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Thread: New vintage Indian owner needs a bit of help from the experts!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
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    15

    Default New vintage Indian owner needs a bit of help from the experts!

    This past weekend I purchased a gorgeous 1931 Indian 4 at the Mecum auction in Las Vegas. I'm excited out of my mind with this piece of history. Over the past 40+ I've owned many bikes of all kinds and have always had a love for Indians, particularly Fours. Finally I have one. I pretty savvy when it comes to mechanics and have always maintained and tuned my own bikes, but I don't dare touch this one without some additional knowledge. This is completely new to me and I'm in need of some help and answers to some of my initial questions. For example:

    What 6 volt battery should I use,

    What brand of oil do you recommend and how much does the engine hold? I would guess around 3 quarts, but don't know.

    Does anyone know where I can get some spark plug caps so I don't get electrified.

    I understand that the rod/rockers under the covers on top of the heads need oiling from time to time. What oil/grease do you recommend and how much, how often?

    On the center console between the amp gauge and the high/low switch for the light is a chromed cylindrical knob. The knob turns, what is this, the ignition?

    It might be blasphemy, but has anyone changed the left hand throttle to right, and if so, was it tough to do?

    I've heard from several different sources that modern gas doesn't have the oil content that it did back in the days of Ethyl. Do you recommend a fuel additive like Lucas fuel treatment?

    As you can see these questions are really quite simple. I just don't want to make any incorrect assumptions and ruin or screw up a beautiful restoration.

    I'd sure appreciate any and all thoughts, input and advise that you might have.

    Thank you for your help.
    Last edited by 1931 Four; 01-31-2017 at 10:51 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Austria
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    Default

    Congratulations - this is a very nice looking 1931 Indian Four you bought. Hopefully it runs and rides as good as it looks!

    Be prepared to do some adjustments when you start riding the bike. It does not look to have run a lot after the restoration.

    Be sure that the ignition is set correctly and the ignition advance an retard work.


    I do not concider myself to be an expert, but will try to answer some of your questions below and am happy to be corrected:


    - What 6 volt battery should I use:

    you can use any 6-volt battery that fits in the battery box. The battery is not needed to ride the bike, as the magento works without it

    - What brand of oil do you recommend and how much does the engine hold?

    in the upper engine case, below the magento you have an oil dip stick that is held by a small spring. If you remove this you can check the oil level similar to the way you do it on a car.

    you can use any staight 50W oil similar to vintage Harleys - it is important to frequently chance the oil as the bike has no oil filter.


    - Does anyone know where I can get some spark plug caps so I don't get electrified?

    I would recommand to buy Rajah rubber spark plug covers. Indian used them (do not know if in 1931, but they will look authentic) - you can get them from Jerry Greerīs and I am sure from some other source as well: https://www.jerrygreersengineering.c...fs/1781004.pdf

    - I understand that the rod/rockers under the covers on top of the heads need oiling from time to time. What oil/grease do you recommend and how much, how often?

    use engine oil. Check/Oil frequently - the more often the better. Oil will not be harful for your engine! Apply it with a suitable oilcan so you can oil the axles of the rockers and the valves/guides

    - On the center console between the amp gauge and the high/low switch for the light is a chromed cylindrical knob. The knob turns, what is this, the ignition?

    This is the dashboard light. By trning the cap youturn on the light if everything is installed correctly.

    - It might be blasphemy, but has anyone changed the left hand throttle to right, and if so, was it tough to do?

    Try to ride it as it is - you will get used to it.


    I've heard from several different sources that modern gas doesn't have the oil content that it did back in the days of Ethyl. Do you recommend a fuel additive like Lucas fuel treatment?

    Do not leave modern gas in the gastank and the carburetor for too long.
    Last edited by gsottl; 02-01-2017 at 06:05 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
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    15

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    Thank you very much. The information is very helpful. I'm sure once the bike is delivered to me and start firing it up I'll plenty of additional questions. Thank you again for your time.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    So Cal
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    some advice from a Henderson four rider, if the engine has not been set up by a real expert. Treat it easy and break it in easy, my Deluxe has been running 20 years and 8,000 miles with almost no issues. But I have learned and saw along the way. Generally the fours are some what fragile, if you kick it in the ass and run hard. It well impress you, but it won't live long and you might not either. The brakes are not up to today's traffic, ride to enjoy the machine and views and hopefully you well have good luck. I have used HD 20 - 50 weight for the whole time I have had my machine - no issues, only reason I use that is engine rebuilder told me too. I use regular gas and have had no issues. If I cruise at 35 or 40 my Deluxe feels like it well last forever, it does 50 fine but with only a back brake. I have had to many close calls. Had a friend with an Indian four rode the hell out of it and would race at the drop of a hat, had no problems - sold it - it was tired. Had friends with Indian's and KJ's rode hard - lot's of problems !! Break it in easy, watch your oil, just enjoy the machine. They are awesome machines, good luck, oh yes I have several Indians - v twin's, gas on the left is easy plus fun - you well git the hang of it + I ride a modern HD to work everyday :-)

