Lost in the shuffle: that’s the only explanation for the lack of attention given the penultimate Indian four – dubbed the Model 44X –  in the history books on Indian ‘motocycles’.  Much better known is the post-war ‘Torque Four’, introduced in 1946 (but never manufactured), which is identified as part of the effort to streamline the manufacture of Indians under new owner Ralph B. Rogers. As the Torque Four was kin to the Indian singles and parallel twins produced under Rogers’ tenure (1945-53), it represented the ultimate expression of the modular manufacturing concept he championed.  The Torque Four is known to have been primarily the work of Indian designer George ‘Briggs’ Weaver, designed when he worked with the Torque Corporation during WW2, after leaving Indian during the war.  What’s less known is that Weaver designed, alongside Indian owner E. Paul duPont, an earlier four, dubbed the 44X, starting in the late 1930s, that was intended to be produced along the same principals as the Torque Four and post-war Indian lightweight lineup: as a modular series of singles, twins, and fours that used common components for more inexpensive production.   Thus, the original concept and prototypes for the modular Indian lineup was dreamed up by E. Paul duPont and his team in the 1930s, developed by Briggs Weaver, and ultimately produced under Rogers in the late 1940s.

E. Paul duPont with his personal Indian 841 with its transverse V-twin engine that Moto Guzzi would later popularize. This was apparently his favorite motorcycle and daily rider in the 1940s. [Jerry Hatfield Archive]
As noted in the following statement from Stephen duPont, the design inspiration for these new modular Indians came from the Future, in the form of Triumph’s lightweight parallel twins and BMW’s innovative flat twins, which were purchased and examined by Indian in 1938.  E. Paul duPont understood that the Indian lineup of heavy sidevalve V-twins was outdated, and that lighter machines with better performance would prove very popular.  E. Paul duPont had purchased Indian in 1930 to save it (and his own significant investment in the company) from bankruptcy.  Briggs Weaver had been the body stylist for duPont automobiles, but was hired as chief designer at Indian when duPont closed up his four-wheel production simultaneous with his purchase of Indian.  Weaver radically transformed Indian designs, and created the most beautiful models of all; the Art Deco-inspired line of the mid-1930s, and the deep-skirted Indians of 1940, an iconic design that has forever after been associated with Indian.

Briggs Weaver’s son George B. Weaver with his superb 1936 Maserati V8RI, likely at Thompson Speedway in CT, in the early 1950s. The Maserati is one of four built, with a 4.8L V-8 motor and independent suspension on all four wheels – a very advanced car for the 1930s. All four V8RIs competed in the 1937 Vanderbilt Cup races, and all remained in the USA for many years. Briggs Weaver certainly knew how to enjoy life! After retiring from Indian, he took a job with Briggs Cunningham, and supervised construction of Cunningham’s racers from 1950-55, and took them to LeMans. A remarkable career! [Audrain Automobile Museum]
The evolution of the Indian 44X is explained fully in the following statement from Stephen duPont (son of E. Paul duPont), who worked in the Experimental Department at Indian Motocycles when he came of age…which probably saved him from military service. Stephen duPont was born in 1915, and joined Indian with several of his brothers when his father took over the company; all were dedicated gearheads on two and four wheels, and with airplanes as well.  Stephen had an insider’s knowledge at the Indian Experimental Department, and knew all the principals involved, so is a reliable source for the story he tells about the creation of the ‘lost’ Indian 44X.

Stephen duPont at an aircraft club meeting (the National Soaring Club) in the 1950s. [National Soaring Club]
Notes on the Indian 44X, by Stephen duPont (1990):

“In the late 1930s E. Paul duPont, then President and Chairman of the Board of Indian Motocycle Co in Springfield MA (notice the spelling Motocycle) initiated a plan for a new line of motorcycles.  The aim was to come out with a line of motorcycle which would simplify the manufacture of engines and frames.  An illustration of the problem is that the 45 cubic inch Scout and the 74 cubit inch Chief models each used a pair of cylinders that were not alike, and were different for each engine and the valve gear was different for each cylinder, in that each engine used four different rocker arm forgings.  The connecting rods were a fork and blade rod and different for each engine.  The Indian four of course had totally different valve gear and cylinders and pistons and roads compared to the already mentioned twins.  The frames, brakes etc. were also different from model to model.

Briggs Weaver’s 1941 patent drawing for the first iteration of a modular Indian four-cylinder motorcycle, with Indian leaf-spring forks, shaft drive, and plunger rear suspension (taken from the BMW R51). [Jerry Hatfield Archive]
The plan was to use a four, a twin, and a single cylinder line using similar engine and transmission and chassis parts where possible.  It is important to know that the company had procured two of the world’s best motorcycles of the time, and studied them carefully.  They were the Triumph Tiger 100, the English motorcycle, and the BMW R-51, the shaft drive German motorcycle, both available in the late 1930s.  The Triumph engine and transmission were generally the idea source of the engine and transmission and brakes, and the BMW chassis was the idea source of the motorcycle frame and shaft drive configuration, with a large dash of E. Paul duPont and Briggs Weaver’s ideas.  Weaver was a student of brakes and racing engines, and duPont, a very enthusiastic student of all things roadable, as well as engines.  He had designed the four cylinder engines of the first DuPont cars right after WW1, as well as a six-cylinder marine engine, a pair of which he had in his yacht ‘Pythagoras’.  There were done in the early 1920s.  The DuPont Motors was ‘merged’ with the Indian Motocycle Co in about 1930, and three DuPont cars assembled in Springfield.

