From the November 1937 Issue of Motorcyclist magazine
Top-The most powerful twin of the Indian line, the 1938 Chief, beautifully streamlined and
It is a natural human trait to want to know what makes a piece of machinery tick. Probably that is why the average motorcyclist gets as much thrill out of visiting a motorcycle factory and viewing new models as he does from watching some exciting phase of competition.
Next to an actual trip to the factory comes a visit with someone who has been there.
It was this writer’s fortune to witness what might be called the unveiling of Indian models for 1938 and what follows is to be considered in the light of a visit in which an attempt shall be made to disclose the improvements and changes for the year ahead.
Plans of more than just one year have been incorporated in the new models. The trend of the improvements has been to bring to motorcycling, probably for the first time, some of the refinements and practices of the automobile industry, insofar as it is mechanically possible to do so. The improvements are toward cleaning up the machines, through presenting solid surfaces and hiding wires, providing accessibility to all parts of the machine, smoother and more quiet performance, and cooler running. Streamlining is a fundamental consideration throughout and appointments, as they are called upon cars, may this year be called appointments on the motorcycle.
Certain of the changes apply to most of the very complete line of models and it is appropriate that these be considered first just as the engineer has designed them and built them into the various machines.
One new departure in 1938 is the instrument panel assembly. Standard equipment will be a 3-color combination (two shades of grey and one of red) in the speedometer dial. The indicating hand is streamlined. The ameter matches the speedometer in color. The switch, conceived in a new waterproof design, is moulded in a material with color to match those of the first two units.
A streamlined, highly polished tear drop panel covers the entire assembly. It is interesting to note that a convenient feature of the whole is that the instruments are mounted on the frame, not on the tanks. The panel housing is lifted with the removal of two screws, thus tanks may be removed without disturbing the assembly. The entire group may be considered as being sunk into the tanks which makes possible a small and very pleasing panel.
Tanks are wider. They lend an appropriate feeling of massiveness to that part of the machine which affords an artistic balance with engine, wheels, etc.
The Indian head design on the tanks appears much as usual, except that the word “Indian” is accomplished in reverse, which means that it shows in the same color as the tank.
Handlebar grips are in gray to match the instruments. Grip angles are new and more comfortable, approaching the semi-sport position.
A new design high-low beam switch for the headlight is mounted on the bar, being smaller and neater than formerly.
The horn sports a new shield which has been revised to practically cover the back of that unit. It is now in an “upper” position on all models, the headlight being in “low” position. ‘This enhances the streamlined side view.
On the front fork there now appears a shield which gives a solid front to the airstream and which at the same time covers all controls at that point on the equipment.
The spring seat post on the Chief has a longer travel, hence softer action. The mast tube of the frame extends to the top of the machine and is equipped with a long bushing to give smoother movement to the seat post plunger.
Three-point support of the saddle is possible through a new and longer bracket, and likewise greater fore and aft adjustment. The saddle top has a newly designed pommel-somewhat narrower and certainly more comfortable.
Standard batteries combine a metal and moulded rubber top. They are 29 ampere-hour capacity, or a 5 ampere-hour increase over former batteries. Plates are set crosswise in stead of lengthwise for greater battery life and strength of plates. Plates are shock mounted in the case.