1953 Indian Chief

As the last Indian motorcycle, the 1953 Chief is among of the most collected bikes from the great American brand. See more motorcycle pictures.

The 1953 Indian Chief motorcycle, big, heavy, bedecked with bodywork, was the great bike on which a proud American company rode into the sunset.

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Though Indian had enjoyed a long and rich history, financial problems beset the company in the early 1950s. Attempts at postwar singles and vertical twins intended to compete with the machines from Europe ultimately proved unsuccessful, and their development had cost the company dearly.

Despite the trouble, the V-twin Chief had seen a fair number of updates during the postwar years. Modern telescopic forks replaced the girder front end in 1950, when the 74-cubic-inch V-twin was enlarged to 80 cubic inches.

In 1952, the front fender was trimmed to a thinner contour and a cowling was added on top of the forks.

The Chief's flathead V-twin was considered somewhat archaic compared to Harley-Davidson's overhead-valve engines, but the Indian used a more modern ignition system.

Whereas Harleys had a single coil that fired both plugs at the same time once per revolution (one plug firing needlessly), Indian used an automotive-type distributor that fired each plug only on its cylinder's power stroke. This was hardly an overwhelming advantage, however.

According to factory records, 700 Chiefs were built in 1952, while only 600 were completed in 1953. After that, the Chief -- and Indian along with it -- was relegated to history, leaving Harley-Davidson the sole surviving American motorcycle manufacturer.

With its massive skirted fenders, locomotive-like torque, and "last-of-the-breed" heritage, the '53 Chief is surely one of the most collectible of Indians.

The 1953 Indian Chief motorcycle represents both the crowning achievement and the sorrowful end of a company that gave generations of motorcyclists some of their fondest memories.

See the next page for more great photos of the collectible 1953 Indian Chief motorcycle.

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1953 Indian Chief Pictures

The last of the Indian Chiefs had massive skirted fenders and locomotive-like torque.
The last of the Indian Chiefs had massive skirted fenders and locomotive-like torque.

Financial woes, little money for development, and competition from European motorcycles doomed Indian, and the 1953 Chief was the last model it produced.

Indian enlarged the Chief's 74-cubic-inch V-twin engine to 80 cubic inches in 1950, a move properly noted with a fuel tank decal.
Two fuel-filler caps and one for oil were part of the Indian Chief rider's view.
By 1953, the Chief carried acres of sheet metal, including a cowling mounted behind the headlight.

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