Often times the common narrative of history is an understood abbreviation, an epic tale honed down to a few bullet points, milestones that we can use to to navigate through a time long since forgotten. However, more often than not the true story of any given topic is much more colorful, full of rich details and remarkable anecdotes unfortunately glossed over by the convenience of the understood. The remarkable journey that America’s first successful motorcycle company, loving known as Indian Motocycles is one of those well known stories that can be read on the pages of countless books and websites, but the details that have fallen through the cracks reveal a passion that gave birth to American motorcycle culture.

One such story is that of the first Indian twin, most often generalized as a prototype built in 1905 that made its debut as a civilian machine in 1907, and then introduced as the factory available “Torpedo Tank” racer in 1908. The first Indian twin is however yet another unique machine, one in a long line of one-off prototypes crafted by the hands of the genius pioneer Oscar Hedstrom, the chief engineer and master tinkerer at the Hendee Manufaturung Company.

In January of 1904 Oscar Hedstrom again stepped onto the sands of Ormond Beach, America’s hallowed ground of racing. Determind to outpace Glenn Curtiss and his ground-breaking twin cylinder monster Hercules, Hedstrom modified the DeDion-Bouton powered racing prototype that he ran the previous year. For the 1904 run he constructed a twin cylinder machine of his own design. His solution was quite odd in that he simply linked two separate DeDion engines at the crank pin as opposed to twin cylinders in a v shape off of the same bottom end. The cumbersome 5hp Indian/DeDion did not get the best of Curtiss’ Hercules, but it was able to clock a respectable 1 minute, 4 second mile before snapping the pin. Irritated, Hedstrom left the event early and headed back to his beloved machine shop seeking a more refined solution. 

Six months later Oscar Hedstrom reemerged, this time on the beach in Newport, RI. Inspired by Ormond's Speed Carnival, the Newport Amusement Association attempted to create their own beach racing event. Held on July 30th on Sachuest Beach, the event was so hastily organized that it was riddled with management and referee issues, and combined with the poor conditions of the sand the race was highly criticized by the press. Undaunted, it was at this moment that Hedstrom unveiled to high acclaim his newly developed twin cylinder, chain driven speed machine. 

The new 26ci machine featured a 42 degree v-twin configuration based on the single cylinder motors being cast under contract at the Aurora Manufacturing Company. Set in the current production diamond frame, the machine weighed in at 107 lbs. and produced roughly 3hp. Interestingly this seems to be the first iteration of what became know 4 years later as the Torpedo fuel tank. Yet another feature that would later be introduced on the 1908 production racer was the affectionately named "monkey on a stick" seat setup. Production electrics, a chain drive, a rigid fork, a pedal based friction brake, and tow clips rounded out the features of this new, fenderless prototype racer. Pitted against 5 other motorcycle entrants at its unveiling in Newport, Hedstrom ran away with the top award, winning the $75 purse (a silver bowl) by covering the 1 1/8 mile course in 1 minute, 27 seconds.

It must be noted that there are vague mentions of the machine being raced by Hedstrom and his protege, future racing legend Jake DeRosier, and there is a report of Stanley T. Kellogg running what was described as a “heavy” Indian in Hackensack in November of 1904, but the next confirmed event that the twin cylinder Indian showed up at was held Thanksgiving day in 1904 at a hill climb in New Jersey.

Despite no motorcycle events being scheduled for the race, Hedstrom was allowed to make a run up the mile long Eagle Rock hill in Orange, NJ during the annual New Jersey Automobile Club hill climb. Again, Hedstrom surprised and delighted the crowd when he unveiled his new twin. When compared to other motorcycles of the era, Hedstrom’s talent for simplicity and mechanical efficiency truly does stand out. The twin personifies the stout yet nimble thoroughbred design that became the legendary lines of the board track era and defined the look of a racer. 

Hedstrom’s first run up Eagle Rock ended abruptly when he laid the machine down at full clip around a turn. A busted knee and a broken pedal were the only casualties of the incident and the 33 year old Hedstrom mounted the line for a second run. On the second attempt the little 3 horsepower twin made the mile in 1 minute, 41 seconds beating the fastest automobile at that point by 6 seconds. By the end of the event only 11 autos, most of which comanded as much as 103 horsepower beat Hedstrom’s time, but the achievement had been noted. Immediately following the event Hendee began running advertisements of the Indian’s victories in 1904, boasting their superiority over any other brand when it came to inclined terrain and in doing so became one of the first companies to use success in racing as a strategy to sell motorcycles.

Hedstrom continued racing Indian’s first twin in 1905, and by 1906 a production “Roadster" model was announced in their sales brochures. The twin became a staple model for Indian in 1907, and in 1908 the Torpedo tank factory racers were made available for the first time. 1908 also marked a momentous year for Hedstrom and Indian, as well as for the sport of American motorcycle racing as it was the year that Hedstrom introduced to the world his next generation of racing prototypes, ridden by Indian’s first contracted racing star Jake DeRosier at the Clifton Stadium Velodrome, the forerunner of the American Motordrome. However, this unique machine from 1904 is a truly special creature, one in a stable of Hedstrom’s developmental prototypes each easily forgotten because of its rarity, but each encapsulating the spark that created the American racing motorcycle.

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