Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Edwards V-8 Indian

Being a Triumph guy I'm not too excited by most motorcycles that weigh in at over 500 pounds, and in my, not always so humble opinion, some of the absolute worst of the behemoth category are the Boss Hoss type v-8 monstrosities. The other week at the DTMC chopper campout party there was a V-8 trike that looked like it probably had a top speed of about 160 mph or more. Looking at this high dollar piece of modern three wheel engineering I thought, I guess some people fail to learn from history or even investigate it. Ed Roth built a very similar machine in the late 60's called the California Cruiser. Now I love to haul ass down the asphalt as much as the next guy, but I also like to take the turns as they come and come out if them in one piece. The CA Cruiser design proved to be fatal to at least one owner due to the narrow wheel base in back and a tendency to flip over going into corners at any kind of speed. The modern version witnessed at the party had nearly identical dimensions as the CA Cruiser. Good luck bud!

But I digress, David Edwards was kind enough to send me some pics with short story of a Ford Flathead V-8 powered cycle that I can really dig. The fact that it was featured in a 1954 CYCLE magazine helps, but as I got a closer look and see the detail changes that are in the works I think this relic is going to be a true road rocket with old time Hot Rod class. Another labor of love from our prolific custom motorcycle survivor saviour, David Edwards:

"Paul, Bates fender arrived safe & sound, thanks very much. I think it will rechrome very nicely and looks like a dead-ringer for the fender in the old B&W. Again, appreciate your contributions and enthusiastic interest in the LVD project.

In my update I mentioned a Ford V8-60 Indian. What started as an innocent, "Hey, what's that?" when I saw an "Indian V-8!" cover blurb on the front of a 1954 Cycle magazine turned into an investigation as to the bike's whereabouts and then into a full-blown quest to purchase and restore the thing. I write about in the foreword to Tom Cotter's new book The Vincent in the Barn: Great Stories of Motorcycle Archeology about tracking down barn-find bikes. Long story short, Bill Drabek, a West Texas car mechanic, had a 1940 Indian 4 with a bad motor and a Ford V8-60, the little 2200cc flathead. He combined the two in a stretched frame that spans 9 feet from fender tip to fender tip. A 90-degree angle drive (oil field surplus?) moves power from the motor to a flipped Harley tranny.

Drabek put about 40,000 miles on the bike. Besides Cycle, it made Mechanix Illustrated and the Ford Times. Sadly, Drabek dropped dead of a heart attack in 1968. His grieving widow would not hear of selling the beloved V-8, so it was wheeled into a shed, where time, several generations of rodents, the occasional flood and, finally, stick-wielding juvenile delinquents had their way with the old bike. When elderly Mrs. Drabek was put into a home in the 1990s, it was in very rough shape. The bike apparently went to tax auction soon after, about the same time I started my sleuthing. As the story goes the new owner contacted Jay Leno, who declined interest, so he was primed to deal when I got in touch. Haggling done, I flew to Corpus Christi with every tie-down strap I owned, rented a truck and hauled the big white beast back home. That was 13 years ago.

After several years on the back-burner, I've turned up the heat again on the V-8 restoration. John Bivens at Indian Engineering in Stanton is doing the heavy lifting on this one. He does some of the very best Indian restoration jobs I've ever seen, but this project is definitely above and beyond the call. As shown in the snapshots, frame and engine are now reunited, radiator has been mocked up, Duo-Glide fork rebuilt and attached. Much still to do, but maybe it and the Von Dutch Triumph will be finished at the same time, making for a very odd set of custom-bike bookends."


1 comment:

  1. I was very lucky to have met Mr. Drabek in 1967, and he spent some time showing and explaining his pride and joy. He was a very innovative and imaginative fellow and extremely gregarious. He told me that no-one had ever had the courage to open the throttle in second (possibly third) gear at that time.
    I was surprised that the machine so big felt comfortable and in good balance with a surprisingly low center of gravity. I hope one day to see it on you-tube or one of the TV shows. Mr. Drabek was a great guy, and I have told this story many times in the last 44 years. Jer Alan, Crown Point, IN...