Beautifully Restored 1925 Indian Motorcycle
By Jim Babchak • Photos Don Kates/Shooters Images
A basic premise and truism, an indisputable fact: you gotta start somewhere. Every step of life, every level of achievement, every project, every undertaking must start somewhere. From a motorcycle perspective it makes perfect sense; start small and go from there. Start riding on a smaller displacement motorcycle and work your way up to larger displacement motorcycles next. The progression does many things, such as building much needed basic skills, developing spatial awareness, and understanding the discipline and ability to control ever-increasing horsepower. When I was coming up through the ranks of cycling, everyone started on a small displacement motorcycle and worked his way up. In my case it was a single cylinder 1966 Harley Sprint, all 250cc of it, and from there it was on to a Triumph 500 twin, until finally I hopped aboard a 1962 Yonkers Police Department 1200 Panhead.
Back in the 1920s, motorcycle manufacturers recognized the need for a starter motorcycle to ease beginners into the sport, and for Indian, the Indian Prince was just the ticket. The 350cc machine, introduced in 1925, was thought to be the perfect gateway motorcycle for budding enthusiasts and riders, and it was a part of a strategy to grow demand for bigger and better motorcycles down the road. Indian recognized the popularity of smaller displacement motorcycles in Europe and had great hopes for the Prince, both in the States and overseas. The Prince was designed by Charles Franklin, who holds the distinction of having designed the Indian Scout (1920) and Indian Chief (1922).
The Prince uses a rigid frame, coil-spring girder forks, and a single-cylinder, air-cooled flathead vertical engine that displaces 21.25″ (350cc). The wheels consists of 26″ x 3″ clincher rims and tires, a Splitdorf magneto, and a Schebler DX 184 carburetor; the manual says it “can maintain 50 mph for hours without any injury to the motor or the rider.” Later improvements like overhead valves followed in 1926 and efforts were made to continually upgrade the model.
Sadly, the demand for the Prince did not live up to its expectations, either in the States or abroad. Although solid in its concept and execution, the Prince had many factors working against it, one was its price. With a base price of $185 plus $30 for lights, the $215 price tag was $5 more than the Harley-Davidson JD, a popular machine that offered three times the displacement and power for less money. That’s hard to overcome from a sales perspective, and the public reacted pretty much as you’d expect, shunning the Prince in favor of other options. The international market was equally as pernicious, particularly in the United Kingdom, a big consumer of small displacement motorcycles, albeit with a market flooded by domestic brands at more attractive prices. In 1926, Harley introduced its own single-cylinder small displacement model, fueling an already competitive sales war between two fierce competitors. Indian ceased production of the Prince in 1928, yet another motorcycle lost to history.
Our feature bike is a superb example of a first-year (1925) Indian Prince owned and lovingly cared for by Mark Kozak. We can trace its history back to an auction in Nebraska in about 2002. At that time, it was in pieces and up for bid with a batch of other motorcycles and parts. Jeff Thompson, a pilot and motorcycle enthusiast, bought it with the intention of doing a full restoration. Jeff has two brothers who work in the aeronautics industry as machinists, and together they set out to do a world-class restoration and bring the Prince back to its former glory. An inventory of the parts revealed many were missing and a 10-year hunt was on to either acquire the correct parts or make whatever was needed to get the bike back to stock condition. Being skilled in the mechanical aspects of restoration, they painstakingly refurbished each part. The result of their labor created this spectacular machine.
The gorgeous black paint, brilliant nickel plating, hand-painted stripes and logo, and #1 Messenger seat all add to its breathtaking look and static appeal. It has the $30 lighting package and presents itself proudly as a representative of Indian Motorcycle.
When it came time to sell this machine, Jeff reached out to Bill and Carla Montz, who connected him to Mark, and they eventually put a deal together. It was never started, and gas and oil were never put into the machine after restoration, but a check of the spark and compression and its overall pristine condition convinced Mark. He added it to his collection and maintains it as purchased.
It’s a rare sight to see an Indian Prince at an AMCA meet, as they were manufactured in limited numbers for just four years almost 100 years ago. But to see a machine so beautifully restored to this level really stirs the soul, and we are proud to share it with you here in the pages of American Iron Magazine. It’s a testament to the designer, Charles Franklin, to the Indian workers who built the machine, and to Jeff and his brothers who brought it back to this jewel-like level of excellence. AIM