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Indian Chief Motorcycle

Classic Debate

(Travels with Guido #265, by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen, December 2020)


Does it matter if it's factory correct?


“Come over here,” a mate invited, “Bloggs is going over your bike, pointing out all the reasons why it’s not a correct, locally-delivered model.”

“No,” was the firm reply, “I already know.”

It was a marque rally, and one of the better ones where people bring the odd original, plus a host of modified versions.

“Go on,” my friend appealed, “He knows every detail – it’s amazing to watch.”


Bloggs is a marque savant and I already had a good mental picture of why and how the bike in question wasn’t a ‘correct’ local example. The exercise would be a great demonstration of what’s immature with areas of the classic motorcycle movement, and I was not going to support it.

There were better things to do, like find a decent coffee. I already knew the bike was a camel and never pretended otherwise.

By way of contrast, another bloke with wider allegiances was watching this little interlude and quietly sidled up afterwards. “Our club actively discourages that. It scares people. They don’t come to these events to be told their bike is shit.”


Over the years, I’ve lived and had a live investment in a few different motorcycle worlds, varying from the cutting edge and new – as a reporter/tester, PR wallah and real-time buyer – through to growing classic movements centered on England, Italy, Germany, Japan and America. Italy is my weakest subject.

In any case, I’ve emptied my wallet on product from all of those countries.

The one consistent theme is you have to take the long view. Telling someone their choice is ‘incorrect’ might be entertaining that day, but it could be wrong in 10 years and helps no-one.

There are so many examples of this, it’s difficult to know where to start. Harley-Davidson Panheads were almost free 30 years ago, and now they’re worth a fortune.

Any bevel-drive Ducati vee from the seventies and now eighties can’t be had for reasonable money.

Go back earlier. A Vincent Rapide in working order cost about the same as a used late-model Kawasaki Z900 of the time, and is now worth three to ten times as much.

But there are folk chasing impossible dreams. Many Japanese classic collectors, for example, currently prize originality over everything else. I suspect that’s down to the recency of the movement and a lack of confidence. It will change. They’re in a well-worn path, most notably followed for eons by collectors of Meriden Triumphs, often for the wrong reasons.

It’s time we all relaxed and stopped being so precious.

Yes, if the bike is a rare edition and goes like the clappers, it deserves recognition and should be celebrated. So does any good survivor, no matter how humble.

But, really, do you want to spend the rest of your life chasing down the last left-threaded thermon-grommet to make it absolutely as it was delivered by the factory, only to have Bloggs tell you the pitch of the thread isn’t quite right?

Perhaps it’s a left and right-brain thing. For me, the whole issue of ‘factory-correct’ is becoming a massive pain in the arse. And here’s a shocking bit of news: the factory often got it wrong. I can mention several models from my own experience where they cocked it up and effectively used customers as part of their development.

Collectors of historic Vincent, Harley and Indian – to name a few marques – have moved on. Their view is a good working example, probably with a few practical modifications, and maybe even a couple of period accessories, is just fine. Welcome to the club. That you ride the thing, and treasure it, really is enough.

I'll make one exclusion for this: owners who are effectively building museum pieces. They're an exception and I guess we're all over 18 and big enough to make these decisions.

For the majority, maybe it’s time we cut the crap and just enjoyed riding and our working on historic toys, no matter how ‘correct’ they are. To do anything less might be a classic failure.

More Travels with Guido columns here



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