Floyd Clymer Tried To Revive Indian in the ‘60s
Words & Photos: John Gunnell
Today;s bikers associate the Clymer name with how-to manuals that give do-it-yourselfers information about fixing motorcycles. Floyd Clymer was a publisher, but he also had a lengthy history in the world of cars and bikes.
In 1902, Clymer’s father, Dr. J. B. Clymer, of Berthoud, Colo., bought the first automobile to be sold in his state north of Denver. In 1905, this single-cylinder Olds was replaced with a big 7-hp Reo and J. B.’s 11-year-old son, Floyd, became an automobile dealer selling Reo, Maxwell and Cadillac cars. Teddy Roosevelt once referred to Clymer as “the world’s youngest automobile salesman.” He was also an Indian motorcycle dealer.
Clymer’s 1969 line of Indian and Mammoth motorcycles was aimed at enthusiasts worldwide. He described his products as, “Strictly custom-built motorcycles” and had no intentions of getting into the mass market. Clymer offered bikes from a 50cc Super Minibike to an 1100cc high-output machine
Clymer never dreamed of being a big motorcycle maker and admitted he couldn’t. “There is a good demand for specialized motorcycles and that is the market we are aiming at,” he said. “We have many innovations that will soon appear on our motorcycles and these features will be much talked about.”
The smallest of Clymer’s 1969 models was the 50cc Indian Ponybike, which came in colors of Red or Blue and sold for $295. This road or trail bike had five horsepower and could do 45-48 mph. It had a three-speed transmission and included a dual seat, a choice of road or trail tires, two brakes and lights.
The Indian 500 Roadster was powered by a 500cc overhead-cam, single-cylinder engine supplied by Velocette. The engine came in either normal ($1,450) or Thruxton high-performance ($1,550) versions. It was a high-output, sporty bike with Borrani rims, Ceriani forks, a tachometer and Campagnola twin-disc brakes A front disc brake was optional. The Thruxton versions could hit 117 mph.
Third up was the Indian 600 Roadster. It had a chain-driven overhead cam engine, dual exhausts, a four-speed unit transmission design, German Bing carburetors, Bosch electrics, Magura bars and controls, a speedometer and a tach. Ceriani forks and Campagnola twin-disc brakes were optional. Sales of this “goes like a bomb” bike — which was due out in Feb. 1969 — were slow. This bike cost $1,790 new, which was a ton of money in 1969.
Clymer’s 8-Valve 500cc Grand Prix racing engine was a dual overhead cam job of which Clymer hoped 50 could be built in Germany. This bike was intended for Grand Prix racing circuits only. Prices were $2,750 for just the engine and $3,500 for a complete Grand Prix Race Bike. Delivery was slated to start in March 1969 on a first come, first served basis. A $1,000 deposit was requested. Clymer’s brochure showed no picture of the engine or this bike.
With a chain-driven four-cylinder overhead-cam engine, the 1969 Clymer-Munch Mammoth motorcycle was built for going fast. This lightweight bike, constructed with space-age materials, could do 120 mph, according to Clymer. Weighing 540 lbs., the Clymer-Munch Mammoth featured a Bosch electric starter, a massive front brake assembly, dual headlights, Magura bars and controls and VDO and Bosch electrical equipment. This bike was priced at $4,000 including duty and air freight, $3,400 if shipped by boat and $3,200 if picked up at the factory in Germany. Delivery required two to four weeks.
“The Mammoth appeals to the enthusiast,” Clymer advertised. “The sportsman who might buy a Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Aston-Martin or Rolls-Royce is the type of buyer who appreciates and buys a Mammoth.”
Clymer’s Indian Scout was advertised as a 750cc (45 cid) side-valve V-Twin. The power plant was said to be a “complete new version of the V-Twin.” A 61-cid Indian Chief was also in the works in mid 1969.
The small Italian-made Indians show up on eBay from time to time, as well as at motorcycle shows. There was one for sale at an event in Seymour, Wisconsin last year. Another one showed up for sale in the Clintonville shopper last year. As for the Munch Mammoth, one of the biggest collectors of these models was David R. Manthey, of Portage, Wisconsin. One of his Mammoths was exhibited at the Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance in the Detroit area and as it drove onto the show field, it literally shook the ground.