Indian 2003 Chief 1638cc
"Man! That is one helluya good-looking motorcycle!"
Way before Harley-Davidson was marketing bar-and-shield underwear to the masses, the original Indian Motorcycle Company was The Big Cheese of two-wheeled manufacturers in the U.S.
When its first production machines rolled off the assembly line in Springfield, Massachusetts, in the early nineteen hundreds, their power and head-turning style impressed so many that Indian became the top-selling brand of the teens and ’20s.
The Indian Chief debuted in 1922, and during its 31-year run, it was Harley-Davidson’s main competition in the V-twin heavyweight arena.
You could easily distinguish a Chief by the graceful sweep of its deeply valanced fenders; its elegant curves and overstuffed profile represented ultimate two-wheeled luxury of The Springfields, and all 2003 Chiefs, are powered by Indian’s proprietary Powerplus engine.
It’s an air-cooled, 45-degree V-twin with two valves per cylinder operated by pushrods and hydraulic lifters.
The 1638cc engine separates itself from The Motor Company crowd with rounded cylinders, serrated rocker covers reminiscent of old Indian twins and an intake system on the left side of the powerplant.
A modest, two-into-one exhaust system accents the engine appropriately and injects a low rumble without loosening dentures.
The entire Chief series successfully evokes the classic models of yore, from the Indian-head marker light topping the full front fender to the encompassing sweep of the rear bodywork.
The timeless elegance is mostly intact. On the road, the 100-cubic-inch engine carburets smoothly and accelerates impressively.
The five-speed transmission shifts well and engages easily.
The engine pulls strongly and predictably.
But what really surprised us was the relatively shakeless ride — with the solidly mounted engine and no counterbalancer, there is much less vibration than we expected.
And the subdued exhaust sound didn’t make us feel we needed to sneak around the local constabulary.
Indian had to make compromises to meet EPA specs, but we were not at all displeased with the resulting exhaust note.
The more frightening clicks and whistles of an EVO engine have been pretty much banished.
We were immediately tortured by the fact that we’d expected the Indian to be a big, heavy, long and unwieldy-feeling pile.
Preconceptions only seem smart when you’re right. We were wrong, though, and the Chief proved hugely maneuverable and easy to ride through, really, the toughest stuff you can imagine.
This EU registered Indian Chief only covered 1600 km since new and its condition is as it rolled off the production line yesterday.
Get ready for the new season !
Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Air-cooled, 45-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: 1 intake, 1 exhaust valve per cylinder, operated by pushrods and hydraulic lifters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1638cc, 98.4. x 108mm
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Carburetion: 1, 42mm Mikuni flat-slide
Lubrication: Dry sump, 3.0 qt.
Minimum fuel grade: 91-octane
Fuel capacity: 5.5 gal.
Transmission: Wet, constant-mesh clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: belt, 2.03:1 ratio
Wet weight: 736 lb., 54% rear wheel
GVWR: 1172 lb.
Overall length: 101.3 in.
Wheelbase: 68.4 in.
Rake/trial: 34 degrees / 5.92.in
Seat height: 28.5 in.
Handlebar width: 36 in.
Wheels: wire spoke
Front tire: 130/90 x 16, 3.5-in. width, tube-type
Rear tire: 130/90 x 16, 3.5-in. width, tube-type
Front brake: 11.5-in. disc, 4-piston caliper
Rear brake: 11.5-in. disc, 4-piston caliper
Front suspension: 41mm stanchions, 5.1-in. travel
Rear suspension: Single damper, 4.25-in. travel
Fuel mileage: : 29 – 31 mpg; 30 mpg avg.
Average rangeE: 158 mi.
200-yard top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 76.72 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 14.069 sec. @ 85.18 mph