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Remembering The 1939 Indian Series 441

1939 Indian Series 441

What comes to your mind when you think of American motorcycle companies? Indian name; The Indian series 441. Despite going bankrupt and closing in 1953, its legacy still lives on in the hearts and minds of many riders. The most striking aspect of Indian motorcycles is that they were among the first to add an electric starter. This was a huge benefit to riders because earlier models were kick-started, which could be cumbersome.

About The 1939 Indian Series 441

The Series 441 was manufactured by the Indian Motorcycle Company, based in Springfield, Massachusetts. Founded in 1901, Indian became the largest motorcycle producer in the world by 1913. Between 1923-1927, the Indian Series 441 won five national championships. However, as the slogan goes, good things don’t last. Other companies developed new models, causing its dominance to fade. By World War II, Series 441 faced financial mismanagement. Sadly, its market share shrank as it faced stiff competition from Harley Davidson. By the 1930s, the company tried to remain afloat by racing to raise money and increase brand awareness. The bike was originally produced in 1938 and continued to be produced until 1941.

The Name ‘Indian Series 441’

Recently, the Indian Series 44I celebrated its 76th birthday. However, a few know why it goes by its name. Read on to know about this Indian workhorse motorcycle: The name 441 came from its 74cubic engine and 4 speeds. So fascinating it was at the time that manufacturers tried calling it the Polar Bear, but this failed. Unknown to many, the machine was built to last. Its intended purpose was to be usable on the road and for combat during WWII. The model offered the luxury of riding a greater machine than the scooter to the elite. Hence, they could avoid buying the car and get this entry-level motorcycle.

Riding The 1939 Indian Series 441

The 1939 Indian Series 441 was among the most popular brands of successful bikes. To some extent, it often was confused with another classic motorcycle from the era of the Indian Chief. Its massive engine capacity earned it the name Sport Scout, which made it popular among speed lovers.

The 1939 Series 441 Description

Initially, the 441 models came in only dark and light green colors. Having known the history of this fascinating machine, let’s zero down to the reasons its specifications stand out:


The Indian Series 441 was highly powerful and featured a four-stroke, 44-cubic inch engine with a three-speed transmission and hand clutch. Its side-valve engine had pressed steel valve seats and single-spring valves with bronze guides. On its face, an aluminum head was held in place with only three bolts features that helped keep the weight down to just over 500 pounds. However, it resulted in a reduction in its cooling power. Generally, the overall engine came in at about 42 horsepower at about 5,400 RPMs. Its 100miles per hour earned it the fastest motorcycle at the time.


The Indian Series became a replacement for the older Indian Chief model. As part of this effort, designers chose to use hydraulic brakes to provide better-stopping power than the previous mechanical drum brake system had offered. Hydraulic brakes were relatively new and had not been used in any mass-produced motorcycles before. The new antifriction transmission gave it better acceleration and made riding more comfortable. The Indian featured drum brakes on all three wheels, with a foot pedal brake on the right side and a hand lever brake on the left. The rear brake operated on both wheels, while the front brake operated only on the front wheel. The self-adjusting brakes were activated by a cable attached to the pedal or lever and then ran to the brake itself.

Restoring A 1939 Indian Series 441

Generally, the Indian Series has withered tough times. The following is a narration of what has taken to restore this model: To start with, the 441 succeeded the Indian sport scout. Hence, it needed better features than the production of 1928 through 1931. To do this, the Indian 441 needed a new frame and suspension system that would be usable in the next decade. By 1938, these features had taken shape. Such included a larger gas tank, improved brakes, and an all-new electric starter. Most importantly, it had new styling, which helped rebrand itself among average buyers. Closely following was the 1939 remodeling. The Indian 441 upgraded in its functionality and appearance. This was done by adding a new spring fork that created a smoother ride and added style. However, the sales volumes were reduced, leading to lower production. Fortunately, the company kept alive as the largest American motorcycle manufacturer at the time. In the same year, the model was introduced at the 1939 New York Motorcycle Show. This time, it featured the Scout but maintained a larger engine. The bike had a similar frame, but its telescopic folks were replaced with girder forks. Its engine came in refurbished form and transmission of three speeds. The hand change gearbox matched the now air-cooled engine. By the 1940s, the cost was approximately $ 432. Such facts made it less preferred to the much cheaper Harley Davidson that traded at half its price. By this time, there were wartime restrictions that contributed to the end of its production.

Why the 1939 Indian Series 441

The following are reasons the model did so well that today engineers can look into:


Since its first production, the series 441 was remodeled to better the performance. In 1939, the Indian Series won its first motorcycle race at Daytona. No wonder it won the trust of general road use and war combats.


The series 441, unlike other models, used hydraulic brakes. No wonder it stood out.


This motorcycle’s design was inspired by World War I fighter planes, like the Sopwith Camel and the Nieuport 28. Hence, the users could get much functionality and performance in one machine. Would You Consider buying the Indian Series? Yes. Today, we are attracted to uniqueness. For example, one could remodel the bike to suit our technology. Otherwise, remembering the older motorcycles can help relive the memories.

Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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