1933 Indian Four

Four-cylinder motorcycles were a top-end luxury in the 1920s and 30s, and the Indian Four was built as such from 1927 until production ended in 1942.

| September/October 2011

  • left profile of Indian Four parked on road by tall grass
    Gary Phelps' 1933 Indian Four.
    Photo by Gary Phelps
  • right profile view of Indian Four parked on road by tall grass
    This 1933 Indian Four had been painted all yellow until Gary Phelps restored it, piece by piece.
    Photo by Gary Phelps
  • left profile of Indian Four parked on road by tall grass
    Gary Phelps' 1933 Indian Four.
    Photo by Gary Phelps
  • cockpit of Indian Four
    The cockpit of the Indian Four includes an oil pressure gauge and speedometer.
    Photo by Gary Phelps
  • engine of Indian Four
    The 1933 Indian Four Model 403's engine case and transmission were cast as a unit, with separate cylinders capped by a common cylinder head.
    Photo by Gary Phelps
  • Indian Four transmission
    The 1933 Indian Four Model 403's engine case and transmission were cast as a unit, with separate cylinders capped by a common cylinder head.
    Photo by Gary Phelps
  • rider with small dog in jacket touring on Indian Four
    Lucky dog: Ti Callahan and pal Benny enjoy a ride on Gary Phelps' 1933 Indian Four.
    Photo by Gary Phelps
  • spark plugs and wires of Indian Four
    Replicas of the original spark plugs and wires used on a 1933 Indian Four.
    Photo by Gary Phelps
  • Indian Four leaf spring front shock absorber
    Front suspension on Gary Phelps' 1933 Indian Four Model 403 is by quarter-elliptic leaf springs acting on a girder fork.
    Photo by Gary Phelps
  • Indian Four oil pressure gauge
    The original oil pressure gauge on Gary Phelps' 1933 Indian Four still does its job, almost 80 years later.
    Photo by Gary Phelps
  • rear view, right profile of parked Indian Four
    Gary Phelps' 1933 Indian Four.
    Photo by Gary Phelps

  • left profile of Indian Four parked on road by tall grass
  • right profile view of Indian Four parked on road by tall grass
  • left profile of Indian Four parked on road by tall grass
  • cockpit of Indian Four
  • engine of Indian Four
  • Indian Four transmission
  • rider with small dog in jacket touring on Indian Four
  • spark plugs and wires of Indian Four
  • Indian Four leaf spring front shock absorber
  • Indian Four oil pressure gauge
  • rear view, right profile of parked Indian Four

1933 Indian Four
Claimed power:
30hp (est.)
Top speed: 75mph (est.)
Engine: 1,266cc (77.21ci) air-cooled inline four
Weight: 495lb (225kg)
Fuel capacity: 4.6gal (17.4ltr)
Price then: $395
Price now: $20,000 - $60,000

In the early days of cars, the Ford Model T was appreciated as an economical workhorse, a simple automobile with a basic four-cylinder engine. Certainly there were bigger and more powerful engines in far sexier cars, such as the impressive V-12 in the 1916 Packard Twin Six.

The situation was much the same with classic American motorcycle manufacturers. Stout and sturdy single- and twin-cylinder engines in numerous makes of two wheelers could be likened to Ford’s humble four-banger. However, while the four was at the bottom of the ladder in the land of automobiles, a four-cylinder engine in a motorcycle was the pinnacle of power in the late teens — and for the two decades that followed.

A four-cylinder motorcycle like Gary Phelps' 1933 Indian Four was a luxury item for a private owner, as they were usually much more expensive than their single- and twin-cylinder counterparts. Generally, only the wealthy or police forces — where the machines were lauded for their power and ease of handling — were readily able to afford and operate four-cylinder bikes.



Watch a video of Jay Leno talking about his 1933 Indian Four 

History of the Four

Ace, Cleveland, Gerhart, Henderson, Indian, Militaire and Pierce all made four-cylinder motorcycles in North America, and each of these ran an inline four with the engine placed longitudinally in the frame, as opposed to the more common transverse placement of four-cylinder engines we’re used to today, starting with Honda’s revolutionary CB750 in 1969.

DANIEL WINEINGER
8/21/2013 10:46:51 AM

My uncle had two of the Indian 4's, a Scout and a Chief with a side car during his riding years. I saw one photo before he died, of his mother screaming in his "elevated" side car. He said she never forgave him for that scary ride and never set foot in the car again. He worked in a defense plant in Terre Haute Indiana during the war, and he, along with many of his buddies at the plant, would take off towards Indianapolis after their Midnight shift ended. As the sun came up they headed back to Terre Haute for a little rest and a new day. His riding days ended when he had to 'lay down" the Scout at speed losing a large part of his right heel and ankle in the process. He loved telling stories about his riding days every time I rolled up on my HD or the Norton 850.







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