American Sport: 1923 Indian Scout

This 1923 Indian Scout was one of America’s first sport bikes.

| September/October 2014

1923 Indian Scout
Claimed power:
596cc (36.4ci) air-cooled 42-degree sidevalve V-twin, 70mm X 78mm (2.75in x 3.0625in) bore and stroke, 4.5:1 compression ratio (est.)
Top speed:
55mph (est.)
Weight (dry):
315lb (143kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG:
3.5 gal (13.2ltr)/50mpg (est.)
Price then/now:
$295 (est.)/$15,000-$30,000

“Come on — don’t be hemmed in — see the country on an INDIAN! Ride when you please — where you please — in solid comfort.”

So proclaimed the Indian catalog. The Roaring Twenties was a unique era in America, a time of dance marathons, jazz bands, speakeasies and bathtub gin. Prosperity meant that people had money to spend on fun — including motorcycles, which were transitioning from simple, inexpensive transportation to sport vehicles to satisfy an increasingly leisure-oriented society.

Getting from place to place was becoming more enjoyable and less of an endurance contest. Thanks to legislation passed between 1919 and 1921, the roads were getting better. Motorcycles were getting better, too, and American motorcycle riders of the Twenties had their choice of several different made-in-America brands, including Ace, Cleveland, Henderson, Harley-Davidson and Excelsior. And the first choice of many sport riders of the time was the Indian Scout.

In its day, the Scout was considered fast, stable and reliable. It was in many ways one of the first sport bikes from an American manufacturer. Unlike many of its contemporaries, instead of a collection of not very well matched parts, the Scout was an integrated design. And although the Scout’s 596cc V-twin was smaller than much of the competition, a Scout could bang tires with the best of them. Riders raced Scouts and set out on long-distance, record-setting trips on them, as well.

The story of Charles B. Franklin

The Scout was the brainchild of talented designer and motorcycle racer Charles B. Franklin. Born in Ireland in 1880, Franklin was trained as an electrical engineer. In 1903, shortly after graduating from school, he started competing on the then-new motorcycles, with his first mount a Belgian FN. Franklin was not particularly enamored of the FN, and soon moved to a custom bike powered by a JAP (J.A. Prestwich) V-twin and built up with Chater-Lea frame parts. He was selected for the 1905 and 1906 British international racing teams, and competed on the Isle of Man in 1908 and 1909.

9/4/2014 7:57:39 AM

thanks margie, your write up reads as an easy to comprehend, datelined research paper about the development of a motorcycle; and apparently professionally photographed as well. well done. thanks again, respectfully, gerald a estes III

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

Classic Motorcycle Touring and Events.

The latest classic motorcycle events and tours.