When Polaris purchased Indian two years ago, company leaders knew they faced an uphill battle. Indian might have been America’s first motorcycle manufacturer, predating Harley-Davidson by two years, but the once-proud name was tarnished by decades of bad product and worse business practices. Making the new-generation Indians successful would require serious rehabilitation.
Step one would be creating an all-new engine, the Thunder Stroke 111, to power these all-new machines. But how to introduce this new engine to the public? The easy way would be to commission some big-name builder to create a custom around the new V-twin. Maybe a board track-themed custom, since that look is trending right now and it would also reference Indian’s rich racing history. That’s exactly what we expected when we heard Indian would display a special one-off custom at this year’s Daytona Bike Week. What we never expected was this.
This is the Spirit of Munro, a breathtaking, Thunder Stroke-powered streamliner built in honor of the Munro Special celebrated in the beloved movie The World’s Fastest Indian. This is not some cheap, Orange County Choppers-type theme bike tack-welded together in two weeks. Painstakingly hand-crafted by famed hot-rod builder Jeb Scolman, the Spirit is concours-quality and race-ready, and a worthy tribute to the decades of Indian racers and tuners who have come before.
Polaris needed a bold statement to relaunch the Indian brand, and the Spirit of Munro is just that. This isn’t an inauthentic appropriation of the brand’s past; this is a respectful and reverent attempt to properly honor Indian’s proud performance history and to propel the brand forward into a new era illuminated by the same sense of purpose and pride that powered Indian to such great heights 60 years earlier. This is a bold and inspired move, suggesting just how serious Polaris is about reviving Indian the right way and for good.
The Daytona press event was swarming with Indian staff—all recent hires, and all dedicated 100 percent to Indian business. Victory and Indian are completely separate brands, and with the exception of just three persons in product planning and design that have oversight on both sides, the two companies share no staff. Indian stands alone; it is not a Victory or Polaris side project. Indian also announced the Thunder Stroke will power an all-new 2014 motorcycle model, set to debut before the end of the year. A new engine and powerplant developed in just two years—roughly half the time most OEMs allot to creating a new model—only reinforces the fact that Polaris is serious about making the investment necessary to restore Indian to its rightful place in the American motorcycle pantheon.
The Spirit of Munro, and so many other Indian pioneers, lives on.
Detailed look at the new Thunder Stroke 111: http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/firstrides/122_1306_thunder_stroke_indian_engine/