Motorcycles are cool. That’s a fact that a lot of people have tuned into and the past 10 years have taken it to a new level. With TV shows, hundred thousand dollar bikes that might not even make it a single block, websites, giant bike shows, and a demographic echoing the spirit of the bikers of days past… like all things, motorcycle also follow the bell curve of style and trend. Having lived and breathed motorcycles since my first days on this planet, sometimes these realities are frustrating and confusing. With so many new faces on the scene each day, it seems there is a certain amount of authenticity and history missing… perhaps simply because the current wave of enthusiasts have not had time to create it yet. But as with any cycle, there remain some true historians among the newer folks. I like to think of them as Legends. They are the riders who measure their days of riding in decades. They have had more bikes than they can remember; and for every bike they have ever had, they have a million stories and memories to go along with it. When riding, out on back roads or on the interstate, they're existing in their preferred state of being. Most of them even still wave to passing riders. These folks, the Legends, they inspire me. And I’m sure, everyone who loves motorcycles. We can be like them, and carry on the spirit of their legacy.
Scott Longvall is one such legend, a genuine classic. I met Scott through a mutual friend. They came by the shop to see if I would be willing to help with a clutch issue on his Chief. Naturally, I was honored and said of course! After some research, some investigating and a lot of excitement, I was able to successfully repair the bike. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to do some other minor service work, and also had a chance to get to know Scott. He’s told me some great stories about his adventures on the Chief. From bombing around in the sand pits with his buddies, to sliding 50ft sideways through a corn field after getting run off the road, to cruising two up with his Wife on a quiet back road. Scott and the Chief have, as of this year, been paired up for 40 consecutive years, and he still rides it as much as he can. He says “it runs like a top,” and even after the corn field slide, that the bike “fired right back up!”
Scott started his journey into motorcycles the same way many of us do. As a young man, he was at a vintage motorcycle show and saw an old timer ride in on a 1920’s Reading Standard. He said the bike and the man made such an impression on him, he knew that someday he wanted to be “that guy.” Since that day he has owned a number of bikes, at one point 7 simultaneously. But his true love has been his 1948 Indian Chief. Even as his family grew and his priorities changed, and it came time to sell off all the other bikes, he “never thought to sell” the Chief.
There was a connection between Scott and the Chief immediately. A bike that no one else seemed to want, from the time he learned of its presence in a local shop, Scott could not get it out of his mind. Every day for weeks he went to the shop and asked if the bike was for sale. And every day the owner would say, “you don’t wana buy that bike,” and turn him away. His persistence did eventually pay off however, and a deal was struck. In trade for a 1962 Studebaker Lark with a blown up motor and 500 bucks cash, Scott could take the bike. The only other catch was, at that point in time, no one knew if it ran…A point that the owner kept harping on.
Knowing he was going to buy the bike regardless if it ran or not, Scott decided to have a little fun with the owner. Early on the day of the dealings, Scott and a buddy, who had a key to the shop, rolled the bike out before the owner had arrived. Curious to see if they could get it running, they did a bit of tinkering, checking compression, checking spark, and it all seemed good. Next they added some gas, some oil and started kicking.
Kick. Kick. Kick.
To their amazement, the bike fired up! Overjoyed, they quickly returned the bike to its original position, making it look undisturbed, and waited. When the owner got there, he kept telling Scott that it may not run and that it was an AS-IS deal. Scott smiled and said that was fine. So when the business end was handled, and the Indian fired up on the first kick, the look on the shop owner’s face must have been priceless.
In his 40 years with the Chief, Scott has made some cosmetic changes and has had to make some repairs. The motor has seen one full rebuild from the bottom end up, and two top end jobs. The bike came with some crappy paint job, and for the first few years Scott just rode it that way. He did eventually decide to have it painted back to the factory styling, and that, he said is when he “decided to stop riding it in the sand pits.” He’s never had a working speedometer, despite fixing it once, but did upgrade the electronics to 12 volt some years ago. The bikes gone through plenty of tires and oil, and Scott’s decided that he likes the patina the bike has acquired, washing it only occasionally in the interest of safety inspections. As for the girder front-end, plunger frame and sprung seat, well they make for a “smooth ride,” Scott says. “It’s a runner.”
In his own words
“Bought it in ‘73 for $500 and a Studebaker lark with a blown motor. Added to it as I went, driven it consistently all these years as my primary ride. Didn’t do a lot cosmetically, except wash it occasionally. It’s just a genuine rider. An old classic ridden by and old classic. “
Owner name, location: Scott “Shorty” Longvall
Bike name: “The Chief”
Engine, year and make, model, modifications: 74ci Flathead 1948 Indian Chief
Frame: Stock Plunger Frame
Fork: Stock Girder
Chassis mods: None
Tire/wheel size and style: Twin 16” laced wheels, Front and rear Drum brake
Favorite thing about this bike: Smooth ride, pogo seat, Left Hand Throttle
Next modification will be: More patina
Other mods, accessories, cool parts, etc: 8-Ball Shift Knob
Scott is one of those guys we all can look up to and admire. The real deal, a true legend, and a rad dude. Thanks for sharing the Chief and your story Scott. Ride on!