Model: Kate "Pocablondas" Lemay
If you've been reading this magazine for a while, you'll remember builder Alex Brooks and his custom Springer Sportster "Strutter" that was featured a little more than a year ago. It was the bike that was willed into existence by insisting that a Sportster would accommodate an HD springer frontend. When Alex and I first met, it was to take a look at Strutter and discuss locations for a shoot, he went over the Sportster in detail and we talked bikes for a while. What stuck out from that meeting had nothing to do with my assignment; it was the Indian Chief he had in the garage he calls "Nightmare." It was "his" bike-the one he rode, loved, and said the most about what he values in a motorcycle. While it might not be a classic in the sense that it's an old or vintage bike, it does have a very classic look, so I shot some photos of Nightmare for my own personal collection, and we got back to business.
After the story on Strutter was published, I asked Eric Ellis if he'd consider running a feature on an Indian. Eric remembered the bike from Sturgis and asked me to shoot it, and submit the story. I couldn't wait to get back to work with Alex and shoot this bike that was so captivating the first moment I saw it. We decided to shoot it at an old encampment where two great rivers meet, the Minnesota and the Mississippi. This is a long held sacred place for the Dakota Indians and a fitting backdrop for this classy Indian Chief.
Alex fell in love with Indians at a young age, and his first purchase was an '02 Scout. That bike lasted a year before he realized that nothing short of a Chief was going to scratch the itch. Like any efficient military man would do, Alex took advantage of the fact that the dealership was right next to the hospital, and traded in his Scout for a Chief the day his youngest daughter was born. As Alex put it, "I was one proud papa."
Alex swiped a couple of eyeballs from one of his daughter's dolls, then used a Dremmel to recess the eyes into his skull shift knob.
Alex swiped a couple of eyeballs from one of his daughter's dolls, then used a Dremmel to
It didn't take long for the bliss and excitement to wear off and the real work to begin...on the bike that is. Alex had lots of ideas for the Chief, but what he really wanted to achieve was modern gangster flair while maintaining the historical integrity of a '50s Chief. With his eclectic approach to customization, Alex went to work assembling the parts to make this Chief truly one of a kind. His first stop was Smitty's Saddlery in Riverside, California, for a fully custom seat with tan saddle leather and Indian embossing that looks like it was made with an old western saddle from the 1800s in mind. Next, it was time for the reigns: 18-inch Carlinis made from 1-1/2-inch-diameter tubing dipped in chrome.
As if riding a bike this size with 18-inch apes wasn't challenging enough, Alex decided to complicate things even further by adding a left-side jockey shift with a foot clutch. That's right, left side, and it's not a mistake but a tribute to Alex's favorite Indian of all time, the '51 Roadmaster. What the Roadmaster also had was the big valanced fenders and the lines that served as inspiration for Nightmare throughout the project.
"It took a little finessing to fit the tire inside the front fender; trial and error eventually gave way to proper fender positioning."
"It took a little finessing to fit the tire inside the front fender; trial and error event
You'll notice this Chief sits a little different than others on the road. That's because of the 21x3.5-inch-wide rim in front and the 18-inch in back. It took a little finessing to fit the tire inside the front fender; trial and error eventually gave way to proper fender positioning. You'll notice that both tires are white-walled and at the time, Alex couldn't find anyone who made an 18-inch whitewall, so he went to work researching how to make them himself. After two weeks of sanding the tires down, painting, and some sore hands, he had himself the only 18-inch whitewall in the country, to his knowledge.
To assemble the collection of vintage parts, Alex worked with Bob Stark, of Perris, California. They were able to dig up some original cast fender tips and Roadmaster fender emblems. J&D Plating took care of the rest to get them looking like new. Among the more classic touches, you'll notice the fire extinguisher, salvaged from an old '40s Indian. And for unique Brooks flair, Alex's brother, Victor, made the arrow foot guard.
We did our sunset shoot and really attracted a crowd; a few came closer for a good look at the bike. Thanks for your work Alex; it's an inspiration for all the DIY-ers out there. We can't wait to see what you come up with next.
Alex's brother, Victor, crafted this custom arrow-heel guard.