When an Indian Four is Not in the Budget, Build One

Indian Four replica with NSU engine

Indian Four replica with NSU engine

Some antique motorcycles like the Indian inline four age really well, their design looks great even decades after their time, but, if you've ever noticed the few that come up for sale, the combination of rare and desirable means they're not cheap.

Indian Four replica with NSU engine

Indian Four replica with NSU engine

That was a problem for Mads B.H. Johnsen, a Danish architect who, after 10 years of riding a Nimbus, decided it was finally time for an Indian of his own, but who has that kind of money? Right about here, most riders would give up on their dream, but Mads isn't like most riders, so instead of trying to buy one, he decided to build one, or something reasonably close to it, using a few original parts and pieces, but for quite a bit of it, including the engine, he went his own way, scrounging things where available, but making and adapting a lot of what he needed and if you aren't that familiar with Indian fours, you might not know that this isn't the real thing.

NSU four adapted for use in the Indian replica

NSU four adapted for use in the Indian replica

The frame is part Indian, with a bit of Nimbus and a bit of workshop engineering. The engine is the venerable NSU air cooled four, the same engine used in the Munch Mammut. It has an aluminum block and cast iron cylinders and displaces 996cc. The gearbox is a Nimbus 4 speed. The front brake is Indian, the rear from a Nimbus, Bosch handles the electrics. Now all he had to do was fit everything together and add the visual cues that would set it apart.

Cast aluminum tanks!

Cast aluminum tanks!

Mads fell back on the tried and true art of metal casting to conjure up the needed parts. The finned sump cover on the bottom of the engine cast from his own design. The clutch housing and adapter for the gearbox were also cast, and like the sump cover, required a LOT of hand finishing. The gorgeous tanks are also cast aluminum, again, fitted and finished by hand. The project took something like eight years to complete.

Indian/NSU four

Indian/NSU four

The end result has the appearance of a classic vintage ride, and though it never rolled off of any assembly line, looks like it did and then made its way to the present day in the hands of an owner who kept it in top condition. I like this a lot.

Thanks for the tip, Kim!

Link: Alma 4 Project and it's for sale

Comments

  1. B50 Jim says

    I’m gobsmacked. At least it took him 8 years; that make me feel a little better!

    This is a gorgeous bike! I’m partial to vintage style anyway — especially like the top tube above the tank — which would have been difficult enough to form from sheet, but to make patterns and cast it in halves is several levels above. However, he now has the patterns so he can cast as many as he needs.

    I like that he used K70s.

  2. Yeti2bikes says

    Wow! An Indian inline 4 is one of the bikes on my list and like most who pine for one I’ve seen the $50k or better price they bring these days. At first glance this looks like the real deal early 30’s inline 4. Wonder how it would look with the big fenders of the late 30’s variety.

    At any rate… Impressive build. 5 stars

  3. Paulinator says

    Just saw a couple of Indians at the Dania Beach vintage meet in Florida last weekend. Still, I didn’t pick up on the NSU engine substitute until I read the text. This bike isn’t a counterfeit. It’s a beautiful “homebuilt” that was created in the same spirit the aircraft buffs use to keep vintage planes from being forgotten. Very talented builder. Very resourceful.

  4. '37 Indian says

    You have to look closely, but Mads employed one feature on this bike that Henderson, Ace, and Indian should have but didn’t- shaft drive. Nice work on this bike and I’m really wondering if there was any real savings in the end between this and just purchasing an Indian 4. As usual, I would like to ride it!

    • todd says

      Never, ever consider the value of your time when building a bike – unless you are charging someone. Maybe he’s in it for the cost of materials and beer for his buddies that work at the foundry.

      -todd

      • says

        If Mads (with whom & others I share a workshop) had worked as an architect for as long as he took building the bike, he could likely have bought an Indian Four. However, being perennially broke, as well as getting married and having kids while simultaneously working on this bike, made the project a long-term undertaking. If one cannot just go out and just buy stuff or hire people to do things, trading favors and learning to do said things yourself is the only alternative.

        While I think American Fours are great bikes, I find this one even more interesting than any original 1920’s Indian, ACE or Henderson. In part because it’s a one-off and built to a very high standard. And in part because it’s undoubtedly much more reliable than any prewar motorcycle; the engine originally powered a 1,600 lbs. car, and while this one is fairly stock condition, rally versions could be tuned to about 300 bhp.

  5. MacKenzie says

    WOW! It’s the fifth (and last) pic that really does it for me – left side, tipped towards the viewer ….. sleek! This is one hell of a fine effort; wish I could afford to buy it!

    Mike

  6. says

    I’ve seen his previous bike (the Nimbus) and that looked cool as well, and as said previously this in a great bike, NOT a replica but in homage to… so hats off to him

  7. WRXr says

    REALLY nice! In fact, dare, I say, I Like it BETTER than an actual Indian 4. The tank and ESPECIALLY the oil sump are things of beauty.The NSU engine really fits, but I would love to see a Honda 750 in there.

    There are only thing I would change is the lower bend in the front down tubes…seems a bit too sharp. 2.

    With talent like this, I can’t wait to see what he makes next.

  8. Thom says

    I’ve never been a fan of shaft drive on any motorcycle, but the Indian Four has always been one of my favorites, and he did nail the look. Excellent craftsmanship.

  9. Den says

    I cant believe nobady has bought it yet too bad it is so far away from me I would buy it in a second wonder what shipping to canada would be.

  10. Den says

    Personaly I hope indian doesnt take on the dakoda 4 I think the builders nissed the mark again.but congradulate the effort.

  11. Scotduke says

    It looks great – plenty of style and on a bike you can ride. The build quality looks first rate. Way back when I knew a German guy who had an NSU and for the time it was quick. Those are good engines with plenty of tuning potential and it looks the part.

  12. Bruno says

    What about the Dakota 4?
    Four cylinder Indian made in Scotland.I don’t know if it’s still made though.

  13. says

    I once saw a NSU car engine in what looked like a Yamaha XJ900 frame and running gear. The body work looked one off, and the tank said Munch. I don’t know if it was an extension to the Titan Mammoth range of the early 1980s or a precurssor to the 2000 Munch Mammut of the late 1990s. It may have been a owners special, but it certainly looked good.
    I also saw a homebuilt Munch Mammoth look-a-like using a Norton featherbed frame and NSU car engine. Again it looked very nice.
    I can’t remember when I last saw a NSU car though. Even in the 1970s you couldn’t keep them running.