Alan Forbes has been a fan of Indian motorbikes for most of his 47 years, having been attracted to the marque as a boy by an ex-military Scout V-twin owned by a friend of his father. After a career as a musician, Forbes founded Motolux in Edinburgh, specializing in restoring, selling and repairing old Indians, and supplying parts to customers worldwide.
"I was working on the old bikes and it didn't take long before I started making parts for them, so to make a complete bike was a natural progression," he says.
Forbes might never have done so but for a chance meeting several years ago at a big cruiser rally, where he bumped into three Swedish guys testing their prototype four. Sture Torngren, Mikael Jonsson and Bjorn Johansson designed and developed their bike at Vaxjo in southern Sweden, and called their creation the Wiking. Its look and layout were inspired by Indian's late-model Four. "I had always liked the 1938-1942 Fours; they are really good-looking bikes," Torngren says.
The Swedish trio had begun work several years earlier, by combining the bottom end of a Volvo car engine with VW Beetle cylinders and a purpose-built cylinder head. When this proved promising, they began work to design and build their own powerplant, along very similar lines, using local experts for specialized tasks such as crankcase casting. The end product is an air-cooled, two-valve-per-cylinder engine whose 1845cc capacity comes from cylinder dimensions of 85.8 x 80.0mm. The heavily finned cylinder barrel and head sit above a crankcase whose shaft-drive combines BMW parts with revised ratios for the four-speed gearbox. Many parts are purpose-built. Others, including camshaft, crank, pistons and conrods, come from Volvo; valves are from VW.
The twin downtube steel frame stretches wheelbase all the way to 68.5 inches (1740mm), with lazy, 31-degree cruiser geometry. The front end is borrowed from Harley, with Showa forks and a single front disc with H-D twin-pot caliper.
Forbes managed to convince Torngren and his colleagues that the Wiking should become the Indian, and has since refined and restyled the Four as well as preparing it for production. He says he is close to finalizing a deal for financial backing, and has been inundated with requests for information and test rides, despite minimal publicity so far.
As ever with the long-running Indian revival saga, things are far from simple. The Dakota can't be sold under the Indian name in America because, although Forbes owns British rights to the name, American rights are owned by Indian Motorcycle Company (IMC), the former California Motorcycle Co. Since 1999 the Gilroy, California, firm has been building its own Harley-clone V-twin called the Indian Chief Limited Edition.
Forbes has been in contact with IMC, and there is a possibility the two will one day reach an agreement that would allow the Dakota to be sold-and perhaps even built-as an Indian in the States and elsewhere. Alternatively, Forbes is also considering marketing it simply as a Dakota Four in most markets including America, with no Indian branding at all.
Either way, at least he has begun producing an all-new motorcycle, not just talked about doing so like so many others. If Indian is to return with a line of genuinely new bikes, the handsome and charismatic Dakota is a good way to start. -Roland Brown