Indian Blackhawk Roadmaster

This bike’s unusual in that it’s one of the last Indians ever made.

I BROUGHT this 1952 Blackhawk back from America in late 2007. I went to America for a holiday, and a friend asked if I was going to the museum at Starklite Indian. They sell spare parts, restore motorcycles, do all that sort of stuff. Bob Stark is a really well known character worldwide in the Indian fraternity and I went out to see him at his museum and ended up staying a week.

Bob and I had a lot of common interests. Other than motorcycles, we’re also interested in Cowboy and Indian stuff and other history type things. He’s 82 and looking to sell a few motorcycles, so at the end of the trip, I decided I might buy one and ship it back to Australia.

It was very straightforward, although I had promised the War Office I wouldn’t buy one—so I didn’t actually do the deal until I got back.

There was a friend of mine up in Queensland importing a container load of bikes at the time; he had a bike fall through so all of a sudden there was a vacant spot on a shipment that was about to head off. A couple of phone calls later and it was all happening.

This bike’s unusual in that it’s one of the last Indians ever made. The Blackhawks were the last of the marque, there were only 750 bikes made between 1952 and 1953; this is one of 500 with the lot, all the bells and whistles.

It’s the Roadmaster with the 80 cube motor, the compensator, the polished this and that, all the tricks. The colour’s original; they called it Tangerine. The whole bike’s as close to original as you’d get.

With the 80 cube motor it’s got more get up and go than my other Indian. The telescopic front-end gives it some modern characteristics and you sit a little higher than on most other Indians where you’re slung a little lower in the bike. It rides a lot more like a modern motorcycle. It’s responsive; it does pretty much what you want it to do.

I took it up to Parker Indian in Melbourne to get it looked over before I went on The Great Race. Jim Parker took it for a ride and it was nice to have him come back and say that if you were to go into an Indian motorcycle dealership in 1952 and buy a brand new motorbike, it would ride exactly the same as this one.

There’s no mechanical noise; it’s the closest thing you’ll ever get to riding a bike as you would have bought it in ’52.

It’s been rebuilt at one stage but it’s always been intact; never pieced together from a basket case. The rebuild was in about 1990 so I think the restoration is about 18 years old. Bob Stark did that himself with the help of a mechanic who was quite famous for building motors so it’s all been done properly.

As far as changes go, there’s a brake lever that’s not right at the moment, and the original bolts wouldn’t have had the high tensile markings on them saying Grade 8.8 or whatever but you can get them cadmium plated so they look right; they’re the only things I’ll change.

words by Phil; pics by Chris Randells.

The United Services Home in Drysdale

MY PARENTS, Ron and Maureen Green, live at the former United Services Home in Drysdale. It was built in 1891 for retired members of the British Armed Forces, funded by subscription from serving soldiers in the Colony of Victoria at the time, plus donations from people such as the American Fleet that sailed into Port Phillip Bay.

The story goes that there was an old chap found in Melbourne, down on his luck, out in the cold with nowhere to sleep. In those days the police would take such people to an unlocked cell to give them a cuppa and a bed for the night. When they went through his pockets they came across a Victoria Cross which they reported to Victoria Barracks. General Tulloch thought this was an absolute disgrace for the Army and decided something must be done. He set about organising a subscription from serving members of the Victorian Colony Forces and arranged a grant of approximately 5 acres of land from the Borough of Drysdale.

The architect designed a pretty frugal place with three main buildings: the main house and dormitory, the kitchen and dining room, and an infirmary.

The ex soldiers and sailors came and went, some of them were itinerant cooks and shearers and when they had no work they’d come here. Over the years there were quite a number of people from all the wars from the Crimean to the Boer/Afghan uprising, Maori War, Zulu War, so there’s a lot of military history in the house. As they passed on they were recognised in a memorial service and buried in Drysdale Cemetery where there’s now an obelisk and individual headstones.

Historians have driven up here in the days of horse and carriage and remarked it’s probably one of the best outposts of military history in the colony, which I think sums it all up.

We keep up the ceremony annually, the commemoration of the Charge at Balaclava, and military historians and re-enactment people muster here and we go to the cemetery for a service, then back here for afternoon tea.

The cannon’s a 68 pounder smooth bore, weighing approximately 5 tonnes, made by Lowmore in Northern England. It’s used on commemoration days to fire blanks. It’s the oldest in Victoria and one of a very few surviving 68 pounders in the world.

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