1907 Indian ‘Camelback’

1907 Indian ‘Camelback’

The NZ Classic Motorcycles collection is heading towards becoming a major attraction in Nelson, for good reason.  It is an amazing collection of fascinating machinery. .I was recently commissioned to photograph some new acquisitions and their management has kindly given me permission to reproduce some of them here.  So here’s the first, the oldest in the group.  It’s a 1907 Indian:


The following description was commissioned for the launch, written by experiencing motoring journalist Mike Murphy.

“Oliver Hendee, a very successful bicycle racer who established the Hendee Manufacturing Company to manufacture ‘Silver King’ bicycles in 1889, saw one of Oscar Hedström’s motorised bicycles pacing bicycle racers at Madison Square Garden in 1899 and commissioned Hedström to design one for general sale.

Hedström was a machinist who had acquired skills in developing and producing internal combustion engines, including redesigning the De Dion-Bouton engine. The two men produced their first prototype Indian motorcycle in 1901, establishing Indian as one of the first production motorcycle brands in the United States.

During the early years, the frame and cycle components were outsourced from Thor and from 1902 the Aurora Automatic Machinery Company produced the engine until production was taken back in-house in 1907. Aurora was permitted to use Hedström engines in its own Thor motorcycles and to sell them to other small manufacturers. Consequently, several companies including Thor, Reading-Standard and Warwick marketed motorcycles that were essentially re-badged Indians.


From the beginning the single-cylinder, inlet-­over-exhaust, 2.25hp engine with a Hedström ‑ designed, cable-operated carburettor formed the seat tube section of the frame and drive to the rear wheel was by chain rather than the then common practice of using belts.  A multi- cell dry battery mounted below the front frame tube provided spark energy for up to 1,000 miles (1,609km) while the one-pint oil tank provided total-loss lubrication for up to 200 miles (322km).


The hump-shaped fuel and oil tank mounted behind the seat earned it the ‘Camel Back’ name and remained a familiar Indian design feature although from 1906 it held only fuel.  A torpedo-shaped tank was fitted along the top frame tube in 1909 to increase fuel capacity.


The design was a market success, helping Indian to command a 40% market share during the years prior to the First World War and was produced almost unchanged until 1905 when a sprung fork was introduced and throttle and ignition timing control was by twist-grip. Indian also established itself as a leader in competition with Hendee winning the first American endurance race from Boston to New York in 1902 and the first long-distance track race in 1903. Hedström rode one to set a new world speed record of 56mph (90kph) in 1903 although production machines advertised as being capable of achieving up to 45mph (72kph).”

Mike Murphy, June 2015


NZ Classic Motorcycles Collection

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