As a foreword, we would like to thank the person who collected all information possible about Indian 340 B. This man is Martin M. Bogaert (Belgium). He wrote the book, in which, among other things, mentioned all the people involved in writing this article. If you want to know more about it, please, check out the book “An American in Paris…” (ISBN 90-805639-3-3).
It all began in the summer of 1900 on a bicycle track in one remote place in America. For bicycle manufacturer George Hendee cycling was not just a business, but also a way of life, he himself in the past was a famous racing cyclist.
Engineer, Oscar Hedstrom, tried to interest athletes a motorcycle of its own construction for racing for a leader – a very popular type of competition at that time, when a cyclist, following a heavy machine in a “vacuum bag”, could reach high speed. But in the end, Hendee was the only one who got interested. He liked the bike so much that he offered Oscar to organize a joint production in Springfield, Massachusetts. The partners decided to give their brainchild the most American name – Indian.
The company’s first motorcycle, created in 1901, had a very advanced design for its time, as it no longer had a commonly used bike frame. Now the front pipe of large diameter contained dry batteries of the ignition system, and the role of the seat pipe was played by the engine itself. By the way, it was a single-cylinder, four-stroke power unit with a working volume of 260 ccm and an output of 1.75 hp.
The racing motorcycle with a two-cylinder, V-shaped 1000-cc engine was built for the 1911 season. Many American speed records of that time belong to this model.
By 1914, the Springfield plant was the largest motorcycle factory in the world, producing 25,000 units per year.
In 1919, the company began production of Scout model with a two-cylinder, V-shaped, SV engine with a capacity of 606 ccm and 11 hp. This model is known for being the most reliable out of all Indian models.
In 1922, production of the Chief model began. It was a modified version of the Scout model with a 998-cc engine.
The following year, 1923, the Big Chief model entered the market. The word “Big” indicated an increased engine volume (74 cubic inches) compared to the previous Chief model (61 cubic inches). The “Junior” Chief stopped appearing in Indian’s advertisement catalogs in 1928, while the “74” model, which became simply the “Chief”, remained in the production program until 1948.
Is 340 B just a military Chief?
While the people of America were watching the battle between two giants of the motorcycle industry, Indian and Harley-Davidson, Europe was preparing to enter one of the bloodiest wars in history.
One of the significant events of 1940 was the renewal of the Indian model range, namely the appearance of soft rear suspension, and the first to get this novelty were a four-cylinder Indian Four and Indian 74 (“Chief”). Changes in design led to an increase in the size of the tires from 18×4.00 to 18×4.50, a change in the shape of the chain shield, as well as the appearance of “covered” fenders and the central footrest. For the first time in the company’s history motorcycles were equipped with air and oil filters. The oil filter had to be changed every 8000 miles according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Germany’s attack on Poland provoked urgent mobilization in France. When the Phoney War broke out, the French command decided it would need at least 80,000 motorcycles to conduct successful combat operations.
The production of French military motorcycles, such as Terrot, Rene Gillet and Gnome-Rhone, reached its peak by that time and could not cope with the required production volume in such a short time. France had to turn to other countries for help.
The first military orders for motorcycles were sent to manufacturers of neighboring countries, namely to Belgian F.N. and Gillet Herstal, which also could not provide sufficient amounts of the required number of vehicles. Gillet Herstal, for example, released only 784 military motorcycles some of which had to be transferred to France, but this did not happen because of the German invasion… Read more about this in an article devoted to the Gillet Herstal 720 AF or Gillet Herstal 720 AB.
On the day of release of the new model range (October 1, 1939), the Indian management announced an annual plan for the production of motorcycles, which was slightly over 5,000 units. It was quite an optimistic plan, given that Indian motorcycles were in many ways inferior to Harley-Davidson. That’s when the “deus ex machina” stepped up into the scene.
The Permanent Mission of the French War Ministry was located in New York, and its main task was the purchase of spare parts for the aircrafts. Immediately after mobilization, the delegation received an order to purchase a number of heavy motorcycles equipped with a sidecar, passenger seat and speedometer with a scale in km/h. The French delegation did not request technical characteristics and did not hold tenders, but simply went straight to the headquarters of Indian Motorcycle Company (Springfield, Massachusetts).
Mass production of the new models has not yet started, and all that Indian representatives had at that time were only drawings and advertising brochures, as well as some experience in supplying military Indian 339 to the U.S. Army.
Surprisingly, the very first meeting ended with a contract for the supply of new motorcycles. Externally they differed from the civilian version by the “open” fenders and additional accessories. Also, a necessary requirement was the space for the third passenger.
The contract for the supply of 5,000 Indian 340B motorcycles was signed on October 2, 1939, which at once doubled the average annual output of the company! Of course, it is hard to believe how such a thing could have happened without any prior arrangement, but so far this is all we know about this event.
