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The World's fastest (1920) Indian

This is Gene Walker, who set the first officially sanctioned Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) record in 1920, when rode his Indian V-twin on Daytona Beach at 104.12 mph (167.56kph). While he to record the speed over a course of fixed length, averaged over two runs in opposite directions it was still a long way shy of Glenn Curtiss' 1907 speed record of 136mph as per an earlier post.

Like rivals Harley-Davidson, Indian used such world records and their success in racing (notably in Europe) to promote sales of what were seen as a the USA’s most sporting marques. Americans wanted big engines, partly reflected their bigger-is-better philosophy, but also the wide open spaces and straight roads of the United States. Yet, despite coming from a different culture, the 1000cc V-twins from Indian, Excelsior and Harley-Davidson were often seen in action in European races, winning Italian classics including the Targa Florio and the fledgling Milano Taranto. Even so when Oscar Headstrom, the head of Indian, first saw racing on the Isle of Man he pronounced “the TT is the most terrific thing I ever saw.” Little wonder he returned with a team for the 1911 event, Indian scoring a 1-2-3 victory in the Senior TT. Second rider home was the famous Irish rider and engineer Charles Franklin, who later emigrated to the USA, starting a career with Indian that would culminate with his designing the 1926 Indian Scout.


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