The 1943 Indian Four model 44X as actually constructed, and the only example of its kind. One other engine was built for testing purposes: both survive. Note the full-skirt Briggs Weaver front fender, slimmer rear fender, telescopic forks, chrome gas tank, and plunger rear suspension. The forks and chassis of this prototype were later used for the 841 military transverse V-twin. [Jerry Hatfield Archive]
The first and only of these new concept motorcycle models produced as prototypes was the four.  There were two complete engines built plus spares and onee complete motorcycle with one of the engines installed.  The other engine went onto the test dynamometer.  The writer of this note is Stephen duPont, who during the time that the prototypes of the new plan were constructed, was manager of the Experimental Department of the Indian Company.  The engines and motorcycle were assembled in the Experimental Department, and the parts had been mostly subcontracted out of the factory from the engineering department and the Experimental Department.  This was because some years earlier as a result of labor problems in the toolroom, the toolroom at Indian had been shut down and all tooling and prototype parts done outside.  Most of this was done at Mitchel’s Tool Shop, Mitchel I believe having been the foreman of the Indian toolroom.

Carol duPont, wife of Stephen duPont, aboard the Indian 44X prototype circa 1944. Note the exhaust manifold with protective shield, the shaft drive, slim front fender, and what looks like a clear inspection cover on the gearbox. The front headlamp will be familiar to any early BMW owner…as will the rest of the chassis! [Stephen duPont archive]
As the parts of the Four Cylinder machine came into the factory, Allen Carter, who had been Service Manager of Mr DuPont’s Dupont Motors in Wilmington came to work in Springfield and took over the management of the assembly of the motorcycle and much of the dynamometer testing and road testing, actually mostly under the eye of Mr. Paul duPont, but within the Experimental department. The writer of this historic note, Stephen duPont, E. Paul duPont’s third son, actually ordered and followed up the outside manufacture of the castings of the engine, the patterns, the casting and machining of the crankcase, cylinders, transmission cases and so forth, most of which were done in the factory.  When the 841 military shaft drive machine came into being, much of the Four cylinder ideas were used.  The  frame, forks, brakes, shaft drive, transmission and so forth became parts of the 841 shaft drive army motorcycle, 1000 of which were built, also designed by Briggs Weaver under the constant association of E. Paul duPont. All of this detail design work was done single handed under the pencil of Briggs Weaver, who had been Mr. duPont’s designer in the DuPont Motors in Wilmington and in Moore PA under the strong influence of Mr. Paul duPont.  The detail drawings were done under Weaver by Bob Powell, a young and very talented draftsman.

Stephen duPont in 1944 with the Indian 44X and his two daughters, Polly and Nancy. [Stephen duPont Archive]
At the end of World War II, the Indian Company was sold or merged into the Consolidated Diesel Company, Indian ceased to exist (a number of 74cu.in. ‘Chiefs’ were manufactured by some former Indian employees up untili about 1950 but it was not the old Indian corporation), and much of the material in the factory was sold.  The experimental material and the ‘museum’ located in the attic of the factory was all sold at auction in 1945. At the time this writer was in Germany as a Scientific Consultant of the US government studying the German Motorcycle Industry and small air cooled engines of that country. Otherwise I assure you these machines would not have been dispersed.  The four cylinder motorcycle ended up owned by a doctor in Brooklyn and was later modified to used a plunger fork, the ‘841’ style girder fork having been replaced.

As a comparison, the Indian ‘Torque Four’ prototype of 1946, showing the successful modular engine design with four single-cylinder top ends and the same forks and fuel tank as the parallel twin models. The whole chassis is lighter and slimmer than the 44X. [Jerry Hatfield Archive]
Some years later Mr. Walter O’Conner of Agawam MA called Stephen duPont to say he had been offered the four cylinder Indian test engine for sale for $100, and did Stephen want it.  Yes he did and obtained the engine.  Walt O’cConner was a pilot and aircraft mechanic, with whom Stephen duPont had shared certain aviation activities (a Bellanca distributorship and a Cessna dealership).  O’Conner ran a small airport and seaplane base on the Connecticut River in Agawam and as a mechanic had maintained Stephen duPont’s airplanes.  He had also worked at Indian during part of WWII in the Experimental Department and some years after that donated it to the Colonial Flying Corps Museum in Newgarden Flying Field in Toughkenamon PA.”

A saddle design integrated with the fuel tank, patented by Stephen and Benjamin duPont while working at Indian. [USPTO]
Both the Model 44X and its test engine survive, and are coveted in private East Coast collections.  For more on the duPont family and its connections with motorcycling, read our article ‘The Motorcycling duPonts’.

Note: The Stephen duPont transcript and several of his photos were sourced via the Jerry Hatfield Archive, which is being integrated into The Vintagent Archive.  Keep an eye out for more Indian history!

Paul d’Orléans is the founder of TheVintagent.com. He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.


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