So what does index “B” mean? Let’s start with the fact that Indian has produced motorcycles with two types of ignition: magneto and ignition coil. Military manuals of those years referred to the reel ignition as a battery-operated ignition. Depending on the ignition type, a letter “M” (magneto) or a letter “B” (battery) was printed on the engine crankcase.
What about the number “340”, you may ask? According to the standard designation of the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company, “3” stands for “Chief” (or “Big Twin”, or “74”), while “40” represents the year of manufacture. For example, the Indian Four from the “Motorworld by V. Sheyanov” collection was designated as Indian 440, where “4” is the model index and “40” is the year of manufacture.
The differences of the French 340 B model
All engine numbers of the motorcycles from the French order consisted of letters CAV and numbers from 1 to 5000. The indexing of army motorcycles of other countries, production of which began in 1940, looked something like this: CD0 type ####.
The most noticeable distinction of the French version was the chrome signal above the headlight. From 1930 to 1939 such signals were a common accessory for civilian versions of the Chief and then appeared on the first versions of the military Indian 340B.
The second important distinction was the passenger seat. It looked like European Lycett, but with the Indian Motorcycle Company logo on it, and it was made in the USA. On the pictures of that period, you can see two types of seat, the shape and method of attachment of which depended on the year of manufacture. Thus, on earlier models, with engine number CAV from 1 to 2699, the seat was fixed closer to the driver, and the passenger handle was attached to the fender with two bolts.
Since the French model 340 B was, in fact, a modification of a civilian solo bike, there was no room for the rear footrests. For the left footrest, there was a spot on the frame of the motorcycle, and the right footrest had to be fixed on the sidecar’s frame. Thus, the passengers of the French Indian 340B had to sit in a pretty awkward position. Doesn’t look like a well-designed structure, right?
In photos from the French occupation period you can see gendarmes on solo Indian 340B motorcycles, which had a passenger seat but no second footrest. This once again confirms that Indian did not supply France with solo motorcycles, and if you see a CAV solo somewhere, you should know that its sidecar was lost.
As we have already said, one of the requirements of the French Ministry was a speedometer with a scale in “km/h”, instead of the American version in “mph”. Therefore, despite the fact that the Corbin speedometer was manufactured in the U.S. for the domestic market, the scale on it is marked to 200 km/h instead of the maximum 130 mph.
Another feature that you will find only on the French Chief is the warning plate, which is placed on the headlight instead of the toolbox. On the plate it says: “Attention! Move the switch to the “OFF” or “P” position, otherwise, the battery and coil will not function”. It is believed that the French soldiers were used to motorcycles with a magneto ignition system, which did not require a charged battery to start the engine, so they could leave the switch on, which otherwise would result in complete battery discharge. Apparently, to avoid such situations, a warning sign was placed on the headlight, right before the rider’s gaze.
Part of such precautions can be explained by the fact that the practice of ordering foreign motorcycles inevitably began with training of engineers, technicians and instructors. After all, it was them who had to train recruits on the specifics of operating each type of vehicle and, as we already know, the accelerated pace of supply did not allow them to meet all the necessary requirements.
Continuing the theme of electrical equipment, it is worth mentioning that earlier versions had a Mico light switch, which was different in shape from later versions. Earlier versions also had a fuse box under the driver’s seat. The same fuse box could be seen on Indian 440, but after 1940 it was no longer used.
Another important distinction of the French Indian 340B was the absence of a sidecar side light. Archive photos, taken in the UK before 1941, may show sidecar side lights of early versions of Indian CAV, but these are nothing but custom-made modifications.
The tanks of the French Indian 340B were of the same shape as on the civilian versions, but the lids of the filler necks had no usual inscription “OIL”. We have already mentioned that there was no time for instruction, so the gasoline and oil tanks were marked with hint stickers with inscriptions “CARBURANT” and “HUILE”.
As you already know, the 1940 Chief models received larger tires, but the French Indian 340B was equipped with 4.00 x 18 tires and had a spare wheel attached to the sidecar.
