Though expensive for its day, at a price of more than $1,000 when a new Chevrolet car cost $700, the 1940 Indian 440 motorcycle offered a streamlined look, a smooth ride, and an unusual inline-four-cylinder engine.
Indian began offering inline-fours after acquiring the Ace Company in 1927, and the first examples were little more than Aces with red paint and Indian logos on their tanks.
The engine had overhead intake valves and side (flathead) exhaust valves, a configuration known as an F-head. This four-cylinder model remained virtually unchanged until 1936, when the valve layout was reversed in an effort to wring more power from the 77 cubic inches.
Often referred to as the "upside-down Indian," the new engine was a dismal failure. Maintenance was more difficult than before, and overheating became a problem, so Indian reverted to the original design two years later.
The 1940 version, called the 440, adopted skirted fenders that added a more streamlined look. They also added about 36 pounds to an already imposing mass that totaled 568 pounds.
But the 1940 Indian 440 motorcycle boasted not only the typical Indian leaf-spring front suspension but also an atypical coil-spring rear suspension, and, if anything, the added weight made it ride more smoothly than ever.
With a list price in 1940 of more $1000, Indian Fours were not high-volume sellers. In fact, a total of only about 10,000 were built during the model's entire 15-year production run.
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