It’s hard to fault the Indian PR machine. Parent company Polaris has been playing all the right cards for the storied American motorcycle brand, and giving out enough real information and photos—and showing the all-new engine —to keep everybody interested and satisfied leading up to the August 3 debut of the new Chief, at least to some extent.
The latest nugget is this very well done video of the “Spirit of Munro” “land-speed” bike. Constructed by Jeb Scolman of Jeb’s Metal and Speed in Long Beach, California, the streamliner pays homage to the “Munro Special,” the bike Burt Munro rode to a record at Bonneville in 1967 and was later featured in 2005’s “The World’s Fastest Indian.”
Indian Motorcycles took its modern version—powered by the new Thunder Stroke 111 V-Twin—out to Coyote Dry Lake north of Barstow, California, to capture the beast in motion. It’s a beautifully done video, plus the behind-the-scenes clip gives some insight into the build, the ride and how the whole thing was shot.
Indian Motorcycle: The Spirit of Munro
While I enjoy inspirational video as much as anybody, I was looking for a bit more information. The rider in the shoot was Todd Eagan, a sometime tester/contributor for CW, so I gave him a call to find out what it was like to ride the big torpedo.
“Conveniently, I didn’t know it hadn’t ever been run at speed,” said Eagan. “After I got on and made a few quick passes, [Indian External Relations Manager] Robert [Pandya] came over and asked how it was and said, ‘You do know you’re the first person to let the clutch out in any gear, don’t you?!’ I didn’t know it hadn’t been run! It was fast. On those first runs I did it in first gear, which I think was about 80-85 mph.”
Eagan said there were a few “crazy” things about his first-ever run in a streamliner. In crosswinds, for example, the natural and normally correct response of leaning into the wind to keep a straight course caused the bike to want to lift off the ground. They adjusted the course as the wind shifted to avoid catastrophe. Secondly, the bike was unstable and “flopping around” at low speed but was much more stable at high speed. “Still, I was watching it as I went faster,” said Eagan. “Just as we saw portrayed in ‘The World’s Fastest Indian,’ these types of designs can exhibit instability.” That said, by the last few passes of the day, Eagan got the “Spirit of Munro” into fifth gear with no troubles. Said Pandya, “I told him to go as fast as he felt comfortable. Apparently he felt pretty comfortable!”
It probably helped that Scolman was behind the amazingly quick 90-day build, since he has a background building land-speed creations and an incredible eye for symmetry and body line. “I’m a streamline guy, so everything is based off a centerline in space,” says Scolman. “From that string you have X, Y and Z in all directions. You build an accurate buck off of that and while you’re translating sheet metal to the bike, you always keep that reference.”
The overall length of the “Spirit of Munro” is about 13 feet, 7 inches, same as Burt’s original. But to fit the modern 111-inch V-Twin, overall proportions had to be a bit wider. Plus, the aim here wasn’t to build a true streamliner in the traditional Bonneville sense. “We wanted to have ‘Spirit’ look more like a motorcycle than a torpedo,” said Pandya. “We wanted it to be a very human thing where you could see the riders legs and, even without a rider, you could see where he fits.”
The natural question: Will the bike actually run at Bonneville any time soon? Pandya says there is no hard plan yet, but they hope to run in 2014. There will be additional work to make the bike appropriate for a run at Bonneville (got to pass tech) and also, because the bike was built to help debut the engine at Daytona Beach during Speed Week last March, Indian engineers had some very hard specifications to hit on the exhaust system. Scolman expended quite a bit of work to make the spec’d header lengths and mufflers fit under the bodywork.
But if the fact that the countershaft sprocket chewed through rider Eagan’s leathers—in an eerie connection to the burns Munro suffered on his leg back in the day—is any indication, fate wants this bike to run.
Indian Motorcycle: Behind the Scenes – The Spirit of Munro
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