Mike Wolfe Explains His Passion For Indian Motorcycles

In the TV series American Pickers, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz travel the back roads of America looking for “rusty gold” buried in people’s garages and barns. Mike Wolfe is a well known Indian motorcycles enthusiast, and what got him into this business of “picking” is when he scored a treasure trove of old Indians at a Pennsylvania farm. In this video, Mike tells the story of his encounter with antique Indians. FYI, Polaris has chosen him as an “ambassador” to help the 2013 launch of the new Indian Motorcycle model(s)

17 Responses to “Mike Wolfe Explains His Passion For Indian Motorcycles”

  1. 1 Dec 16th, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I for one can certainly appreciate a good story from the past and we wish Indian all the success they deserve.

    For the few of us worldwide who still ride and live in the past, we appreciate hearing about machines from our era for which we invest our lives trying to keep street legal Knuckleheads and Pans alive and on the road.

    Blink your lights when you see a machine riding through the glen with no headlights…. that’s a real live antique design headed toward you.

    Yeah, we live on… despite trying to be annihilated by the very people that make our replacement parts – who love to hate us, and put a stick in our spokes with every needed order? Go frickin’ figure. It’s been fighting a slip-stream of pure greed that rides ahead of us.

  2. 2 richard Dec 16th, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Indians are cool! About 25 years ago I was out east and met a friend for dinner. On the way to his house we went through Springfield. He stopped in this old industrial neighborhood in front of a bunch of red brick buildings. Knowing I was a “bike guy”, he explained that we were on the grounds of the original Indian MC company. The factory was occupied by other businesses but there was one small building that was now an Indian museum. We went in…It was kinda dark and as we walked in. overhead flouresent lights begun to flicker on. Wow!….The room was small but it was FULL of Indian Memorabila. A smallish, older lady emerged from the shadows and welcomed us. She was going to be our tour guide that day. She walked us through the place that was cram full “stuff” and seemed to have a story for everything that was in there….She knew sooo much about Indian MC company, and their bikes I was astounded, She shared personal stories about her riding days when “in those days, ladies did’t ride”. The place was a treasure trove as was she. We spent over an hour there (had to get to his house for dinner) What a treat and I will never forget that place and the passion of our tour guide that day.

    Everytime someone mentions Indian MC, I wonder if that Museum is still there and operating…Anyone out there know?

  3. 3 Dec 16th, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I certainly appreciate the opportunity to have had a “no-troll’s” platform here @ CyrilHuzePost to speak from.
    There are archive’s of past, and informative technical post from “Plumber” & “VT” & “Hydra-Glide” from the three sites I have been banded from, due to my political, non-organized religious and herbal medicine beliefs, which I cherish, for if not banned, it would prove that I’m just like the rest of ’em. 🙂

    So, as an observer, I read from the most current posts at FlatHeadPower’s “TechTalk”, the magazine/forum of “Classic American Iron” and occasionally find a “nugget” worth keeping.
    But for the most part, there’s nothing “mechanical” going on, mostly front porch talk.

    However, whenever I see a person headed deeper and deeper into the swamp, I have to say something: Trying to build or restore a basket case Big Twin will destroy your family.

    These Knuckle & Panheads will cost a “Pilgrim” builder (like 56Chuck, from a minimum of $30,000. to make roadworthy. Do Not Let Anyone tell you differently. If your single, then rave on and howl. But if married, think about your wife. She’s going to be lead-on by you and your well-meaning internet advisers for years and years while you let your hard earned tow-truck proceeds blow away in the wind, while your huddled family wonders “WTF?” and you spend all of yours and theirs, time in the garage with questions. I had an excuse, “I was writing two books”. You don’t.

    If you have the necessary income to commit to finishing one of these money pits, then buy yourself a guaranteed complete motor and transmission, and don’t touch it!.
    My co-author and I have agreed that you may proceed without hurting yourself (read family) if you have the “power & delivery” components safely stored away while you figure out the non-life threatening chassis with your “learning curve” friends online.

  4. 4 1901-1953 Dec 16th, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    @ Richard.
    Everything has been moved.

  5. 5 courtney Dec 17th, 2012 at 3:31 am

    Indians are cool. But this kind of propagandizing emotional stuff ain’t. It might have worked a bit better 13 or 15 years ago, but it all seems too pretentious and stupid right now.

    A barn full of antique Indians is just not the same as a new dealership full of Polaris “Indians”: they have absolutely no connection to the original at all, except in name, period.

  6. 6 BobS Dec 17th, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Courtney, what’s this mysterious “connection” you seek? Did the Indians of the 40’s and 50’s have any connection to the Indians of the teens and 20’s? Answer is no, they were totally different bikes. Just like today’s Harleys have absolutely no “connection” to Harleys that were made 30, 40, 50, or more years ago. They’re not built by the same people, they weren’t designed by the same people, the company isn’t owned by the same people, and the parts used to make the bikes aren’t the same.

  7. 7 richard Dec 17th, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    1901-1953….Thanks for the information. I will do some additional searching to learn more about this museum. Appreciate your help.

