Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Royal Enfield built the Indian Chief for police

The 1960 Royal Enfield built Indian Chief looked great as a police motorcycle.
Why shouldn't Royal Enfield motorcycles serve police departments in the United States, I asked? After all, the federal Park Police protect the monuments in Washington, D.C. on Suzuki motorcycles.

Reader Mark Mumford reminded me that one Royal Enfield model, badged as an Indian, was sold in the U.S. as a police bike.

"This was based on the Chief (which was effectively a single carb Constellation with coil ignition, fat tires, foot boards, single seat, radio and a lot of optional geegaw's!) and was quite widely used, especially by New York Police Department, among others," he wrote.

"There are pictures of one in the UK National Motorcycle Museum; this particular bike was repatriated and rebuilt by the late Les Power who added various features (the toolbox for instance) for his personal taste. The siren is friction driven from the rear wheel and operated by a foot pedal. Les told me he acquired the correct item from a stateside fire truck! It sounds great in use too as I can testify."

1959 Indian Chief by Royal Enfield. In NYPD markings.
Mark found a picture for sale on eBay that shows the motorcycle he has in mind. The round siren is visible just ahead of the rear wheel.

The friction drive itself may be partly visible in the Indian catalog shot of the police model.

Photo from Indian catalog gives an idea how siren worked.
Royal Enfield models of the late 1950s showed up in the U.S. labelled and sold as Indians. The Chief was the most altered in appearance for the American market.

It really looked like an American motorcycle. The tires were 4.5 inches wide. With its heavy fenders, longer wheelbase and wheels 16 inches in diameter, it had the squat, menacing look ideal for a police motorcycle.

The 700cc Royal Enfield Constellation motor gave the Chief a top speed of almost 115 mph and it could cruise above any speed limit.

Click here to see Keith Gaunt's photos of the Indian Chief in police dress at the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham, UK.


  1. Matt Law6/08/2012

    I'm restoring a 1959 Chief...I'll post some pix when it starts to look like something...


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