2012 Indian Motorcycles First Look

September 2, 2011
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
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Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

For those who live under a rock, Indian Motorcycles has a new owner. Polaris Industries, parent company of Victory Motorcycles, purchased the company for an undisclosed sum in April. With little time to redesign an entire line, move operations from Kings Mountain, North Carolina, to Spirit Lake, Iowa, and construct a new assembly line, Polaris decided to roll with the models Indian’s prior owners had already spent the last year developing for 2012. Even though Polaris’ influence and direction won’t show up until the 2013 generation of Indians, the company still introduced three Indian Motorcycles for the 2012 model year.

Not surprisingly, there are no new models. The 2012 Chief Classic, Dark Horse and Vintage are all carryovers. The first bike to roll off the assembly line at Spirit Lake was the 2012 Chief Vintage. The motorcycle, said to be based off the iconic 1948 Chief, is the dressiest of the bunch with its whitewalls, 60-spoke wheels, distressed tan leather seat and saddlebags with plenty of dangling fringes, the signature valanced fenders, auxiliary cruising lights, chrome engine guards and a tall PowerPlus V-Twin. It is also the only one with a tall, quick-release windscreen. Available in two solid colors, Thunder Black or Indian Red, the three two-tone variations add even more to its classic styling.

2012 Chief Classic2012 Indian Chief Vintage2012 Chief Dark Horse
Introducing the 2012 Indian Motorcycles (L to R) 2012 Chief Classic, 2012 Chief Vintage and the 2012 Chief Dark Horse.

The 2012 Chief Classic is more of a base model, less frilly, solo seat, and simpler solid colorways with air-brushed pinstriping. The absence of saddlebags allows you to appreciate the styling of the swoopy rear fender more. Whitewalls are swapped out for traditional black wall tires. It’s got a Brembo braking system featuring dual discs with floating rotors and four-piston calipers on the front while a single floating rotor with a two-piston caliper anchor the rear. A big stainless steel two-into-one pipe streaks down the right side in a big flash of chrome. Like all the 2012 Indians, the Chief Classic is powered by a 105 cubic-inch Power Plus V-Twin mated to a six-speed transmission. Though it looks more compact than than the Vintage, it’s an optical illusion because they both sport the same 68.4-inch wheelbase.

The 2012 Chief Dark Horse is the final Indian Motorcycle offering of the new model year. The Dark Horse achieves its name courtesy of a slew of blacked-out components, including the engine, frame, pipe, bars, headlight housing, wheels and paint. Despite its darker disposition, it still carries traditional Indian styling, valanced fenders with the Indian cloisonné on the front, an Indian chief with headdress painted on the tank, a tank-mounted console, spoked wheels and a tassled leather seat. The 2012 Chief Dark Horse is offered in one color – black.

Beyond variations in weight, the 2012 Chief Classic, Dark Horse, and Vintage sport identical spec sheets. An air-cooled Power Plus 105 with closed loop sequential port fuel injection sits at the heart of all three. The motorcycles’ 41mm forks are set out at a 34-degree rake angle while single shocks with 2.9 inches of travel do road-smoothing honors on the back. Gear ratios on the six-speed transmission are identical. All three come with a two-year warranty, with prices listed on their spec sheets starting at $25,999 for the Chief Classic, $27,999 for the Chief Dark Horse while the Chief Vintage is listed at an eye-opening $35,499. Polaris stated price points initially would be consistent with what was already established and mentioned intentions to keep Indian Motorcycles as a premium product to complement its more performance-minded Victory offerings.

There will also be a limited run of 110 Special Anniversary Edition Chiefs available, too. Though details haven’t been divulged, we anticipate it will come with at least anniversary badging and special paint. We do know it will come with a special leather jacket and other commemorative items.