Friday, September 16, 2011

I recently finished reading a fabulous book: 'Franklin's Indians', Irish motorcycle racer Charles B. Franklin, designer of the Indian Scout & Chief by Harry B. Sucher, Tim Pickering, Liam Diamond, Harry Havlin.

Franklin was one of Ireland's earliest and most successful motorcycle racers. Born in Dublin, he started racing an FN in 1903, switching to JAP in 1905 and to Triumph in 1909. In 1910 he started racing Indians and henceforth was exclusively associated with that brand. He quit his job as an electrical engineer with the City of Dublin and opened an Indian agency. He raced at the IOM from 1908 through 1914, finishing 2nd in the 1911 Senior, when Indians finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd. He raced and set records at Brookland from 1910 through 1914.

Greatly respected for his technical expertise and machine preparation, he was offer a design job at the Indian factory in Springfield, Ma. and immigrated there in 1916, a good time to leave Dublin as he may have sensed he was on the wrong side of the civil unrest that was increasing then. In Springfield he was heavily involved with the design and development of special works racers as well as production machines, though he never raced himself in the States. He died early at 52 in 1932 having largely set the course for Indian.

The book is extremely comprehensive and well researched. It touches on the social history of Ireland, the early days of racing in Britain, Europe and the U.S., the technical development of the motorcycle, and the business reality of the motorcycle industry. While Indian is now probably known for it's flat heads, Franklin also designed OHV and OHC engines, both singles and V-twins. While a biography of a remarkable man, the book gives an overview of the development of motorcycles and racing from the earliest days to a mature industry.

Highly recommended, The Franklin's Indians book is available from Chris @ Motorsport Publications for $59.99 (includes postage) - its on the web page at, reachable via phone (715 572 4595) and by email ( Readers on the English side of the Atlantic will want to buy it directly from the publisher at, where it sells for £29.95 (postage included for UK; £4.50 p&p for Europe, £12 for the Rest of the World.)

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