Indian 1926 “ Prince” 349 cc OHV single engine # BLS 192
Before Indian’s Chief Engineer, Charles B. Franklin, began to design a light weight, single cylinder motorcycle, he travelled to England to study all the latest British models at first hand.
The most conspicuous feature of the UK market at the time was the increasing popularity of relatively high performance 350cc models for both commuter and sporting road use.
These relatively light and economical machines were rapidly taking the place of the old 500cc class models.
By the mid twenties it had become obvious that 350cc singles were the best selling models in British, continental European and colonial motorcycle markets.
After his European trip Franklin imported several machines from overseas for evaluation.
He singled in on a new Velocette Model K that was noted for its outstanding performance.
The first Indian Prince for 1925 looked remarkably similar to that Velocette, with the exception of the engine; the Prince used a side valve power source to cut manufacturing expenses.
The most obvious styling cue to the Velocette was a wedge-shaped petrol tank which did not appeal to American buyers, and in the following year the tank was restyled to appear more like the one on the popular Scout.
Also following English design practice, the little Indian used a light weight girder fork and had a hand-change three speed gearbox.
The engine was secured into a keystone frame with steel plates and had a 3-speed sliding gear transmission with a foot clutch.
Unlike other Indian motorcycles, it had a dry plate clutch and a detachable cylinder head.
Princes were economical to operate and delivered excellent fuel economy.
The 1926 brochure proudly stated: “Here’s the 1926 Indian Prince with the streamline beauty of the Indian Scout.
It is still two hundred pounds lighter than the average motorcycle.
You can learn to ride it in five minutes.”
In the course of 1926 a surprise model was brought on the market, an overhead valve version of the Prince.
A quote from “The Iron Redskin” : “This was thought to have been introduced to counter the threat of the overhead valve Harley 21 cubic inch “Peashooter” model, which had been announced the preceding Fall.
The new machine was available in standard Indian red or in all-white, at no extra charge.
The cycle parts were identical with the side valve model, except that a hand-controlled clutch was fitted. (…) This machine was not shown in the regular catalogs, and from all available information only a couple of hundred were built.
The engine was used as a basis for a special road racing machine that was built in small numbers for the European market a couple of seasons later.”