The "Harley Eater" privateer track bike
1921 Indian Board Track Racer
Engine no. 71R956
History is not kind to old race bikes. Obsolete and past their prime, they are often broken up for parts, or left in a corner to quietly rust away until they become just so much fodder for the scrap man. This motorcycle, perhaps the definitive American privateer racer, was well along that sad path, until it was rescued by the one man who could see it for what it once was.
In its prime this Indian was almost unbeatable. Built by Noel McIntyre, it would become known as the "Harley Eater" for its string of victories on Southern California tracks in the 1920s and '30s. McIntyre, a mechanic at Guy Urquhart's well-known Indian dealership in San Diego, would gain fame as the tuner for Floyd Emde's Daytona-winning Big Base Scout in 1948, but in 1923 he was a struggling racer himself. After hours, he crafted his own race bike, starting with a short-wheelbase 1921 Scout frame to which he grafted a 61ci Powerplus motor, the hot-rodded "big valve" 1000cc job, using the bigger engine's lower frame cradle and half-girder front fork. The resulting special had twice the horsepower of a Scout and stripped down to bare essentials weighed just 285 pounds. It was a fearsome combination that bested most of the arch-rival Harley-Davidsons it ever came up against.
But competition moves on and old racebikes are either retired or sold to lesser, up-and-coming riders. With its big power, short wheelbase and steep steering head angle, the Harley Eater was a handful even for an expert like McIntyre. With less experienced riders in the saddle, the bike turned lethal, or so the story goes, killing its next two owners. For whatever reason, the bike was parked for the following 30 years, shuffled from one owner to the next. At some point the motor was yanked and other parts went missing as so often happens with out-to-seed racers.
Luckily, in 1969 the rolling chassis crossed paths with Mr. Harry Sucher, collector, historian, and author of definitive histories of both Harley-Davidson and Indian, who instantly recognized the old Harley Eater despite its missing motor and years of neglect. He rescued the wreck from an uncertain fate; even better, he had in his garage the clutch, gearbox and most importantly an M-type 61ci Powerplus engine to make the famous bike whole once again.
The resurrected Indian remained in Sucher's stewardship until 1989, when it was sold to a collector of racing motorcycles. The current owner acquired the bike from that collection in 2000 and immediately undertook an eight-month restoration to its present incarnation. This is an important American motorcycle, built and raced by one man with great success, saved from obscurity by one of the keepers of the flame, then cared for and restored to its former glory by two sympathetic collectors.