1948 Indian Sport Scout
Bill Tuman’s Dirt-Tracker
You always hear that things were tougher back in the day, and nowhere is that truer than in racing.
Take this 1948 Indian Sport Scout. Ridden by Motorcycle Hall of Famer Bill Tuman from 1948 to ’55, this bike is as elemental as a dirt-tracker gets.
Start with the brakes. Until the AMA allowed them in 1969, dirt-trackers didn’t have any. Tuman, and everybody else, slowed by pitching the bike sideways going into corners. Not for the faint of heart.
Rear suspension? On this bike you used your legs to absorb shock, and the handlebars to avoid ruts. No wonder old racers always wore kidney belts.
And shifting was something you did by hand. It’s a technique that required an extra measure of dexterity as you headed into turn one inches from a dozen other racers.
The bike, like all Class C racers, started life as a production model, but Tuman made a few modifications.
The heart of the machine is its 44.72-cubic-inch V-twin powerplant, which comes in just shy of the 45-inch (750cc) limit. Ball bearings on the crankshaft enhanced durability at the high rpms required by racing. Needle bearings on the cams reduced friction. And Tuman also ported the cylinder heads, optimizing airflow into the combustion chamber for more power.
While he stuck with the robust stock frame, Tuman tweaked the handling by removing the heavy front fender and narrowing the fork a full 6 inches.
Tuman raced this machine through one of the golden eras of American dirt-tracking. The rivalry between Harley-Davidson and Indian was at a fever pitch in the years after World War II, and Tuman was a thorn in the side of the Harley team.
He won the highly competitive Illinois state championship eight times. But the crowning achievement of his career was a win in the 1953 Springfield Mile that marked the end of an era. That was the final year in which the AMA’s Grand National Championship was awarded based on the results of that race alone, making Tuman the last rider to win the title that way. And it was also the final year of production for Indians, bringing an end to the Harley-Indian rivalry that had gone on for half a century.