Far beyond just a standard scooter, motorcycle, or superbike, this model is the Chief by more than just its name. The 1940 Indian Chief was once also the Chief of the smooth ride and chief of handling. Hop onto the saddle of this classic motorcycle and let’s go for a ride.
Chief of its Line
The Chief first went into production in 1922 as a replacement for an earlier model produced by the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company: the Powerplus. What the Powerplus lacked in functionality, the Chief improved by incorporating the general design of the earlier Scout as well as updated technology.
The Chief went through multiple iterations; however, due to its technical specifications, smooth ride, and exceptional handling, the 1940’s model would be the one to live on as a classic.
What Makes a Chief a Chief?
The 1940’s Chief was the first in its line to use a sprung frame that significantly increased the line’s already noteworthy handling and further smoothed out the ride.
This combined with the skirted fenders, full-bodied chassis, and rear plunger suspension system gave anybody lucky enough to ride the 1940’s Chief a legendary sense of security and comfort behind the bars that only a Chief could provide.
Timeline of Versions with Changes and Pictures
The Indian Chief has been produced by a handful of manufacturers as well as used as a title given to rebadged Royal Enfield Meteors in 1959, but nothing beats the real thing.
- Indian Chief (1922-1940)
The original model hit production in 1922 with a larger variant called Big Chief, released in 1923, designed for use with a sidecar. Both models were based on the earlier Scout design.
- Indian Chief (1940-1948)
The 1940 model is regarded as the chief of the line with its rear plunger suspension, sprung frame, and signature fenders.
- Indian Chief (1950-1953)
After skipping a year during the post-war recovery, the Chief was reintroduced in 1950 with girder forks styled after those on the Sport Scout to replace the leaf-sprung trailing-link forks used prior to this release. After 1953, Indian stopped making any motorcycles until 1999.
- Indian Chief (1999-2013)
The reintroduction of the Chief by Indian after 46 years initially made itself manifest by independently engineering copies of Harley-Davidson Evolution engines instead of building on the traditional Chief.
- Indian Chief (2014-present)
By 2014, everything from the engine to the fenders was different from the prior versions of the Chief line. Doubtless, there are a few auto aficionados who refuse to acknowledge any Chiefs built after 1948 as “real” Chiefs.
New Developments for the Chief
While the Chief continues to be produced in its new form, it bears virtually no similarities to its original style nor to its former status. Nowadays, the greatest acknowledgement of the 1940’s Indian Chief is on its throne in Gary Sanford’s collection at the Frist Art Museum.
The Chief in the Media
In 2018, on the popular TV reality show Pawn Stars, a 1940 Indian Chief ridden by Steve McQueen himself was almost sold for $85,000, but that price wasn’t enough to convince the owner to let go of the priceless classic.
The Chief’s Tribes
If you’re looking for social groups to discuss your love for the “real” Chiefs made from 1940 to 1948, then look no further than the Indian Motorcycle Owners Group on Facebook, which has more than 16,000 members as of 2019.
The Indian Chief – An On and Off Again Classic
Whether you ride for the timelessly smooth feel or the ease of handling and control that it gives you, you have to admit there’s nothing quite like the 1940’s Indian Chief.