Mighty Indian Chief

Old Iron Never Dies

When it comes to the early Indian motorcycle lineup, there exists a line drawn in the sand for those that are pure of heart to the brand. Those that are loyal cannot imagine owning any other motorcycle. It’s a labor of love for those that seek out the original parts from a company cut short in its life more than 50 years ago. There’s magic in the Indian name, and it lives on today in machines like this one.

Marty spent the better part of nearly three years building the ’46 Indian Chief you see here. As he explains, the majority of the time was spent just trying to locate and purchase the mostly original parts he wanted to use for his build so that it would look like it was built some time ago. What he could not find in original form through the helpful Indian community, he searched for and found through the aftermarket manufacturers. Luckily for him, a number of high-quality reproduction parts were available that made life much smoother.

Marty’s Indian began life with a 40-horsepower, 74-inch engine that would barely get out of its own way by today’s standards. To breathe more life into the engine he chose a Truett & Osborn 4-13/16-inch flywheel to bring his engine up to the later model Chief’s 80-inch specs. The case and cylinders were still surviving originals, but needed a little machine work from Indian Engineering to make everything fit together properly. Marty said, “My dad, sister (Raquel), and niece (Kylie) helped me build the engine in my kitchen. Kylie helped by pinning the pistons to the rods and Raquel set the original cylinders on the assembled lower end.” A pair of Starklite reproduction 80ci cylinder heads topped off their handiwork and breathes with the help of a Bandit camshaft. Fuel and air are mixed through a Performance Indian 40mm CV carburetor kit and waste fumes get dumped through the original exhaust that Marty modified before nickel plating.

Shifting duties are still handled by the original ’46 three-speed transmission. Internally, new Starklite gears were used as necessary to replace the worn out stockers, and as a testament to quality manufacturing, even the clutch basket and primary drive sprocket are still original. A little updating was in order, though, so the clutch plates are current day Kevlar replacements. Clutch actuation is still handled by the left foot rocker pedals, with shifting duties stemming from the right-side hand shifter topped with a scorpion shifter ball for added effect.

Marty’s ’46 frame got a dose of fresh black powercoat before being fit with a set of 1950 Aerodraulic telescoping forks and the stock plunger-type rear shocks. The front rolls on a 19-inch Buchanan’s hoop with stainless spokes, while out back, you’ll find a similar 18-inch assembly peaking from under the skirted fender. Keeping with the early-era theme are Firestone Deluxe Champion reproduction rubber sourced from the ever-popular Coker Tire company. Stopping power is strictly from the rebuilt cable-operated, mechanical drum brakes. The minimal sheetmetal on the Chief gives off the perfect era-correct custom appearance by doing away with the front fender to lend a racy appearance to the machine, the Iron Horse Corral long rear fender ensures the Indian namesake appearance is retained. Eagle-eyed readers might notice the fuel tank is actually from an older ’36 model Chief. House of Kolor Jet Black was sprayed over the minimal bodywork and striped by Scott Harvill around the logo to give the bike its perfect hot rod appearance. The final piece to the puzzle was the Duane Ballard custom leather seat wrapped around the Chief’s 69-year old seat pan.

The influence for this build was through a chance encounter with John Parker and his ’46 Chief. With original Vard forks and a clean bobber style, Marty was introduced to the early Indian motorcycles and fell in love with them. While gathering parts for his personal ’46 Chief, Marty met great people in the Indian motorcycle community and thanks them for their help locating parts and with all the history of the Indian motorcycle brand.

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Owner Marty

Year/Make/Model 1946/Indian Chief

Fabrication Marty

Build Time 2-1/2 years


Year/Size 1946/80ci

Builder Marty

Cases Indian

Cylinders Indian

Heads Starklite

Cam Bandit

Carburetor H-D CV

Air Cleaner V-Twin

Exhaust Indian (modified)


Year/Type 1946 three-speed

Case Indian

Gears Starklite

Clutch Indian

Primary Drive Indian


Year/Manufacturer 1946 Indian

Rake/Stretch Stock


Manufacturer Front Indian

TypeLength Aerodraulic Stock

Triple Trees Indian

Manufacturer Rear Indian

Shocks Plunger

Wheels, Tires, And Brakes


Builder/Size Buchanan’s 19-inch

Tire/Size Firestone 19×4

Brake Drum


Builder/Size Buchanan’s 18-inch

Tire/Size Firestone 18×4.5

Brake Drum

Sprocket 43-tooth


Manufacturer House of Kolor

Colors Jet Black

Painter Marty

Graphics Scott Harvill

Plating/Polishing Precision Plating

Powdercoating Next Level


Front Fender None

Rear Fender Iron Horse Corral

Gas Tank Iron Horse Corral

Handlebars Starklite

Grips Indian

Foot Controls Indian

Floorboards Indian

Headlight Indian

Taillight Indian

License Mount Indian

Seat Duane Ballard