Today’s post is a departure from my ongoing tribute to the history of motorcycling at Daytona Beach, that series will continue but I wanted to mix it up a bit.

This photo intrigued me from the moment I first laid eyes on it. As usual I initially came upon it on one of the countless blogs online, bottomless wells of knowledge and vaguely captioned images. However, it is thanks to the limitless reach of social media that I was able to connect with the lovely couple from Australia who own the hardcopy. They were kind enough to send me a digital scan and with my very limited photoshoping abilities I tried to clean it up a bit, revealing a handful of surprising details. The most curious feature in the photograph, the one that has caught many an eye on its trip around the interwebs is without question the Indian factory 8-valve racing engine cradled inside a civilian production frame. To this day it is the only such machine I have ever run across. There is still much to learn about this unique machine and the men around it, but here is what I have uncovered so far.

The image comes from the city of Lordsburg, California, today known as La Verne, a town just east of Los Angeles near the foothills of Mt. Baldy. Located on the north side of 3rd Street between D and E Streets, the Lordsburg Cyclery served the area in all matters motorcycle and bicycle. As often the case with these early local shops, the Cyclery also acted as the headquarters for any and all men of motorsport, providing a mustering point for the local clubs and a base of operations for spirited races. From events at the local track, to impromptu road races through the town’s small streets, to weekend tours into the beautiful canyon country of Southern California, the Cyclery was always involved. This was undoubtedly due to the enthusiasm of the shops two owners, Henry Hixson and Frank Palomares, each avid motorcyclist and amateur racers. It is one of those gusty owners, Henry Hixson that is posing here in front of his shop with a very special Indian motorcycle. 

Though the photograph reads 1915, this machine as well as the facade of the Cyclery appears to date the image closer to 1912, though an exact date remains a mystery. This civilian production model Indian features a hard tail frame, front leaf spring suspension, acetylene headlamp, passenger seat assembly, and the large Indian script logo on the tank. The standard 7HP, 61ci production engine however is missing, in its place is a small-base 8-valve racing engine, a very peculiar setup for two reasons. The first of which is that there is no documentation or even an off hand mention that I have come across of an 8-valve motor ever having been fitted into a production chassis. It is by no means a far stretch of the imagination however to think that a racing engine could have been fitted into a stock setup by a wily and well-connected amateur, which is most likely the case here with Hixson. The second reason being that the small-base 8-valve racing engine was a relatively new development for the factory in 1912, having only just made its debut the year prior. If this photo does in fact date to 1912, it would have to have been a very special case for one of these early production racing engines to find its way into the hands of a privateer or dealer, though it was not an impossibility. Henry Hixson would've had to be a hell of dealer to pick up one of these early overhead valve racing engines from the factory, otherwise he acquired the motor by more entertaining means. Whatever the case may be, the machine was sure to have been a ripper and its rider, Henry Hixson the envy of the local motoring set.

Hopefully over time more details about Hixson, the Cyclery, or this wonderful 8-valve Indian will emerge but until then we can let our imaginations run wild as we have yet another wonderful look back into the early days of American motorcycle culture.

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