The “Spirit of Munro”

A moving tribute to Burt Munro and Indian’s new Thunder Stroke 111 engine.

Spirit of Munro

While we can all agree that Indian’s new Thunder Stroke 111 V-Twin is perhaps the most significant cruiser news since, well, the Harley-Davidson V-Rod, what about the cool retro-looking machine it powered at today’s historic Daytona unveiling? The stunning creation is called the “Spirit of Munro,” and in addition to being a rolling technology demonstrator for the new engine, this red streamliner adorned with gold-leaf Indian heads is a moving tribute to the “Munro Special,” the 1920 Scout-based creation that set speed records at Bonneville in the 1960s and was later immortalized in 2005′s “The World’s Fastest Indian.”

“We wanted to bring the engine to life in a compelling way,” explained Indian’s Robert Pandya, who called the “Spirit of Munro” an “emotional piece that celebrates the new engine while honoring all at Indian who came before us.” Entrusted with the build was Jeb Scolman, the 32-year-old proprietor of Jeb’s Metal and Speed, a Long Beach, California, shop that specializes in metal shaping and building hot rods. Scolman—a Bonneville veteran perhaps best known for his stunning recreation of Frank Lockhart’s 1928 Stutz Black Hawk land-speed-record car—is an old-school builder who relies on his eyes and hands more than computers and schematics.

Although the new bike has the same overall length as Munro’s original (13 feet, 7 inches), Scolman says it’s a bigger machine, largely because the crankcase of the new Thunder Stroke 111 engine spans 20 inches from side to side. The result, even with the hand-formed aluminum body’s exceptionally tight tolerances, is an overall shape that looks “more like a tuna than a salmon,” said Scolman, who fitted it with a “less organic” dorsal fin and also made sure the rider straddles the machine to emphasize it’s a motorcycle and not just a streamliner that happens to have two wheels. Moreover, while the new Indian clearly looks different from the original “Munro Special,” Pandya said he and his team really liked the idea of having the rider’s legs a bit exposed, which allows a boot to be put down when needed. “The bike is a clear reference to history,” explained Pandya, “but with a forward-looking vision of building something unique.”

Scolman said the bike, with a custom mild-steel frame, inverted, heavily raked fork, conventional twin-shock swingarm and large Brembo brakes (with proportioning valve), has not been built for a specific class at Bonneville, but he feels it could safely hit 200 mph, provided the engine has enough power. But that won’t happen this year, as the bike will be traveling the country on a publicity tour (on a special Scolman-built trailer, replete with Indian’s famous skirted fenders) , which will prevent it from getting the testing it clearly will need. But mark our words: The “Spirit of Munro” is no empty shell. It will see the salt in 2014.