c.1930 Indian Model 402 Four
Engine no. B4490
Marketed as the Indian Ace for 1928, the Springfield company's first four-cylinder motorcycle had resulted from its purchase of Ace rights and tooling from Detroit Motors the previous year. The Ace company, although bankrupted twice, had developed a fundamentally sound four-cylinder motorcycle based on William Henderson's original design, and this provided Indian with an opportunity to offer an in-line 'four' with minimal development costs.
The Ace was William Henderson's second four-cylinder motorcycle. One of the most charismatic names in American motorcycling history, the Henderson company - founded by Tom and William Henderson in Detroit in 1912 - produced nothing but four-cylinder motorcycles in the course of its 19-year existence. The firm passed into the control of Chicago-based cycle maker Ignaz Schwinn, owner of Excelsior, in 1917 and the Hendersons soon moved on to found the Ace motorcycle company - later taken over by Indian - thereby having a hand in the design of all the major American-built fours.
The first Ace four had been offered late in 1919 for the 1920 season, and retained the F-head (inlet over exhaust) valve gear of the original Henderson. (Schwinn's Hendersons went 'flat head' for 1920). The 75ci (1,229cc) air-cooled inline engine employed splash lubrication and was built in unit with the three-speed, hand-change gearbox. A wheelbase of 59" and a seat height of 29" made for a stable and comfortable ride, while weight was kept down to a commendable 365lbs.
To promote its new product, Ace recruited Erwin G Baker, famous for his record-breaking long distance rides for Indian, and 'Cannonball' duly obliged, setting a new transcontinental record of 6 days, 22 hours, 52 minutes, smashing Henderson's existing record and humbling Henderson-mounted rival Wells Bennett in the process. Following Bill Henderson's death in an auto accident in December 1922 while testing an Ace, Arthur O Lemon was recruited as chief engineer from the rival Excelsior/Henderson firm, bringing with him rider Charles 'Red' Wolverton. Ace's competition successes continued under Lemon's direction, including a new American motorcycle speed record of 129.61mph set by Wolverton, but these were not matched by sales and the company went bust in 1924.
By 1926 the reconstituted company was owned by Detroit motors, from which it was bought by Indian January '27. The Indian Ace changed little for the next couple of years before the Springfield firm began to put its own characteristic stamp on the Four. This transformation began with a restyle for the 1929 season (Model 401) followed by a new Indian-style twin down-tube frame, leaf-sprung front fork and a five-main-bearing crankshaft on the Model 402. Introduced on June 1st 1929, the latter was the biggest single change made to the motor up to 1936.
One of the world's most beautiful and collectible motorcycles, this restored Indian Four would appear to have been fitted with an Ace engine dating from circa 1923/24. The machine has been displayed at various events, most recently at The Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show, Stafford in October 2009. Offered from a private collection, it will require re-commissioning and the usual safety checks before returning to the road. There are no documents with this Lot.