Bringing you the world's best cafe racers, trackers, scramblers, bobbers & custom motorcycles.

1949 Indian Arrow 149

Posted on January 15, 2014 by Scott in Bobber. 19 comments

49 Indian Arrow 7

When Clayton Schaefer from Street Spirit Cycles received a phone call from a customer asking whether he would “café my Indian?” his first thought was “there’s no way, it would be a sacrilege!”. He just couldn’t imagine taking the sawzall to a piece of motorcycle history. “But as we went back and forth I learned that we weren’t just talking about any Indian”, says Clayton. “We were talking about the Indian that bankrupted the company: the slow, awkward, 213cc cousin of the beloved big twins”. You see, the Arrow 149 was one of the last bikes to roll out of the original Indian factory floor before they went out of business. It seems the development costs and teething problems of this little motorcycle may have actually been the final nail in the coffin. So with that in mind Clayton took on the job – but decided to leave the sawzall alone.

49 Indian Arrow 3

After Clayton took a good look at the bike he determined that it had been modified and “restored” at least once already, and that it’s value as a collector’s piece was probably pretty low as a result. “To be on the safe side, we agreed on a build that would preserve all the components that came on the bike, leaving the frame intact and unmodified. This created some interesting challenges, because normally I wouldn’t think twice about welding a bracket here or cutting off an offending tab there in the course of setting up a bike.”

49 Indian Arrow 149 4

“By far the most complicated piece was the mounting bracket for the rearsets, which had to bolt to the only available hole in the frame in the tiny space in front of the rear tire below the battery box, clearing the chain, centre stand, exhaust, and transmission case, and leaving enough room for proper operation of the shifter and brakes. The way the bracket is shaped, rider weight goes down onto the side rails of the frame rather than depending on the single fastener through the tube.”

49 Indian Arrow 149 8

“The actual rearsets consist of a mix of handmade parts and pieces scavenged from other builds, like the shifter linkage ball joints from a GS450 and the passenger peg mounts from a Ninja 250.

On the hand controls, the original Indian had a pretty funky setup – big high cruiser bars that didn’t match the diameter of any available on the market today. We ended up going to more common 7/8″ standard, but to preserve the vintage look and feel of the bike, we used handmade solid brass risers and levers. The ‘mustache handlebar’ creates a nice low riding position and makes the bike look more like plausible period mod.”

49 Indian Arrow 5

“The carburetor is a Dell’Orto remote float unit with a velocity stack and gasses exit through an open header. It has a points and coil setup that replaced notoriously unreliable ignition on the original bikes, and it’s been converted to a solid state voltage regulator and a sealed lead acid battery. Headlight is original with new switchgear, and the tail light is from the Harley aftermarket.”


“Side covers have been resealed, which improved the oil leak situation considerably, but I’m pretty sure these bikes leaked oil when they were brand new so there’s only so much you can do.

Other than that, we just cleaned her up and removed as much unnecessary junk as possible to get the weight down and improve handling. I know at least one person who commutes daily on a ’40s Indian, but it’s probably best to save it for those sunny afternoons when you have nowhere in particular to be.”

  • pietro

    love it! only thing i would have skipped is the rear sets. they look too modern, and i would t change the original riding position

  • Chris

    the bike is great put the pipe comes right on the speed-shift right on your toes, maybe to feel the torque better 🙂

  • Scott T.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t these made by a British company (BSA?) and not at the Indian factory? I don’t claim to be an Indian expert, so I could be off base here.

    • ccc40821

      BSA wasn’t involved in any way, as Indian’s new vertical twins and singles were an all-American design. Indian hired former chief engineer G. Briggs Weaver to do it, but unfortunately he didn’t do all that good a job, which was but one reason the company went out of business.

      Incidentally Kawasaki entered the big bike market in the early sixties with a Japanese copy of the BSA A65 – which in its final incarmations was better than the original.

      • Scott T.

        This must have been what I was thinking of (from Wiki):

        “Rebadged imported products

        Brockhouse Engineering acquired the rights to the Indian name after it went under in 1953. They imported Royal Enfield motorcycles from England, mildly customized them in the US depending on the model, and sold them as Indians from 1955 to 1960.[27] Almost all Royal Enfield models had a corresponding Indian model in the USA. The models were Indian Chief, Trailblazer, Apache (all three were 700 twins), Tomahawk (500 twin), Woodsman (500 single), Westerner (500 single), Hounds Arrow (250 single), Fire Arrow (250 single), Lance (150 2-stroke single) and a 3-wheeled Patrol Car (350 cc single).[29]

        In 1960, the Indian name was bought by AMC of England. Royal Enfield being their competition, they abruptly stopped all Enfield-based Indian models except the 700 cc Chief. Their plan was to sell Matchless and AJS motorcycles badged as Indians. However, the venture ended when AMC itself went into liquidation in 1962.”

  • itsmefool

    Sweetness…great work, Clayton! I especially love the billboard script on the tank and the stance; I bet it’s a fun ride!

  • Dane Bolster

    And This is Why I’m Totally Redoing a 1948 Indian Chief Dispatch TOW 3 WHEELER !

    • ccc40821

      This has a Royal Engine, but the ‘Patrol’ trikes were built with their own engines as well.

      • itsmefool

        Oh, now that’s cool as all get out! I want one!

  • Davidabl2

    Rearsets and a sprung solo seat have never been seen together before, i think.
    ..and probably not for several good reasons. Some of those reasons are probably anatomical.
    Male anatomy or female anatomy for that matter. ANY bump is memorable on a rigid–i’m writing from personal experience here–and it sure looks to me like the seating angle on this bike would make bumps VERY memorable

  • revdub

    I really like those brass levers and risers. Nice details. They will continue to look even better with age too.

  • arnold

    I really like the head stock forward look, though the front tire is a good type of mystery to me.
    Unique engine and narrative on the frame I find simpatico.
    A second mystery would be ‘How big is it really?’, solved easily by putting a rider on it for a snapshot.
    Nice, tight, full bobber, mysteries make it even more interesting. ald

  • Very nice, simple and clean. Reminds me of another “Indian” single – the Royal Enfield.

  • Richard

    bike looks good

  • Chris Fitzsimmons

    I really enjoy this bike, don’t change anything, its simple, its naked, its stark without being confronting, that’s what makes it so appealing. Well done gentlemen. I would assume that steel caps with thermal insolation would be the correct footwear? Perhaps an elbow on the end of the exhaust would have been a touch of originality and practicality to the build.

  • sero
  • I’d like to do something like that to my 78 R100/7. Are you interested in helping? I’d sell it too.

  • Pingback: Wind-blown()

  • Jim

    I have one. For those who can not afford the parent size, you can still get one of these cheap. They were made by Indian. Should not have rushed it putting it out. Its a great little bike and with the second engine rebuilt with all the bugs worked out it is great little bike. I had the original built to specks. Thesecond is used as the main engine so I can ride it.