machine received. But, he adds, “The 101 had such a good following, this bike really didn’t get a chance.”
Halter has had plenty of opportunity to appreciate the handling of his Chief-framed Scout, having ridden it in field meets at vintage-bike events in the five years since he purchased the bike. And he says that even with the larger frame, the Scout is a pleasure to ride.
Indeed, of the nine classic Indians Halter owns, this relic of a major turning point in the history of the company ranks among his favorites.
- Year Built: 1932
- Engine: Side-valve four-stroke 42 degree V-twin 45 Cubic Inches (750cc) Displacement, 22 Horsepower
- Transmission: three-speed, hand-shift, chain final drive
- Weight: 430lb