Saturday, April 16, 2011


Oliver Godfrey, winner of the 1911 TT, and his 580cc Indian
There wasn't much 'Century' talk among motorcyclists until recently...we completely missed the tormented, sporadic, hundred-year birth of our beloved sport in 1967, and anniversaries pass us by like freeway markers.  1995 - the first production motorcycle (Hildebrand and Wolfmuller); 1998 - the centenary of Peugeot motorcyles, the oldest two-wheel maker in the world; 2002 - the first Indian, etc. Only Harley Davidson, the last man standing in the US, made something of a ruckus at their century mark in 2003.
The replica of Oliver Godfrey's 1911 TT winner, built around an original 580cc 'TT'-capacity engine found in England.
2011 marks the 100 year anniversary of Indian's clean sweep of the Isle of Man TT, the first and only American motorcycle to win that race, the story of which appears in this related post. To mark this anniversary, the only extant example of a 1911 Indian 580cc 'TT' racer, a replica built by Pete Gagan (former president of the AMCA and founder of the CVMG) around a correct engine found in England, will lead a historic parade at the TT this June.
Dave Roper in his business suit.
Most appropriately, the Indian will be ridden by the first American motorcyclist to win a TT, David Roper, who won the Senior Manx Classic in 1984, aboard a Team Obsolete Matchless G50.  I hardly need say that Dave is a personal hero of mine; I've been watching and reading about his exploits for 27 years; today he sent a link to his website devoted to this June's ride on the Indian.
Pete Gagan and the TT Indian rep.
Dave is raising funds for this historic trip, to ship the bike, and himself, to the Isle of Man. To make a donation, or find out more, please visit his website here.

To see a bit of Dave at the Island, here are a couple of videos to inspire you...


Anonymous said...

many thanks for your contribution. I feel very ambivalent about asking for money and when I sent you the link it was for a critique of the blog. I consider the Vintagent blog the gold standard to shoot for. I'm pretty clueless about these things and all credit should go to Chris Smith who has set the whole thing up and done a bunch of research on Godfrey. I've got to ask Chris about how to post links on the blog and the Vintagent has to be the first one.
Your article was fascinating and filled in a lot of blanks for me. Am I correct in inferring that Billy Wells was American? I find it amazing that just a few years after Indian was established, they had an international distribution network and racing team.
Thanks again for you help and interest. DR

The Vintagent said...

Hi Dave,
happy to help out; I'm broke but what the heck. Send pix of the TT, I won't be able to make it this year!

I'd love your perspective after the event, and well remember a piece you wrote for me back in, oh, 1989, about riding a Mk8 KTT, for the Velocette o/c newsletter, of which I was editor at the time.

Billy Wells was indeed an American, and an old bicycle racing pal of Hedstrom's from a Manhattan cycling club. All the indicated parties in these early Moto-tales were previously bicycle racers, including such people as Jack Prince, who built seemingly all the Board Tracks in the US - but he was an Englishman.

Yes, Indian acted fairly quickly; 7 years in they were sending race machines abroad. But, in ambition, other marques were even faster, for example BMW, who supported racing their very first year, and began supercharging their machines within two years (1925!). Other makes existed first for racing, such as HRD, which is why they went bust in four years, even with track success.
By comparison, H-D took their sweet time, and didn't send teams abroad until they bought Aermacchi...

I hope the post will encourage my readers to contribute! Fill the pot!

GuitarSlinger said...

Sad - That no one else is telling this tale .

Glad - That Paul did as I did not know this story at all

Mad - That Victory is going to take a stab at playing off the great History and Legend of Indian M/C's with what will no doubt just be another cruiser with Indian Design cues

We don't treat our icons very kindly in the US , do we .

Anonymous said...

Just one point, Dave Roper won a Manx Grand Prix (as stated) but this is not the same thing as winning a TT! The two races are seperate events, the TT being run in June and the "Manx" in September. So, sorry, we're still waiting for an American TT winner..


Anonymous said...

Ref the above comment, I just checked further to find that I was wrong! Dave Roper did, indeed, win a TT race. Sackcloth and ashes, and humble pie for tea. My apologies..