  8. 8 Cris Sommer Simmons Dec 17th, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    That little lady was no doubt Esta Mathos, who probably knew more about Indian motorcycles than most men. Esta donated all the items in that museum to the Springfield Museum, in Springfield, MA. The white Indian in the museum belonged to Louise Scherbyn, probably the most well known lady rider in the 30’s, 40’s… she was riding long distances alone on that Indian, logging many miles in her 99 years on this earth. When I think of Indian I often think of Louise. She was amazing and I miss her.

  9. 9 spaz Dec 17th, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Right on Bob S! Get so tired of peoples false sense of tradition and what is right with American Bikes. All fans of motorcycles should be thrilled that Polaris, a 70+ year-old American company, known for excellence in engineering has now bought and committed millions to the Indian brand and it’s history.

  10. 10 richard Dec 18th, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Chris Sommer Simmons…Thanks! Even though my encounter with Esta Mathos was very long ago, I still have vivid memories of that day. It turned out to be a great experience for me due to the museum itself and Estas knowledge and enthusiasm.

  11. 11 courtney Dec 19th, 2012 at 3:37 am

    Well but Bob, this is the thing. Mike (and don’t get me wrong, I love that picker show) said something to the effect (apparently paid to say it that is) that having the option of purchasing a new Polaris Indian is akin to owning a prized antique Indian motorcycle barn-find.

    The whole ad was shot outside an old barn, complete with weeds, and oh, a couple of antique Indians behind the weeds in order to slam home the emotional point.


    Polaris may very well produce a new version Indian after 60+ years (and it may be worth purchasing — $40000 even), but it will have no lineage from Springfield. Spirit Lake, yeah, which is closer to Victory than Indian ever was, but….

  12. 12 Dec 19th, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Hey Kirk I think you meant

  13. 13 nicker Dec 19th, 2012 at 11:10 pm


    “…anyone can own one now… its not going to be a dream for them…”

    Well, maybe and maybe not. Its a matter of perspective.
    It really depends on why “anyone wants one.”

    I guess for those who want an “icon” of motorcycling history, the new scooters are just the thing.
    But for those of us who are remembering the past, only the real thing will do.
    However our problem is compounded by the fact that the “supply” is increasingly being shortened by “speculators/collector/pickers/(whatever)” and the “supply of time” we have lift is becoming equally scarce.

    And so where at one time you would find a file of parts dumped in your driveway with a note that read “My kid took this apart 5 years ago. I’m tired of tripping over it. You take it.” However the “pickers” have not only eliminated that supply, they have also raised the price to the point where only Doctors, Lawyers, and Dentists are able to own “a piece of the past.”

    Sorry, i don’t share your view that an new Indian is the same as an original.
    An Icon is no the same as the real thing.
    (just more proof that “we are NOT all in this together.”)


  14. 14 BobS Dec 19th, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Courtney, I get what your saying. I didn’t take it the same way, but I see where you’re coming from. I took it like Mike was talking to me. I’ll never be able to afford a restored, rideable, old Indian. But, I love them. With Polaris running the show I have no doubt that Scouts and Warriors and Braves, etc will soon join the Cheifs. So while I can only really dream of owning an original Four, that won’t stop me from enjoying a new Indian. And, unlike Springfield, Spirit Lake was actually named by real Indians. Originally called Minnewaukon by the Dakota Sioux, that translates to Lake of the Spirit.

  15. 15 Dec 20th, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    How about a parts picker Drool Tour where they visit bikers with stashes of old parts that they that won’t sell for any price, but we at least get to see them?

  16. 16 Dec 20th, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    A follow-up segment that would rivet people to the TV, would be the pillaging of what’s left inside the Dixie / Superior M/C products facility.

    “For those of you who have never visited Dixie Distributing Company, here it is. A full city block full of H-D, International Truck parts, used forklifts and a million tons of other stuff Harry has bought over the years. Everything inside this building is for sale. There are no lights other than in the office and shipping room. No running water. No windows open for ventilation. Sometimes the elevators work.” Chris Haynes – official picker

    And the next segment would be of course, “Who & Why made these [email protected]!^!&! Harley Parts?”, which will select a few gems like the 1949-64 timer (distributor) that was made so cheaply, that skimping on “ramp” metal behind the cam lobe to save a few ¢ents, caused retarding the timer the least bit, to close the points entirely and kill the motor.

    Or, the biggest loser of all commerce… we’ll find the makers of the heat-treated, 1936-57 Parklerized transmission base plate (that’s too narrow by 0.004” ) and doesn’t allow a transmission to seat, and ask them, “What-were-you-thinking? We believe any answer at all would be healing. Just putting the disaster and the rut of misery that bad parts had plowed would be giving us back some thing. Does that make any sense at all?

  17. 17 Dec 21st, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Then, to cap the season and leave everyone with wonderment until the next season, we’re preparing “The Road to Taiwan” – a look inside the modern antique-repop industry.

    We’ll follow Luc Tran at his forging factory job in Pingtung county, formulating and casting ductile iron knuckleheads for machining, and Nelson Pu stamping lower valve spring covers from formulated “drawing steel”. Their thoughts will be translated for our contemplation.

    The viewers job is to follow production and look for quality control junction opportunities, where job materials transition, and blueprints are re-checked for actual production under-sights before execution.

    There’s a lot of media-meat in there. Untouched by inquiring minds. Whachagonnadoaboutit? 🙂

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