August in Ohio brings a number of the coolest vintage American Motorcycles to the Seneca County Fairgrounds in Tiffin Ohio. Appropriately enough the motorcycles are Indian Motorcycles built in Springfield Massachusetts, first produced in 1901, making it America's first Motorcycle, and still produced today.  Some of the most iconic models Indian produced were the Four Cylinder Bikes starting with the Ace in 1927...  The celebration concentrated on these fabulous four cylinder machines.

            2011 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Indian 4 Club, established in Ohio in 1961 and "dedicated to the preservation, restoration and enjoyment of the Indian and other American four cylinder motorcycles no longer produced."  The participants are a dedicated bunch with a deep passion for these wonderful pieces of art and history.  The style of the Indian 4 sets them apart from other motorcycles and creates an image wrought with grace and a personality as divergent as the owners and enthusiasts. 

            Indian 4 owners are the definition of Enthusiasts; they enjoy the machines in every conceivable manner, maintaining the mechanical masterpieces is a privilege, reveling in the opportunity to ride a piece of American history and sharing their experiences with fellow club members and others that appreciate the bikes.  Club President Jim Walther and Treasurer Beverly Corsmeier lead the charge when it comes to gathering the members in Tiffin and having a wonderful weekend of camaraderie.  The idyllic setting amongst tall trees and grassy fields adds to the friendly nature of the meet that this year included 84 bikes, the largest gathering in the club's long history.

            As with most motorsports gatherings the participants were as eclectic as the machinery, coming from all corners of North America and across the big ponds.  Greg Hoey arrived from England, a family of four came from Denmark, Ginny and Louis made the trip from south of San Antonio and got a brief respite from the sweltering Texas summer, all enamored to the rolling sculpture and enjoying the company of fellow riders.  Many of the participants rode their Motorcycles hundreds of miles to Northern Ohio, completely immersing themselves in the experience.  Some of those bikes represented the other American Four Cylinder brands that the club embraces such as Henderson and Ace.

            Indian Motorcycles introduced many innovations to the industry such as belt drives in 1902, and the V-Twin engine in 1906, swingarm and leaf spring rear suspension in 1913 and double overhead cam four valves per cylinder engines in 1918.  The Ace Motorcycle Company was had designed a four cylinder engine in the 1920s before running into financial problems, Indian bought Ace and introduced that engine as the first Indian Four in 1927, sparking the passion that burns in these enthusiasts 84 years later.  Ace was well represented in Tiffin with several exemplary examples on display. 

The Henderson Motorcycle Company started producing four cylinder air cooled motorcycles in Detroit Michigan in 1911, the meet in Tiffin included a celebration of a century of Henderson also.  In 1917 Henderson was purchased by Bicycle Magnate Ignaz Schwinn and combined with the Excelsior Motor and Manufacturing Company in Chicago, the purchase was driven by Schwinn's desire to produce four cylinder motorcycles and further diversify his product line.  Henderson four cylinder motorcycles were built through 1931 eventually reaching a displacement of 1301 cc and 48 horsepower, however the marque became another victim of the great depression.  Henderson Motorcycles were well represented in Tiffin with several being in original condition and ridden to the meet from as far as the east coast.  An unrestored 1920 Henderson with original sidecar "barn find" was one of the hits of the weekend:

But then every bike at the show engaged and fascinated the crowd of over 150 attendees with its storied past.

            The four cylinder motorcycle enthusiasts brought their bikes, memorabilia, experiences, stories and excitement to Tiffin and shared a wonderful time.  A few breakdowns occurred and the subsequent repairs included the most knowledgeable experts on the planet, those that are the stewards of these fantastic historic artifacts.  Today's motorcycles have many standardized features, right hand throttle, left foot shifting, hand operated clutches and brakes, kick starters; the historic bikes have these features where the pioneers placed them as the development occurred, so "suicide shifters", left hand throttles and crank starters abounded and added to the conversation and fascination.  Options like "Organ Pipes" decorative lighting, plunger spring/dampeners, electric starters and lights, loop frames and much more debuted on the bikes of this era and established the standards used today.

            The Indian 4 Club is a tribute to the ingenuity of these engineering pioneers and their commitment to improving the breed.  Such beautiful bikes demonstrated the artistic talents of the builders similar to what the great coachbuilders did for automobiles; these motorcycles that gathered in a sleepy Ohio town in the Summer of 2011 demonstrated the zenith of the genre.  We can all relish in the fact that they are in the care of engaged, capable, respectful stewards that understand their place in history and are dedicated to preserving that for generations to come.

Check out the Indian 4 Club website http://indian4club.org/index.html  and next August take a leisurely trip up through the Buckeye State and visit the bikes and their owners, you will not be disappointed!



Kurt Niemeyer is editor of Cincy Motorsports Journal. He has longtime ties to the racing and auto show communities. Visit Cincy Motorsports Journal online at www.cincymagazine.com for more facts and in-depth information. And connect with CMJ on Facebook "” Cincy Motorsports Journal "” to get weekly updates.