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Rollie Free on an Indian?

TouringComet

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
VOC Forum Administrator
VOC Forum Moderator
Why do you pose it as a question, are you surprised to see him on an Indian?
 

bmetcalf

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Well, you're right, he was a dedicated Indian man. I hadn't seen the page before or thought about his signature racing position on other bikes.
 

Robert Watson

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Read The Book

Flat Out by Jerry Hatfield. --- It had such a great review in MPH about a year and a half ago by an esteemed book reviwer!!

Robert
 

Prosper Keating

Well Known and Active Website User
Non-VOC Member
Rollie Free even had an Indian dealership at one point, so visceral was his grudge against Harley-Davidson after a bad experience with them as a young racer in the 1920s. From an article I wrote for The Times in 1998:

Vowing vengeance, Free not only devoted himself with fanatical zeal throughout the 1920s and 1930s to smashing Harley's various speed records on racers supplied by Indian, their rival, he even opened an Indian dealership in Indianapolis. Where else?

Another passage:

During the Depression of the early 1930s, Free worked with other stunt riders in a carnival, riding Indian veetwins around a Wall of Death containing a bad-tempered lion whose mood wasn't exactly improved by the incessant drone of the engine, rising and falling like a giant mosquito, and the fact that whenever he got it together to take a swipe, his tormentor would already be on the other side of the wooden cylinder.

It rather evokes images of our own Reverend of Stiffkey, doesn't it? Except that Rollie Free wasn't eaten...

Free's progression to a Vincent-HRD as a Harley-beating tool was logical. Just for interest's sake, here's the text of a letter from PCV to Free in 1950: http://www.myvincent.co.uk/people/letter.php. I remember reading a carbon copy of this letter in Robin and Dee Vincent-Day's place back in the late 1980s, when we were thinking of a book on PCV's post-Stevenage life.

PK
 

peterg

Well Known and Active Website User
Non-VOC Member
Howdy Bruce,

The middle image in your superb pic is the return run up the beach on a 38 Chief that had a fondness for wet sumping.

Continuing the JTan discussion of late 4's being relegated to cruising status, of less publicity (because it was slower) is my favorite Free static shot - standing behind a 38 Four run at the same event that you'll likely not see in any publications.

This is one of many Rollie pix in a box load of 30's/40's era m/c pix casually given to an acquintance of mine in Indy years ago by a relative who was going to throw them away.
 

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lindie

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Non-VOC Member
love the letter paddy. pcv took his record setting customers seriously it seems as win on sunday, sell on monday works better if you can in fact win on sunday. the thought of say buying a new hayabusa for instance and having the ceo write you a letter and say "hey, we thought you might like a spare head and we've handbuilt half the bits on the bike just for you" just doesn't sound as plausible does it?

re the inline 4 pic:
they're just a bloody stylish looking bike aren't they peter. hendersons are cool cos they were so out there even then, but indian made the ungainly look like it was meant to be run of the mill while still distinctive.
 
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peterg

Well Known and Active Website User
Non-VOC Member
Howdy Lindie,

Yessir, besides Vin's they are the only conveyance I've seen fit to get completely poverty stricken over post adolescence.

Have ridden them for over 15 years now and in their own big agricultural way, they are one of the few machines I've found to match that serenity one feels at the helm of a well fettled Vin.

Here's a thumbnail of one of them taken along a back country lane years ago very much in its element.
 

lindie

Well Known and Active Website User
Non-VOC Member
gotta love those guards! as a company they weren't afrad to turn convention on it's head and those race successes at was it the 1911 tt show they weren't always plodders. what was the ride like with that gigantic drivetrain and the plungers at the back? my old manager tells me as a boy they used to ride a chief around the farm like a trailbike and it ne'er complained but the rust got to it and they bulldozed it. back then he assures me they were worth nothing and many a bike of interest today suffered the same fate. i need to chase up a mate who assures me he built a spastic buggy/gokart creation and it used a rapide engine. urban legends abound sadly, so it may have been a honda parralell twin for all ne'd know, but the lead you don't chase......
 

peterg

Well Known and Active Website User
Non-VOC Member
Howdie Lindie,

As the product of a bicycle racer and an engineer who designed some of the first velodrome pace cycles the ride is not bad at all. Indians, even to the end, had a more communicative as-a-unit feeling chassis than that other American m/c, electing to use castings and less componentry to accomplish the same task, than bent steel plate and bracketry. It's just that their powerplants got woefully behind primarily due to mismanagement and subsequent lack of R&D dollars.

Now, a Four is on another plane compared to a Chief, which though not nimble like a Scout, is tossable..but albeit with that v-twin, a bit vibratory in certain ranges in the 80ci version. A four on 18's feels a bit top heavy, and with a very heavy leaf pack up high in front, wants to fall into a turn. Unlike a /2 BMW, rotating mass inline with the chassis is minimal in relation to "gross" weight and final drive is by chain rather than shaft so there is no torque jacking. First year 1940 rear springs are lighter and more suited to 4.50 x 18's then fitted than subsequent stylish 5.00 x 16's, thus there is no pogo'g in back even though the only dampening is bushing friction of the sliders. Attention to air pressure in front can minimize that, but with the arrival of the 41's, that all changes. Heavier rear springs to accomodate side cars coupled with smaller diameter but fatter tires completely out of phase with spring rates results in (frequent) situations I like to refer in context with loss of sanity as "coming unglued" ...primarily occuring on washboard surfaces in off camber turns. I have had someone do a low-side drop in the road on a Four in front of me and my dirt bike trained reaction to avoid same was to drop my body low and stand the machine up momentarily to square it off to the road where it seems best equiped to deal with such predicaments. Having no baffles in their mufflers whatsoever, with 4lbs shaved off their heavy flywheels, a touch more compression, electronic ignition and a good carb (float) they sound deliciously crisp at speed - somewhere between an old Massey Ferguson, WWII army jeep and a V 12 Merlin.

I love mine, but readily acknowledge....they ain't no Vin.
 
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indianken

Well Known and Active Website User
Non-VOC Member
Peter,

I love all my Indians but this was the REAL INDIAN.

Soon they would put on too much weight. (Like me).

I was in heaven during my first ride after I restored it. That is, until I realized I was running along in traffic and we were in a 45 MPH zone. And me with only a bicycle hub brake!
Cheers,
Ken Smith


http://www.vincentownersclub.co.uk/photos/showphoto.php/photo/3456/cat/all/limit/last1
 
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