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Indian Motorcycle - Winter 1997
Chief Sextuplets — Wymond Walkem's Summer Project
Story by Bonnie Lee Hufft

Wymond Walkem of Walkem's (Norval, Ontario), a specialist in Indian and Harley restorations, received a phone call on July 1, 1995, from a marketing company representing the Ford Motor Company of Canada. Ford had an interesting request: They wanted sic identically restored Indian motorcycles. That's quite a tall order, especially given the timeframe involved. Two of the Indians had to be fully complete and shipped to the Ford convention in San Antonio, Texas, by August 8 to kick off the truck sales program. The remaining four had to be completed by October 31.

These motorcycles were to be awarded by Ford of Canada to the dealers with the most truck sales from the six regions of Canada. By choosing Indians, Ford was harkening back to an old connection with the Wigwam. The Ford Motor Company supplied parts to the Indian Motocycle Co. in the form of Autolite parts, a subsidiary of Ford. For years, Indian used Autolite generators, distributors, and light components. (Makes you look at Ford in a new light, doesn't it?)

For Walkem, the only problem with this sweet-sounding deal was the timeframe. Taking on the task, he has a mere three weeks to locate and restore two of the Indians, and four months to locate and restore the remaining four. Walkem, though, embraced the challenge.

The pressure was on and the search began. Walkem started by phoning other motorcycle shops and discovering that many of them had already been approached to take on the job and had declined. A few phone calls later, Walkem was on a plane to Southern California. Big disappointment, as people had promised things on the phone that they couldn't deliver in person. Finally, three motorcycles were located with the help of Bob Stark of Starklite Cycle (Perris, California). The remaining three were located in Wasio, Ohio, with the help of Rocky Halter of Rocky's Antique parts (Massillon, Ohio). All six Indians were model 348 Chiefs ('47s and '48s) in varying conditions.

Now for the easy part (easy part?). the bikes were shipped home to Walkem's shop, and the pressure was on. The Chiefs were dissembled and an assembly line was created, mirroring the thrill and pressure of the Indian Motocyle Co.

After disassembly, the frames, forks, and sheet metal were all sandblasted. Sean, the in-house painter, had his job cut out for him, fitting all the new trim and fenders to the bikes and then numbering them so they fit the respective bikes. Greg, the mechanic, worked with Walkem, preparing the rest of the parts for chroming and cad plating, an equally exhaustive and intensive job. The motors received unleaded valves and a fresh going over.

While the bikes were being painted, the wheels were rebuilt, the bushings were installed in the forks, and the charging systems were checked. Stands were built so all of the bikes could be assembled at the same time. Working around the clock, tow Chiefs were assembled in time for the San Antonio convention. (They were completed two days prior to the scheduled delivery date.) According to Walkem, everything went smoothly after that, and the remaining Chiefs made it to Ford by the end of October.

Just imagine what the dealers must have thought and felt when they were presented with these Chiefs! Makes me think about a career change - to a Ford dealer.

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