1908 Indian Tri-Car Quick Delivery Van

Hendee Manufacturing Co., maker of the Indian motocycle, was one of the pioneer innovators in the fledgling industry of motorcycles in the United States. They began with a handful of prototypes in 1901 featuring a small single cylinder engine secured into a frame that looked more familiar to a bicycle than what we think of as a motorcycle. The concept was successful with Indian producing increasingly more motorcycles each year, and quickly expanding into V-twin engines in 1906. From personal transportation, it was inevitable that commercial use would become important.

Variations from the solo “Motor Bicycle” were many in attempt to lure the customer to a machine that would successfully fulfil his needs. In 1906, Indian offered a “Tricycle” which had a paired wheel set mounted that replaced the front fork, providing extra stability to those unsure of their ability to ride a single track vehicle. If you wanted to carry a passenger, especially a gentile lady, then she properly rode in a chair mounted on the tricycle platform. Chivalry still was important in 1906. Add a box to the Tricycle and you had the “Delivery Van” that Indian promoted for both commercial use and for the person who simply need to carry a lot. These offerings continued through the 1908 year.

This 1908 Indian Delivery Van began as an engine restoration project of a rare 3 ½ hp single cylinder engine. It quickly evolved into a complete motorcycle when a Tricycle platform became available. The owner then began the painstaking process of refinishing, fabricating and repairing the parts to his three-wheeler. Required parts were painstakingly replicated to achieve a perfect restoration of this very unique motorcycle. It was a thrill for the owner to start his motorcycle 105 years after it was initially made.

The Indian with the Tricycle addition would have cost the new owner in 1908, $325 for the complete machine. A Tricycle could have been purchased independently for $125 if desired, and Indian promoted that the assembly could be swapped out easily to revert back to the motor bicycle if desired. The Tricycle featured Indian’s “Independent Helical Suspension” on each of the front wheels while the handlebars were linked to the steering axle. The motor shows the first use of a mechanical intake valve on Indians. A single cam in the timing chest worked both intake and exhaust valves which allowed an actuator resembling a hacksaw to work the intake valve from a single tappet. This gave rise to the name “Hacksaw” engine to distinguish the mechanical intake valve over the older atmospheric valve. The motorcycle has been restored to the same specifications as shown in the 1908 Indian catalog. Finished in Indian’s optional Indian Red which was a brilliant red compared to later machines, it is an exquisite motorcycle to admire and operate.

Report by bonhams.com