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RSD Modernizes a 1946 Indian Chief with a Thunderstroke 111 Engine

Photos: Roland Sands Design

There’s a special charm and character possessed by old American cruiser motorcycles that contemporary bikes simply fail to capture. As iconic as these machines look, they undeniably leave a lot to be desired in terms of performance. Well aware of this reality, the team over at Roland Sands Design has set out to deliver the best of both worlds with a 1946 Indian Chief that’s been treated to a modern powertrain and a host of up-specced running gear.

Starting with a salvaged ’46 Chief chassis, the structure has been heavily modified with bespoke framework in order to accommodate a Thunderstroke 111 from a 2014 Chieftain. On top of an upgraded ignition system and a lightweight Lithium-ion battery, the 1,818cc V-Twin has also had its fuel injection system replaced with a Mikuni HSR45 carb setup and a one-off intake manifold, before receiving a set of custom headers culminating in a set of Cone Engineering mufflers. While the front end is a girder unit off of a 1946 Chief, the rest of the bike’s running gear is markedly more modern, with a fully-bespoke Chromoly swing-arm paired with a Penske Racing shock plucked off of a Ducati Panigale superbike, and an upgraded braking package with Performance Machine calipers chomping down on floating Galfer petal rotors. Christened the “El Camino,” the build has also been treated to a slew of parts off of another 1946 Indian, including the project’s handlebars, levers, floorboards, foot controls, and split-fuel tanks — the latter of which is molded into the ‘40s era donor’s cast frame. Rather than sporting a paint job, the build boasts a faux-weathered look that was achieved through distressing the metal with an amalgamation of vinegar, salt, hydrogen peroxide, and primer paint. Rounding out the build is a set of 19” RSD Traction flat track wheels shod in Dunlop DT3 flat track tires, a bespoke tractor-style seat courtesy of Saddlemen, a custom RSD gear shift lever, and a Lowbrow Customs fender now hugging the rear tire.

Overall, the build manages to vastly improve the 1946 donor’s performance capabilities while retaining the model’s distinctive and iconic appearance. Even more noteworthy is the fact that the El Camino manages to convey 68 years’ worth of Indian Motorcycle history within a single machine.

Learn More: RSD

Photo: Roland Sands Design
Photo: Roland Sands Design
Photo: Roland Sands Design