Franklin’s Indians

28th February 2018
Franklin’s Indians by Harry Sucher
If you would like photographs, press copy, other media, or information relating to a specific publication or event, please contact us with your requirements at:

Franklin’s Indians

Irish motorcycle racer Charles B Franklin, designer of the Indian Chief

New paperback edition!
The Indian has been the iconic image for American big V-Twins down the years, due in no small measure to the motorcycles designed by Charles B Franklin – the Indian Scout and the Indian Chief.

Charles Franklin was born and raised in Ireland where he quickly became involved in motorcycle racing during the pioneer years. He rapidly established himself as Ireland’s first big star of racing and was the first to represent Ireland in international motorcycle competition. In the Isle of Man TT he consistently finished in the top eight, and in 1911 claimed second place, a remarkable achievement in itself.

But it was when he moved to Indian in the USA, where he became the Chief Design Engineer, that his genius really flowed. His designs catapulted Indian back into the forefront of motorcycle design in the 1920s and ’30s and his racing engines and motorcycles won much glory for Indian against stiff opposition. Franklin introduced remarkable improvements in sidevalve combustion chamber design that pre-dated the work of Ricardo. He championed an holistic approach that popularised new features such as the semi unit-construction ‘powerplant’, helical-gear primary drive, double-loop full-cradle frames and a host of other improvements to the early motorcycles. This book not only chronicles his life but also sheds much new light on the history of Indian motorcycles and the often turbulent times of the Indian Motorcycle Company itself.

A much needed book for all Indian fans and all who love the history of the classic American V-Twins.
Book reviews (hardback edition):
“ … this lavishly illustrated book, whilst concentrating on Franklin, reveals a lot more of the company’s history than other works…thanks to some real detective work and the publication of this important work Franklin’s true impact on motorcycling in general can be seen by all…a must read for all Indian fans…a quality work well presented…”
Ian Kerr (Inter-Bike)

Amazon customer reviews:
★★★★☆ - 4.0 out of 5 stars
Indian history
By C Cookon 4 September 2012
Format: Hardcover

Verified Purchase
A fascinating account of the contribution of an almost unknown Anglo-Irishman to the development of one of the most innovative American motorcycles. Charles Franklin's early motorcycle racing career in Ireland is covered in almost too much detail, and there is excellent insight into the first TT races on the Isle of Man. The role of Indian's competitors, such as Harley-Davidson, in the development of motorcycling in the USA is also covered, as well as the competition with English manufacturers and riders in record attempts and races. Although some of the material about Franklin's life is conjectural (due to a shortage of archive sources), this book is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of motorcycle technology.

★★★★★ - 5.0 out of 5 stars
A Great Read!
ByTaffmeisteron 1 March 2013
Format: Hardcover

Verified Purchase
This is a great book and really well made as well. the type is small so that all the info could be packed into the book. the first part is about the pioneer that CBF was in Ireland and the IoM from around 1909 to 1916. Indian were right at the forefront of racing for around 5 years to WW1.
Then he takes a job in the USA with Indian and we then start to see all the designs he brings out: the scout and the chief being the main two. He died in 1932 from cancer.
I knew nothing of Indian before this book but do now! it is very much a book about a racer and tuner then a designer and tuner and he pushed the sidevalve engine as far as anyone ever did.

★★★★★ - 5.0 out of 5 stars
Keeps husband a happy man!!
ByChristine Francison 1 March 2013
Format: Hardcover

Verified Purchase
I bought this for my husband for Christmas and he has read it cover to cover and now wants to purchase an Indian bike!! Dont suppose anyone has one???

★★★★★ - 5.0 out of 5 stars
Loved the gift - he had almost bought it for ...
ByMrs AJWon 27 December 2015
Format: Hardcover

Verified Purchase
Bought for my son-in-law for Christmas as he bought himself a new Indian Scout bike in April. Loved the gift - he had almost bought it for himself - so cannot wait to read it.