  5. #5
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    Jan 2017
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    Thanks for you comments and advice. This is my Sunday after noon got no where to go or place to be so I'm heading up the canyon bike. I plan on just taking it easy and enjoying the view. Thanks again.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
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    Guys, I had my new bike delivered today and spent this evening getting familiar with it. The bike was of course shipped to me dry, so prior to putting oil into it I put a scope down into the crank case. It was clean as a whistle. I'm afraid the comment above that it doesn't look like the bike was run after the restoration seems to be the case. I then put the scope to look at the valves and the same thing, shiny and new.

    Prior to putting oil into the crank case I made sure everything in the engine was freely moving by some slow kicks of the kick starter with the spark plugs out. I then filled the bike with HD50w and again, with the plugs out thought i'd just work the oil through the crank with some kicks of the starter. It was about all I could do to kick the starter through a couple of strokes.

    Granted, if the engine is new I'd expect it to be tight, but this seems a bit more than tight. Somewhere I must be missing something or doing something wrong. My concern is once I fuel it up and try to start it the compression from the plugs being in is going to make it all but impossible to kick this sucker over.

    So far I've had the bike in neutral and the clutch engaged. What else should I, or shouldn't I be doing or missing? In watching several youtube videos of guys starting their 4's clearly you've got to put a little umph into it, but nothing like what this seems to be.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

  7. #7

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    I own a 1930 Indian 4. Shoot me an email with your phone number and I will call you and discuss any questions you have.

    Dave
    dgrassi@kusd.org

  8. #8
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    So Cal
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    sounds to tight to me, hard kicking with the plugs out. Go slow and careful - don't rush, good luck ! fours are easy kicking, and with the plugs out. Should be very easy, hopefully there is a four guy in your area. Maybe to ask questions, not trying to be negative - but use caution - many set these old machines up to tight and if you do. You well have real problems very quickly and be very disapointed with your four. Speaking from experience here, my Deluxe was set up way to tight. As you could not even hardley kick it over. I knew that was not right, this was after a 4 year rebuild - long story - I took it to a guy in our club who did Hendersons - he was retired at that time. I ask him if he could just have a look and tell me what he thought, well my engine was all screwed up. The guy who did it though very knowledgeable on Hendersons, was no mechanic and there was no way it was going to run. The 84 year old retired automotive machinest took it on and had it done in four months. Been largely trouble free for 20 years now. Just go slow and get to know some four folks in your area or through this site, to help you out. Wish you good luck and hope all is ok with your four
    Last edited by Tom Lovejoy; 02-08-2017 at 12:56 AM. Reason: more info

  9. #9

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    Howdy sir,

    Dave should get you completely sorted out but nonetheless, a couple of things. Yes, your machine runs on a mag which puts no demands on your charging system, but lacking this load means it's even more important you use a battery compatible to the charging system's output. If no large capacity wet cell available and attempting to use an AGM, Lithium Iron or similar I'd dial the third brush way back.

    Starting after a rebuild or long storage. You want your mains and rods well lubed, remove one of the screws on your right side upper case to expose the oil gallery and using an o ring to seal, and a pump oil can fill till you see your oil gauge flicker. Second the recommendation on using multi weight, 20-50 Valvoline VR1. If you have no information on the clutch fitted or amount of springs used then you may well have to free it up this first time out. Search on this. Forum or over at CAIMAG for the method to do so with least risk for damage, bit lengthy to recount here.

    One thing I'd emphasize with Fours - especially, especially the 38 and laters - is managing the heat generated and much of that can be controlled by using your ignition advance properly, especially if you live in hilly terrain. I'd Google around for info on that one.

  10. #10

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    Just wanted to make a few suggestions if they weren't already mentioned. First, I would take the oil gauge off the bike and pump oil down into the crankcase through the gauge mount with the screw, until you are satisfied that the oil pump gears are lubricated and oil is filling the draw tube - very important not to starve oil flow. As mentioned above, take off the screws from the right side of the case, one at a time, and pump them full of oil so that it gets to the rods. Replace the gauge or the next time you kick it over it will bubble up and leak over everything.
    Lastly, if the motor is tough to turn over, you might want to take a glance at your magneto connection where the ignition timing shaft comes out of the case and ties into the disc / mag. If it still seems tough kick, loosen the magneto. I'd be curious if there were shims beneath it. One of the reasons for a hard turnover is that the magneto doesn't have the correct shim height underneath it and in turn, the timing shaft does not sit parallel to the bushing that it runs though and instead binds on it. If loosening the magneto allows for it to turn over smoothly, then you need to calculate the correct shim height beneath the magneto before you try to start the bike or the bushing will gall on the shaft.

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