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During Daytona's annual speed week this month, Indian Motorcycles, the United States' first motorcycle company, revealed a custom-built streamliner named the "Spirit of Munro".
This one-of-a-kind vehicle was unveiled in a surprise announcement after Indian Motorcycles' new Thunder Stroke 111 engine was revealed - in fact, the Spirit of Munro machine employs the power plant as a showcase for the 2014 models from the company, which will be using the unit on the road.
Fully custom built, the Spirit of Munro is an all-metal tribute to the Indians of old, and was named in honour ofNew Zealander Burt Munro's "Munro Special", the historic 1920 Indian Scout that broke the under-1000cc land-speed record in 1967 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
It was all famously portrayed in the movie, The World's Fastest Indian, which starred Anthony Hopkins as Munro.
Indian's public relations people made sure the Southlander's family was involved in the project, and its publicity on the project quoted Munro's son, John: "The Munro family is very happy to see such a wonderful tribute to our father. We see how Dad's passion inspires motorcycle riders to this day, as the Spirit of Munro will surely do for years to come."
Steve Menneto, vice-president of Polaris Motorcycles, which acquired Indian Motorcycles in April 2011, said: "We are a brand that will always strive to push the envelope in everything we do, so when the idea of building a streamliner to both showcase the new engine and pay homage to the racers, mechanics and engineers of the past landed on my desk, it was an easy decision.
"We are proud to showcase America's passion for Indian Motorcycle in such a unique and historic way."
The streamliner was designed from the ground up to house the new Thunder Stroke 111 engine and showcases its awe-inspiring power and performance.
The Spirit of Munro is not simply a display; it was built to run.
A custom exhaust and intake system is mated with a chain drive conversion to allow for the tall gearing necessary for top speed runs.
The all-aluminum bodywork was hand-formed using traditional tools and techniques. Wrapped around the modern Thunder Stroke 111 engine is a custom chassis capable of handling high speeds.
"Part of the process of building a new motorcycle is building many pre-production and production test engines," says Gary Gray, product director for Indian Motorcycles.
"The Indian Motorcycles engineering team is fully conscious that every day we are working with history and over the course of design and development many parts and complete engines are built, tested, disassembled and measured. We thought it a fitting tribute to place one of our pre-production engines in a one-of-a-kind vehicle to pay homage to the racers who have helped build the legend of the Indian Motorcycle brand over its 112-year history."
Tapped to construct the Spirit of Munro was Jeb Scolman of Jeb's Metal and Speed in Long Beach, California.
His credentials in building land-speed racers, along with his hand-formed bodywork on a Stutz Blackhawk replica revealed him as the perfect builder for this tribute machine.
"When the guys from Indian Motorcycle called to ask if I would be willing to play a part in this historic endeavour, I could not say yes fast enough," Scolman says.
"We built the Spirit of Munro in just three months of straight, long work days. It was a brutal schedule but, to be a part of relaunching this brand and giving Indian Motorcycle fans a historic new piece of Americana, makes it all worth the effort."
The bodywork was sculpted to reflect seminal machines from history, as well as creating a unique package for rider and mechanicals. Using aircraft-inspired and traditional custom techniques, the Spirit of Munro is a striking tribute to the past, and an irrepressible inspiration for the future of the motorcycle company.
Adorning the tail of the machine is the logo of another iconic American brand, Jack Daniel's. The whiskey-maker is helping sponsor the motorcycle through its "Bottles and Throttles Don't Mix" campaign.
The Thunderstroke 111 takes its nomenclature from the historical habit of American car and motorcycle power plant classification - 111 is its swept volume in cubic inches. In metric terms, that's 1819 cubic centimetres.
The all-new 111 V-Twin was publicly unveiled to a gathering of press and motorcycling fans at Daytona.
The power unit has been developed in a relatively short time, after the Polaris Industries takeover.
From the outset, the goal was to capture the design and styling aspects of the 112-year-old brand's best-known models and combine that heritage with the latest technology and design.
Indian is coy about the engine's power output, but does say that it delivers more than 156Nm.
The company also notes that the 49-degree V-Twin engine is the first clean-sheet Indian Motorcycle engine design in seven decades.
With parallel pushrod tubes, finned heads, down-firing exhausts, left-side air intake, and the proportions and layout familiar to Indian Motorcycle fans around the world, the Thunder Stroke 111 is meant to hit the funnybone of both experienced and new riders.
The 9.5:1 compression pushrod Thunderstroke engine uses two valves per cylinder acting through maintenance-free hydraulic valve lifters, fed by an electronic sequential port fuel injection and electronic throttle control.
The standard transmission will be a six-speed overdrive, constant mesh, helical gearbox.
The all-new Thunder Stroke 111 is being built in Osceola, Wisconsin, at the Polaris Industries Engine Assembly Plant, with future full-unit assembly taking place in Polaris' state-of-the-art production facility in Spirit Lake, Iowa.
- © Fairfax NZ News