1923 Indian 61ci Big Chief Engine no. 91V154

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Lot 137
1923 Indian 61ci Big Chief
Engine no. 91V154

Sold for US$ 35,100 inc. premium
1923 Indian 61ci Big Chief
Engine no. 91V154
Entering the 1920s, Indian was the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world. The company’s most successful motorcycle to date was introduced at the beginning of that decade, the diminutive 37 cubic inch Scout. Largely based upon the 61ci Powerplus, the Scout shared a similar side-valve engine configuration except now the engine and the transmission were integral sharing a common enclosed primary. The new engine was robust and reliable, providing the motto ‘You can’t wear out an Indian Scout’.

The first Indian Chief was introduced for the 1922 model year and actually designed around the smaller Scout rather than the larger Powerplus. Displacing the same engine size of 61ci (1000cc) as the Powerplus and having a sidevalve configuration was about as much as would be shared between the two models of motorcycles. The most important advancement of the new Chief was the valve actuation which in the Powerplus was accomplished with a single cam to operate all four valves, centrally located in the timing chest. In the Chief, the motor used a separate cam operating both intake and exhaust valves for each cylinder. As in earlier motors, the new Chief utilized one-piece cylinders and heads. The available fuels of the period dictated the performance of the motor would deliver about 20 horsepower at the crankshaft with a 5:1 compression ratio. Top speed of the new bike was about 65 mph.

Like the Scout, the new Chief joined the three speed sliding gear transmission with the engine through an aluminum cast primary case. Helical cut gears transmitted the power from the crankshaft to the transmission and were lubricated by oil common to the transmission case. Although the helical gears were more expensive to manufacture and emitted more noise than a chain primary drive, they were oil tight and absolutely bullet proof.

The chassis of the new Chief also received much needed attention. The old Powerplus engine was secured to its single down tube frame by engine plates and could actually twist the chassis under stress. The new Chief engine was placed into a double tube cradle frame and rigidly secured by two points at the front of the frame and a single point at the rear of the transmission, an advancement that would last until the end of Chief production some 30 years later. Front suspension used a robust form of Indian’s leaf spring forks originally debuted in 1910. While appearing quite dated to modern eyes, Indian’s suspension actually provided a confident riding experience on country roads. A rigid rear end meant the only suspension in back was afforded by the Messinger Air Cushion saddle. Weighing in at 425 lbs., the motorcycle was no lightweight but was of a comfortable size for an adult man and was often combined with a sidecar.

Feeling competition from upstart rival Harley-Davidson who was already marketing a 74ci overhead valve engine, Indian decided to up the ante for the following year. The Big Chief of 1923 boasted a new 74ci engine through increases in both bore and stroke of the engine. The boost in engine size increased top speed to about 70 mph. Outwardly similar to the 1922 model, both the Chief and the Big Chief received numerous detail improvements for 1923. These included a strengthen frame, enclosing the rear brake and breathing improvements to the engine. The plan worked. The new Big Chief quickly became the best seller of the Indian offerings for both private riders and for the lucrative police force contracts.

There has been a recent growth of interest in early Indian Chiefs. This electrically equipped representative was restored in 1987 and is provided with a title. It would offer the new owner an excellent motorcycle for vintage riding events. Sold on a Kansas Certificate of Title.
1923 Indian 61ci Big Chief Engine no. 91V154
1923 Indian 61ci Big Chief Engine no. 91V154
1923 Indian 61ci Big Chief Engine no. 91V154
1923 Indian 61ci Big Chief Engine no. 91V154
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