Franklin's Indians

Irish motorcycle racer Charles B Franklin, designer of the Indian Chief

Franklin's Indians Irish motorcycle racer Charles B Franklin, designer of the Indian Chief
Format: Paperback / softback, 352 Pages
ISBN: 9781787112230
Buy from an Online Retailer


The Indian has been the iconic image for American big V-Twins down the years, due in no small measure to the motorcycles designed by Charles B Franklin - the Indian Scout and the Indian Chief.

Charles Franklin was born and raised in Ireland where he quickly became involved in motorcycle racing during the pioneer years. He rapidly established himself as Ireland’s first big star of racing and was the first to represent Ireland in international motorcycle competition. In the Isle of Man TT he consistently finished in the top eight, and in 1911 claimed second place, a remarkable achievement in itself. But it was when he moved to Indian in the USA, where he became the Chief Design Engineer, that his genius really flowed. His designs catapulted Indian back into the forefront of motorcycle design in the 1920s and ’30s and his racing engines and motorcycles won much glory for Indian against stiff opposition. Franklin introduced remarkable improvements in side valve combustion chamber design that predated the work of Ricardo. He championed an holistic approach that popularized new features such as the semi unit-construction powerplant, helical-gear primary drive, double-loop full-cradle frames and a host of other improvements to the early motorcycles. Franklin's Indians not only chronicles his life, but also sheds much new light on the history of Indian motorcycles and the often turbulent times of the Indian Motorcycle Company itself. It's a much-needed book for all Indian fans and all who love the history of the classic American V-Twins.

The author

Harry V. Sucher first began researching the history of Indian motorcycles in the 1930s, when he was still a teenager in California. A veterinarian by profession and life-long motorcyclist by passion, he was the first to take a scholarly approach to documentation of America’s motorcycling history. He personally interviewed Indian personalities like Frank Weschler, Thomas Callaghan Butler, and Helen Hedstrom-Carlson and he drew upon these sources for his seminal work, The Iron Redskin. His recollections provided the Franklin’s Indians book project with a last remaining living link to Franklin’s contemporaries at the Wigwam in the production era. Dr. Sucher passed away not long before the first edition of this book went to print.

In 1980s New Zealand Tim Pickering’s evolving motorcycling thought processes were leading him away from Japanese bikes to the classic heavyweight v-twins, but he really didn’t want a Harley and was searching for one of the 1930s British vees like a BSA G15 or Matchless Model X. It was the late Norman Hayes of Invercargill, a fast-pedalling associate of the famous Burt Munro, who advised him “Get an Indian; they have race-bred motors, and parts are easier to find than for a Honda!” This was the start of a quest which ultimately yielded a ’25 Chief and a ’44 Chief, and a strong curiosity to know more about these bikes’ enigmatic designer. Tim’s internet searches soon intersected with those of Liam Diamond, and a book project was born. Working from opposite sides of the world, they have yet to meet each other face to face.

Growing up in the 1960's Liam Diamond’s father sometimes would talk about the great Irish heroes from down the ages. One of these names was Charles Franklin and his exploits at the Isle of Man TT races. When Liam went to a new school in 1969, there was only one book in the library on motorcycles. The center pages, which were in color, featured a 1930 Indian Scout 101, and down at the bottom of the page was written "Designed by Irishman Charles Bayly Franklin." This was the first time Liam had viewed a 101 and he thought it the most beautiful machine he'd ever seen! Liam realized this man Franklin must have been an exceptional individual, and decided to find out as much as he could about him. Since this book was completed, Liam came to own a 101 Scout of his own. It’s now been sold because he’s eyeing up a post-war Chief, which proves that once you own a 1901-1953 Indian you can’t get any better - only bigger!

Harry Havelin has been a staunch follower of motorcycle sport for 52 years - since May 1965. He regularly attends all of the road races in Ireland each season, and goes each year to the Isle of Man for the TT Races in June and the Classic TT Races in August. He has done extensive research on the history of motorcycle sport in Ireland, and contributed to numerous publications over the years. It was the late great Stanley Woods who recommended to Harry that he should find out as much as possible about the racing career of Charles Franklin who, in Woods’ view, was Ireland’s first great Irish motorcycling competitor.

Reader reviews


Format: Paperback / softback, 352 Pages
ISBN: 9781787112230
Illustrations: 160 color & b-w photos
Size: 7.6 in x 9.8 in / 193.04 mm x 248.92 mm

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