Lot Details
1906 Indian "Camelback" 1906 Indian "Camelback"
1906 Indian 2¼hp ‘Camel Back’ Motorcycle
Frame no. 2696
Oscar Hedstrom and Oliver Hendee, both active in the cycle racing world, got together to found the Hendee Manufacturing Company and build their first prototype Indian motorcycle in 1901. That first machine was powered by a single-cylinder, 15.85ci (260cc) ‘F-head’ (inlet over exhaust) engine that formed part of the ‘diamond’ frame - in the Indian’s case it sloped rearwards to act as the seat tube. An advanced feature in motorcycling’s early pioneering days, chain drive was used by Indian right from the start. The Indian single proved immensely successful and was produced substantially unchanged until around 1905, when a sprung front fork and twist-grip control of throttle and ignition were introduced. Engine production was sub-contracted to the Aurora Automatic Machinery Company between 1902 and 1907, when Indian took it back in house, while the frame and cycle parts were similarly out-sourced to Thor during the marque’s early years. This somewhat unusual state of affairs resulted in the Indian single appearing in a number of different guises in the 1900s. America, Light Thor-Bred, Racycle, Reading-Standard Thoroughbred, Thor and Warwick offerings at this time were all essentially re-badged Indians; confirmation, if any were needed, of the virtues of the Hedstrom design. In competition too, the Indian single reigned supreme, winning America’s first endurance run in 1902 and the first long-distance track race the following year.

The 1906 Indian offered here - serial number ‘2696’ - is one of 1,698 machines produced that year (serial numbers ran from ‘2350’ to ‘4048’). The F-head motor displaces 19ci and is rated at 2¼ horsepower, while the carburetor is a Hedstrom patented device and ignition is ‘total loss’ battery/coil with an 800 to 2,000-mile range. Wheels are 28 inches in diameter, the wheelbase is 48 inches and the machine weighs 105lbs. The fuel and oil tanks are made of copper and have capacities of 3.875 quarts and 1 pint respectively. Fuel is sufficient for a range of 75 to 85 miles, with the oil capacity good for 200 miles courtesy of the total loss lubrication system. Price in 1906 was $210.00, with finishes in Black, Royal Indian Blue or Bright Vermilion.

Another successful inventor from Massachusetts who was busy at the turn of the 19th Century was Sterling Elliott (1852-1922), inventor of the Addressograph machine. He was president of the Elliott Addressing Machine Co and held no fewer than 104 US patents. His most significant patent was for the Elliott Quadricycle (in 1886), which covered a two-wheel steering mechanism, self-equalising brakes and the ability to keep all four wheels on the ground regardless of road surface. His design enabled the inside steered wheel to describe a circle of shorter radius than the outside wheel so that in turning a corner, the inside wheel always followed a circular path of shortest radius. It is argued that Sterling Elliott invented the automobile since Duryea, Haynes, Stanley and every other automobile builder paid a royalty to him. He also patented a chain driven bicycle with hickory wheels in 1886; the Elliott Velocipede in 1890 and a nickel-plated bicycle in 1894.

Because of his involvement in the bicycle design and racing, Sterling Elliott and his son Harmon became friends with Oscar Hedstrom. In 1906 Oscar Hedstrom presented this Indian, serial number ‘2696’, to the 16 year-old Harmon for transportation to school. Harmon later became treasurer of the Elliott Addressing Machine Co and held 118 US patents of his own.

The Indian remained in the Elliott family and later became part of the Elliott Museum Collection in Stuart, Florida, which Harmon, a winter resident of Stuart, founded in honor of his father in 1960. The 1906 Indian was presented to master automobile and motorcycle restorer, Dick Green in the early 1970s in gratitude for his work in restoring several of the Museum’s rare automobiles and motorcycles. It still had its original paint but needed refurbishment. Dick opted to restore the machine and kept it in his private collection. It was purchased from Dick by Mike Corbin in April 2000 and restored to its present condition by Gwen Banquer, with paintwork by Erik Solorio and engine finish by John Buster Kolodziej. After completion the Indian featured in American Iron magazine (May 2002 edition).

Accompanying documentation includes Dick Green’s bill of sale; condition report; 1906 Indian brochure and parts list; studio photographs; sundry restoration invoices; and a complete set of restoration notes/drawings produced by the restorer. Presented in immaculate condition, this motorcycle represents a wonderful opportunity to acquire an historic early Indian with documented history and a direct link to Oscar Hedstrom, which has had only three owners in 102 years. Sold on a Bill of Sale.
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