Indian Chief Roadmaster

Indian vs Feral, A Clash of Cultures!

G’day everyone from Ken in Australia.

For those of you fairly new to the list, I’ll introduce myself to set the scene. I’m a Flight Lieutenant with the Royal Australian Air Force and have had my 47 Roadmaster Chief for close to 8 years now.


In early 1993 my good friend Jim Parker (Jim Parker Indian ) managed to track down my dream bike from a fella in New South Wales, Australia, after he imported it from Argentina. I believe it was used as a Police bike. (wish I had the paper work on that). As you can see from the scans, the bike was a mess, but complete including Motolamp and speedo.

It was love at first sight as I loaded the bike onto my trailer once I received it from Interstate. I knew how I wanted it to look, and promptly headed off to Jims back yard shed (he’s come a long way!) to begin the restoration.

Jim’s brief, no expense to be spared and build me a rider.

The bike was totally disassembled, reassembled using Ollie Cams, was ported, we toyed with the idea of SS flywheels and stroking the machine, but decided against it due to longevity concerns. I got a beautiful Roy Bognor paint job which was worth the wait. After destroying my bank account and selling my BMW and Harley to complete the restoration, I was the proudest bike rider in Oz, and the machine took out every bike show it was entered in.

Jeeze that foot clutch took some getting use to!

In December 1994, I was transferred to Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory. For those who don’t know Australia, Darwin is fairly much a frontier town, where men are men and crocs, snakes, sharks and deadly box jellyfish nothing more than an embugerance.

We have more than our fair share of people who we call locally ‘Ferals or Long Grasses’, who live in the bush in town, come to town on welfare check weeks and drink them self to oblivion. (Not very pleasant people) I had been here for two weeks.

A Night To Remember

It was a typical Darwin December evening. Beautiful, with tropical lightning storms lighting up the dusky sky in a display that Southerners couldn’t imagine. I put on my boots, jeans, favourite white tank top and kicked the Chief into life.

The stuff that all this bike romance is made of.

I had gotten approximately 500 meters away from the gates of the base on the highway, just into third and doing approximately 60 – 70kph when I spotted a group of long grasses on the medium strip, obviously very drunk.

Three of these brain surgeons ran across the road in front of me, which posed no problem. The fourth one who had hesitated and stayed put, then in all her wisdom decided she wanted to be with her mates. She took approximately four steps across the road and effectively ran straight into my handle bars, with a look in her eyes that screamed nobody home.

Isn’t it funny how you can remember all this so clearly, and yes, it does happen in slow motion.

Jeez I Hate The Sound Of Smashing Headlights!

She hit me on my right hand side and immediately put the front wheel of the bike into full right lock. The handle bar grip hit me in the chest and the bike and I went down on our right hand side quite heavily.

I remember seeing the bike slide off into some trees while I was busy burning all the skin off my forearms and burning through my wallet and jeans, getting a grazed bum. After I came to a halt, I picked myself up off the road, bleeding and sore, secured the bike which was had flipped and was still running with throttle wide open, a holed oil tank, flames and sparks shooting out of the exhaust.

Indian Chief Roadmaster

After I had shut it off and closed off the fuel, I turned to the cause of all this. She was laying unconscious on the road, and as I’m a Registered Nurse, I looked after her appropriately. It was during my rendering first aid to this person that her mates came up to me from the road and began hitting me with a stick.

‘That’s my sister, that’s my sister It was at this point that I lost my sense of humour.

A bus driver that had witnessed all this then rushed forward and came to my aid, with other motorists assisting where required. They separated me and this moron, and an ambulance was called to transport myself and the unconscious person to our respective hospitals. She came to in the ambulance with a drunken stupor and had suffered a fractured left femur from the crash bar I suggest.

The Aftermath

I ended up spending the whole ‘Wet Season’ in Darwin wearing special burns dressings on my arms which was a blast, I had numerous lacerations, bruises and no bike. My drunken feral friend spent a few days on crutches before she was seen to be drinking back at the scene of the accident in plaster and no crutches, and my bike ended up being an insurance write off.

I agonised for about three nanoseconds as to what to do with my insurance cheque, but as I received $35000 (AUS) and the salvage of the wreck, all I wanted to do was load the bike onto a truck and have Jim work his magic all over again. The re-restoration took nine months and all my insurance money but before I knew it, a pallet was being unwrapped like my biggest birthday present out side my unit on the RAAF base at Darwin, I destroyed all the Harley D packaging and before my eyes was my bike, complete and pristine again. That was 1995


It’s now May 2000, I’m posted to Townsville in North Queensland with the RAAF which is motorcycle heaven, but the Indian scene is dead to say the least. I still ride my Chief everywhere, and hang out for the very few bike shows that pop up. I’m still the editor for the Indian Motocycle Club of Australia, but I tell you one thing, If it wasn’t for Gary Stark, Moen and all of you who chat, stir, complain, inform and generally entertain us all on all matters Indian, my love and knowledge of the marque wouldn’t be anywhere near as intense.

Best wishes everyone.

Ken and Sharlene

Click on pictures for full size

Indian Chief Roadmaster

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