I am crazy about old motorcycles, Harley, Indian, others, but if you put the best machine any manufacturer had to offer, say in 1947, to the test, the HD overhead would win hands down in reliability and longevity. To believe anything else you would have to put your emotionals ahead of your commonsensicals.
In 1953 Indian was building a State Of The Art 1930 machine. Side valve engine, 3 speed crash box with a generator bolted to the frame and spun with a belt. Oh wait! I forgot about the bike that was going to save Indian. their new Vertical Twin. All it did was drive the final nails in the Indian coffin. Indian, in its day, was a motorcycle far superior to Harley-Davidson. But those days are long gone and so is Indian. May Indian rest in peace.
Harley Davidson of today is a JOKE. The belt-driven generator is one of MANY things better about Indian than HD. Like Billy said- the only thing wrong with Indian was their management. P.S. Indians were NOT DESIGNED to leak oil...and THEY DON'T!
The belt drive gen may be an improvement, but the mickey mouse drive gear for the pulley in the primary case is bad news. 3 little rivets holding the gear to the shaft. Ever pick up an inner primary that had been broken and repaired? The enclosed primary with the chain adjuster was way better than the HD plan without a doubt. Oil return? The Indian system at highway speed is marginal at best and any air entering the system at the sump to pump line causes wet sump and then that Injun motor is gonna leak, everywhere. Top end life? Fair I suppose, for, as Chris mentioned 30's technology, but I have yet to meet an honest Indian rider that expects to get more than 20,000 miles from a well done topend before every component is out of spec. A knuckle will easily double that #. Bottom end? Indian kept using the very short 1/4" bearings fully aware the they accelerated shaft and race wear. Trans life, please be serious, the Indian trans is crap, the HD 4spd is nearly perfect. I love Indians and HD flatheads, wish I had more of them to play with, but I think the overheads had as much to do with Indians demise as poor management. People love Indians because they sound good, look great, and are are fun to ride. Not because they are mechanically superior to other brands. Just my opinion of course, feel free to disagree.
I rode a 41 chief a few years and liked it a lot better than a Harley. I have rode everything from 1922 JD's up and liked the Chief best. I was out run by shovelheads up to around 80 then the Chief(Bonneville) would catch and pass them.
If you have NOT ridden miles on an Indian and built Indians to compare to a Harley, especially if you don't even build your own Harley either, then YOUR OPINION IS NOT VALID!! It is heresay and/or speculation!
I worked with a guy(Indian Clyde) in Vegas for about 10 yrs and most of what he did was Indian Chiefs and 4-cylinders. I did a lot of his eng and tranny work so I have enough experience to talk about them
Why is this post titled head gaskets? Just askin'...
Me, I'm lost in no man's land with my Gilroy Scout. "It ain't a real Indian" from the Indian guys, "it's just a softail." "It ain't a Harley" from the H-D guys, "see right there on the tank? It says Indian".
I tend to think of this bike as just a nice, nimble ride, and don't really give a rf about the logo. But that's just mho.