Now let’s summarize the information on all versions of the military Indian Chief, including French version and the versions, which were supplied to the USSR under the Lend-Lease program.
|Military Indian Chief Classification|
|1||340||CAV||Signal with the image of an Indian; passenger seat with
a footrest and a handle; gray handlebars; the Mico light switch; the Purolator oil filter; the Schebler DLX 130 carburettor; round air filter; the Corbin speedometer (200 km/h); toolbox mounted behind the clutch pedal; warning plate is on the front light; butterfly valve gaskets; fuse box under the saddle; rubber-coated footrests; curved brake lever; standard chain protection cover.
|2||340||Ver 1940 – Type I||Signal with the image of an Indian; gray handlebars; the Mico light switch; the Purolator oil filter; the Schebler DLX 130 carburettor; round air filter; the Corbin speedometer (130 mph); toolbox mounted behind the clutch pedal; warning plate is on the toolbox; butterfly valve gaskets; fuse box under the saddle; rubber-coated footrests; curved brake lever; standard chain protection cover.|
|3||340||Ver 1940 – Type II||Signal with chevron logo; black rubber handlebars; the Mico light switch; no oil filter; the Linkert M-341 carburettor; round air filter; the Corbin speedometer (130 mph); toolbox mounted behind the clutch pedal; warning plate is on the toolbox; protective arc; butterfly valve gaskets; fuse box under the saddle; rubber-coated footrests; curved brake lever; standard chain protection cover; light on the fender of a sidecar.|
|4||340-B||Ver 1941||Signal with chevron logo; black rubber handlebars; the Houde air filter; the Harley-Davidson light switch; the Linkert M-341 carburetor; the Corbin speedometer (110 mph); toolbox mounted on rear fender; warning plate is on left fuel tank; protective arc; butterfly valve gaskets; no fuse box; rubber-coated footrests; straight brake lever; reinforced chain protection cover; light on the fender of a sidecar.|
|5||344||Ver P-EU (Полицейская, для рынка США)||Signal with chevron logo; black rubber handlebar; round air filter; key switch; the Linkert M 344 carburettor; the Corbin speedometer (110 mph); toolbox mounted on rear fender; crankcase opening for timing adjustment; protective arc; straight-type gaskets; no fuse box; spacious footboards; “Indian Chief” inscription on both tanks; straight brake lever; standard chain protection cover; kickstarter pedal without rubber coating.|
|6||344||Ver L-L (Ленд-Лиз)||Signal with chevron logo; black rubber handlebar; the Houde air filter; the Harley-Davidson switch; the Linkert M-344 carburetor; enlarged, metal footrests; the Corbin speedometer (110 mph); camouflage lighting; crankcase opening for timing adjustment; radio mounting bracket; toolbox mounted on the rear fender; warning plate is on the left tank; protective arc; straight-type gaskets; no fuse box; straight brake lever; standard chain protection cover; kickstarter pedal without rubber coating; sidecar is installed on the left side.|
On April 1, 1940, 890 Indian 340B motorcycles were delivered to France. 700 of them were fully assembled and ready for use, and the rest were still waiting for their turn in wooden containers. By April 20, 1940, another 1560 vehicles were delivered, 1060 of which were fully assembled. It is known that French engineers carefully inspected all new machines and trained soldiers on how to operate and maintain the bikes. No one could have imagined that France would give up its position in just a month.
Dunkirk Beach was the last stronghold in the fight against the impending Nazi threat. This is where the evacuation of the French took place, and this was the moment when the open resistance of France ended. The fate of the military Indian 340 can be compared with the story of Norton Big 4 from the “Motorworld by V. Sheyanov” collection, which was also captured by the enemy. Many of the bikes were repainted in standard German military colors and remained on duty.
The story that a German submarine sank a transport ship, which carried about 2,500 French Indian 340 motorcycles, is nothing more than a legend. The engine numbers found by Mr. Bogart are between 1,000 and 5,000 with passes of no more than 161, which in itself is an excellent proof of the above statement.
Meanwhile, as Indian continued to produce military motorcycles until the very surrender of France, a small batch of motorcycles was formed at the Springfield warehouse, which was never delivered to France. On July 29, 1940, the US government sent 325 motorcycles of this batch to Great Britain, and the remaining 150 units to Canada.
The production and upgrading of the military Indian Chief continued until the end of the war, with all further modifications, as well as parts catalogs and operating instructions, based on the French version of the Indian 340B (CAV), which we may rightfully call the father of the military Indian Chief.
Sources:: https://www.indianmotorcycle.in/ An American in Paris… (ISBN 90-805639-3-3)
|Manufacturer||Indian Motorcycle Co., Springfield (Massachusetts, USA)|
|Years of manufacture||1940 – 1942|
|Quantity produced, units||5 000|
|Today’s value||6 316,8 $|
|ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION|
|Type||V-shape, twin-cylinder, air-cooled|
|Engine capacity, cc||1 206|
|Bore and stroke, mm||82,55 х 112,71|
|Engine rating||30 h.p. at 4000 rpm|
|Sparking||Magneto, right-side kickstarter arrangement|
|FRAME AND WHEELBASE|
|Frame type||Tubular, singular|
|Front suspension||Spring with lead cantilever|
|Rear suspension||Candle type|
|Wheel size||4,50 х 18 (3 wheels)|
|Ground clearance, mm||
|Seat height, mm|
|Gas tank size, l||
|Maximum speed, km/h||