★★★★★ - 5.0 out of 5 stars
Great read
ByAlisonon 12 January 2015
Format: Hardcover

Verified Purchase
Fantastic book. Very interesting to read.
Franklin’s Indians by Harry Sucher

ISBN: 9781787112230
UPC: 6-36847-01223-6


£30, $50, $65 CAN

• An in-depth study of Charles B Franklin and the iconic Indian motorcycles that he designed
• Irish-born designer Charles B Franklin was one of the foremost motorcycle racers and record breakers of his era
• Franklin’s racing achievements included second place in the Isle of Man Senior TT, and being the first man to cover 300 miles in 300 minutes on a motorcycle
• This story sheds new light on the often turbulent history of the Indian factory itself, here interpreted within the social history of the global motorcycle industry
• Franklin’s Indian Scout and Chief designs helped establish the popularity of the heavyweight American v-twin, and saved the factory from an otherwise certain demise in the early 1920s
• How the Indian race program won much glory against the Harley “wrecking crew” and other adversaries in the racing game
• The influence of the Indian designs upon the industry, leading to global improvements in motorcycle design
• Franklin’s discoveries of “squish” pre-dated those of Harry Ricardo
• Tales of motorcycle people and events on both sides of the Atlantic from 1903 through to 1932
• This book is now part of the accepted canon for Indian motorcycle history, and is one of two books on the subject recommended by the 101 Association of America

Harry V Sucher first began researching the history of Indian motorcycles in the 1930s when still a teenager in California. A veterinarian by profession and life-long motorcyclist by passion, he was the first to take a scholarly approach to documentation of America’s motorcycling history. He personally interviewed Indian personalities like Frank Weschler, Thomas Callaghan Butler, and Helen Hedstrom-Carlson and he drew upon these sources for his seminal work The Iron Redskin. His recollections provided the Franklin’s Indians book project with a last remaining living link to Franklin’s contemporaries at the Wigwam in the production era. Dr Sucher passed away not long before the first edition of this book went to print.
Place of birth: Nelson, New Zealand • Hometown: Suva

In 1980s New Zealand Tim Pickering’s evolving motorcycling thought processes were leading him away from Japanese bikes to the classic heavyweight v-twins, but he really didn’t want a Harley and was searching for one of the 1930s British vees like a BSA G15 or Matchless Model X. It was the late Norman Hayes of Invercargill, a fast-pedalling associate of the famous Burt Munro, who advised him “Get an Indian – they have race-bred motors, and parts are easier to find than for a Honda!” This was the start of a quest which ultimately yielded a ’25 Chief and a ’44 Chief, and a strong curiosity to know more about these bikes’ enigmatic designer. Tim’s internet searches soon intersected with those of Liam Diamond, and a book project was born. Working from opposite sides of the world, they have yet to meet each other face to face.

Growing up in the 1960's Liam Diamond’s father sometimes would talk about the great Irish heroes from down the ages. One of these names was Charles Franklin and his exploits at the Isle of Man TT races. When Liam went to a new school in 1969 there was only one book in the library on motorcycles. The centre pages which were in colour featured a 1930 Indian Scout 101, and down at the bottom of the page was written 'Designed by Irishman Charles Bayly Franklin'. This was the first time Liam had viewed a 101 and he thought it the most beautiful machine he'd ever seen! Liam realised this man Franklin must have been an exceptional individual, and decided to find out as much as he could about him. Since this book was completed Liam came to own a 101 Scout of his own. It’s now been sold because he’s eyeing up a post-war Chief, which proves that once you own a 1901-1953 Indian you can’t get any better; only bigger!

Harry Havelin is a native of Ireland, born and raised in Dublin. He has been a staunch follower of motorcycle sport for 52 years - since May 1965. He regularly attends all of the road races in Ireland each season, and goes each year to the Isle of Man for the TT Races in June and the Classic TT Races in August. He has done extensive research on the history of motorcycle sport in Ireland, and contributed to numerous publications over the years. It was the late great Stanley Woods who recommended to Harry that he should find out as much as possible about the racing career of Charles Franklin who, in Woods’ view, was Ireland’s first great Irish motorcycling competitor.

V5223 • Paperback • 24.8x19.2cm • £30 • 368 pages • 160 pictures • ISBN: 978-1-787112-23-0 • UPC: 6-36847-01223-6
View sample pages and sample text on our website - or 01305 260068/e or

Front cover images in various resolutions are available from Veloce

Veloce books are stocked by (or can be ordered from) bookshops by quoting the correct ISBN number.

We also take orders direct: telephone 01305 260068 (+44 1305 260068 from outside UK), fax 01305 250479 (+44 1305 250479 from outside UK) or e-mail Books can also be ordered on our website –

Twitter (Veloce):
Twitter (Hubble & Hattie):
Facebook (Veloce):
Facebook (Hubble & Hattie):

Note: All details subject to change.