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