By Marissa Baecker
Daytona Bike Week is buzzing as manufacturers unveil new models, host demos and show off the latest technology while trying to get a jump on the competition with surprises slated for 2014.
Indian Motorcycles has been diligently creating the all-new power plant since the acquisition by Polaris Industries Inc., owners of the Victory motorcycle brand, in 2011. Since the acquisition, Indian forged ahead with a “goal to capture the iconic design and styling aspects of the 112-year old brand’s most historic models and fuse that heritage with state-of-the-art technology and progressive design elements.”
On March 9, in Daytona Beach during bike week, Indian unveiled the all-new Thunder Stroke 111 engine that will power the 2014 lineup of Indian Motorcycles. Like its name, the engine features 111 cubic inch displacement (1811cc) and 115 ft-lbs of torque.
Motorcycle expert Roger Goldammer had already heard of the unveil when I called him to get his expert opinion and stated, “Well, while I have yet to see what their bike [the 2014 production Indian] looks like that this new engine will sit in, I am impressed with the new engine, unlike the last incarnation of the Indian power plant, which was derived from the Harley Evo big twin, this features unit construction, so engine and transmission share a common case.”
Upon reviewing photographs and technical specifications, Goldammer admired the design, “It is a beautiful thing, convincingly resembling their ancestor flathead engine – not easy to do with an overhead valve configuration.”
The inspiration for the new engine came from the 1948 Indian Chief. After researching the complete history of Indian Motorcycles, designers were confident that the Thunder Stroke 111 was the perfect heart for the 2014 production.
“They stayed with traditional air cooling, which I would guess was a dilemma for them as liquid cooling has many benefits, most importantly, ease of meeting noise and exhaust emissions,” continued Goldammer. “It looks like it lends itself well to powering a heavy cruiser, with its long stroke, 49 degree cylinder angle and modest compression ratio, etc.”
With the unveil in Daytona, those in attendance were treated to another custom creation titled the Spirit of Munro, a one-of-a-kind, all metal bike built for speed and powered by the new Thunderstroke 111.
The Spirit of Munro is designed to pay tribute to the legacy of those who have built and chased land speed records. Burt Munro, the namesake of the Spirit, rode a 1920 Indian Scout (the Munro Special) on the Bonneville Salt Flats back in 1967 and broke the land speed record for the under 1000cc class. The story is the basis for the movie The World’s Fastest Indian.
“We are a brand that will always strive to push the envelope in everything we do, so when the idea of building a streamliner to both showcase the new engine and pay homage to the racers, mechanics and engineers of the past landed on my desk, it was an easy decision,” says Vice President of Polaris Motorcycles, Steve Menneto. “We are proud to showcase America’s passion for Indian Motorcycles in such a unique and historic way.”
While the Spirit of Munro was on display in Daytona, it was built to compete.
“Part of the process of building a new motorcycle is building many pre-production and production test engines,” said Gary Gray, Product Director for Indian Motorcycle. “The Indian Motorcycle engineering team is fully conscious that every day we are working with history and over the course of design and development many parts and complete engines are built, tested, disassembled and measured. We thought it a fitting tribute to place one of our pre-production engines in a one-of-a-kind vehicle to pay homage to the racers who have helped build the legend of the Indian Motorcycle brand over its 112-year history.”
The Spirit of Munro was built in three months of a long and brutal schedule, something that Goldammer can attest to. Aside from his regular specialized work, Goldammer spent the better part of a year building his own custom bike to compete on the flats, with the specific goal of breaking 200 mph.
“The machines down there are as diverse as the people,” says Goldammer. “It is just a crazy mix of engines and bikes of all types, from diesel powered machines, to converted dirt bikes, to all out production sport bikes, to completely hand built efforts. A lot of old vintage bikes – well represented by the British bike crowds – some Vincents and Nortons – and it is just really wonderful to be part it to keep that tradition going.”
With the launch of the 2014 production Indian, the tradition of American muscle motorcycles will continue as well. As part of the historic American culture, Indian has teamed up with Jack Daniel’s and will use the land speed racing stage to bring an important message to riders.
David Stang, AVP Events/Sponsorships for Jack Daniel’s Whiskey said, “We proudly promote the responsible enjoyment of our products, and a serious environment such as land speed racing shows what can be achieved when individuals strive for perfection. When the racing is done, we will toast our heroes of the past and the future.”
The toast is branded, “Bottles and throttles don’t mix.” Words to ride by.