Eye-catching astride Indian


Commuting to work each day aboard his bright red 1941 Indian motorcycle, Robin Benington always catches the eye of people in Balclutha.

A bus driver for more than 40 years, Mr Benington (84) has always had an interest in Indian motorcycles and admits that is what motivates him to get moving each day.

“It’s got me most places I’ve wanted to go.

“It’s basically mechanically sound and just needs a tidy-up now and then.”

The 1941 Indian Scout 741B 500cc motorcycle was designed in 1939 for the United States Army and its allies for use by dispatch riders in World War 2.

As the little brother of the more famous 750cc Indian Military Scout, the smaller 500cc V-Twin put out just 15hp at 4800rpm through a three-speed hand-shift transmission.

Despite weighing 204kg, it could reach a top speed of 100kmh.

During its six-year production run, 35,000 of the bikes were made in the United States.

Mr Benington found his machine had an interesting history attached to it when he bought it from a Dunedin man in 1984.

“I spotted it for sale and then I learned that the original owner was a high school student in Alexandra who had swapped his Model T for it back in 1975.

“He restored it, got it working again and then it was sold it to a bloke in Dunedin,” Mr Benington said.

The Indian was his third motorcycle since he left school.

The first was a 1927 Harley-Davidson, which was soon replaced by a 1952 Triumph Speed Twin.

“However, my wife Deanna didn’t like to ride on it, so I bought a car.”

In the early 1970s he joined the South Otago Vintage Car Club and rekindled his interest in old bikes.

Aside from the daily commute to the bus depot, Mr Benington has ridden his Indian all over the lower half of the South Island.

“It’s only packed up on me a couple of times, and tried to kill me once when on a rally ride behind Macraes – the road ahead suddenly subsided and we fell into it,” he said.

“I needed to repair a lot of damage but it was soon back on the road again,” Mr Benington said.

The Indian was easy to kick over because it had very low compression and the ignition could be manually advanced or retarded.

“The throttle is on the left handlebar because Indian believed that the men riding it needed to use their right hand to fire their weapons with.”

Mr Benington plans to keep riding his Indian motorcycle for as long as he can.