American Character Bikes: Rollfast Hopalong Cassidy, Shelby Donald Duck, Huffman Dial-Your-Ride

1952 Indian Scout 22″ Three-Speed

1952 Indian Scout

Sturmey-Archer 3 Speed

22″ Frame

26″ Wheels

I imported this Indian Scout from America a few years ago and have been riding it. Indian machines enjoy an almost mythological status among motorcycle enthusiasts, so I’d always wanted one. But rather than pay a five figure sum for a motorized vintage Indian, I decided this unmotorized Indian Scout was an extremely practical option …not only much cheaper to buy and import, but also good exercise!

After WW2, bicycles made in America were heavyweight ‘balloon-tired’ machines that were not practical for long-distance commutes or touring. They were essentially recreational machines. But in Great Britain, saddled with repaying war debts to America, bicycles were just about the only form of transport available to the average person. Practicality was essential.

There was a limited market in the USA for British bicycles. As part of the debt repayment, America became an important export destination for British cars, to some extent motorcycles, but particularly bicycles. Indian Sales Corporation (Bicycle Division) in Springfield, MA pulled out all the stops to promote their new ‘British’ bicycle range. Their Christmas 1951 advert explains the advantages of a British bike:

An Indian 3-speed bike is the best Christmas present anyone could get. Beautifully made, 20 pounds lighter than balloon-tired bikes, and fitted with the Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub. No matter whether it’s uphill or down, the Indian pedals easier and goes faster with less effort. It’s the bike for you! Extra safe, too, with two-wheel brakes.

This bike is in good all-round condition. I’ve enjoyed riding it.

New tyres and tubes were fitted when it was serviced this summer. Everything works fine. The wheels and handlebars have good chrome. The paintwork is original and in good condition.


It’s not generally known that in 1948 one of the greatest American bicycle and motorcycle manufacturers attached its badges to a bicycle that was not only mundane …but also British.

The Indian Princess was the ladies model, and the Indian Scout was the Gents.

And the British bicycle manufacturer whose exported bicycles bathed in Indian’s reflected glory?

…Yes, it’s a Phillips!

Phillips were one of the top British bicycle exporters. Industry was nationalized during the war, and that Phillips made military bicycles. After WW2, in the national drive to repay war debts to the USA, the British bicycle industry had government assistance to help bring in the much-needed foreign exchange to rebuild our economy.

The Phillips bicycle in the 1947 ad above looks very similar to the Indian Scout. The ad below is from 1949.

The Indian Scout headbadge is impressive. It also has the remains of the Indian logo on the seat tube (below).

The pedals are American.

And it’s fitted with a side stand, which is standard on American bikes.

THE INDIAN SCOUT MOTORCYCLE

Hendee Mfg Co, Springfield, Mass

Early Indian motorcycles, as you can see in the 1905 review above, were bicycles with engines attached. Later models kept the motorcycle theme, as in the 1916 ‘Indian Chief Motor-Bike’ advertised below.

Quoting the 1917 ad below, ‘Indian Motocycle effect throughout…’

The reason American bicycles were made to look like scaled down motorcycles was that sales suffered greatly after the first bicycle boom ended around the turn of the century. Most manufacturers who remained in the bicycle market were forced to cater for the youth market. The caption ‘Just Like Big Brother’s Motorcycle’ in the 1920 ad below neatly summarizes the marketing strategy that remained in force for the rest of the century.

Hendee Manufacturing Company was started in 1899 or 1901 (according to which source you read) by George M. Hendee and Carl Oscar Hedström. The company changed its name to the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company in 1923 (note that’s Motocycle not Motorcycle).

By the 1910s, it had become the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, so bicycle production was outsourced to companies such as Davis Sewing Machine Co (who also made Harley Davidsons). The Indian Scout motorcycle, whose name this bicycle shares, was introduced in 1920, with a 596cc engine.

The 1928 Scout 101 was the most famous version (1928 ad below)

In 1930 Indian merged with duPont Motors. Scouts saw plenty of action in WW2, but the model was discontinued directly after the war. I’m not quite sure what happened after the company folded. According to http://www.harleymate.com:

‘In 1945, a group headed by Ralph B. Rogers purchased a controlling interest of the company. On November 1, 1945, duPont formally turned the operations of Indian over to Rogers. Under Rogers’ control, Indian discontinued the Scout and began to manufacture lightweight motorcycles such as the 149 Arrow, the Super Scout 249, both introduced in 1949, and the 250 Warrior, introduced in 1950. These bikes suffered from poor quality and a lack of development. Production of traditional Indians was extremely limited in 1949, and no 1949 Chiefs are known to exist.

Manufacture of all products was halted in 1953. Brockhouse Engineering and Royal Enfield bikes were imported from England and badged and sold as Indians through the rest of the 1950s. After this the Indian name passed to the company that imported Matchless motorcycles into the US, however it did not attach the name to any motorcycles, and it went into liquidation in 1962.’

However, other sources suggest that the Indian Matchless motorcycles were imported from an earlier date, around 1952-1954. As you can see, the ad below is from 1952.

The only job that needs doing on this bike is that the Wrights saddle needs a few stitches at the rear.

The Scout was manufactured between 1948 and 1952. I’ve based the age of this one on the fact that the Sturmey Archer three speed hub is dated 1952, below.

Though the Men’s version, the Indian Scout, was current between 1948 and 1952, I believe the Ladies version, the Indian Princess continued beyond 1952: I’ve seen various advertised for sale as 1953 and 1954 and they are quite common in the USA.

I believe the ‘Laughing Indian’ ad is from 1956.

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