In the industry he is often referred as Kiwi Mike or Indian Mike. His full name is Mike Tomas and he is the President of Kiwi Indian MotorCycle Company. His career with Indian Motorcycles has spanned some 30 years. Mike moved from New Zealand to start Kiwi Indian Motorcycle Company in Riverside CA. His company specializes in manufacturing and innovating parts for classic Indians. Today his business has grown to creating over 2000 different part numbers, designing and building complete motorcycles and engines, creating specialized parts and assemblies, publishing books and riding hundreds of thousands of miles upon classic Indians. Nobody understands better than Mike Tomas what Indian is all about. So, a few months before the launch of new Indian motorcycles announced for Fall 08, it is important to listen to what Mike has to say. (Cyril)
“Why has a brand that has tried to be revived so many times since its demise in 1953 without success still survived? The answer lies in its classic heritage rather than in any reincarnation attempt of the brand. Classic Indians are just that, classics, plain and simple, fully skirted fenders, engineering masterpieces, sleek lines and timeless elegant beauty.
History is an important part of our motorcycle culture, without it we have nothing. Some choose to ignore it, some choose to forget parts of it while some choose to build upon it. I believe in the rich history of our American motorcycle past and build upon it and respect those that have created the past. I am dedicated and specialize in Indian motorcycles ever since leaving school and buying my 1st Indian some 30 years ago. I find myself respecting those original factory engineers that have gone before me that have given me the tools to be able to do what I do today.
Indian was born in 1901 and is billed as America’s 1st motorcycle but more correctly it was America’s 1st “production” motorcycle. The motorcycle industry flourished until around 1914 when Henry Ford introduced his Model T which was the beginning of the end for several hundred American motorcycle manufacturers. Ford’s Model T was cheaper than a “motocycle” (as it was called in the early days), could seat several people and keep them dry and somewhat warm. The motorcycle industry was greatly reduced and then after the great depression to mainly Indian and Harley. Indian had going for it some great engineers and one of the greatest stylists to ever make a mark on motorcycle styling history, Mr. Briggs Weaver. Briggs was hired by E Paul DuPont and was highly respected even within the automotive industry. He later on introduced the full skirted fenders in 1940 which at that time was a shocker, but it certainly made a statement so much so that it took Harley Davidson until 1949 to bring about their answer, the Hydra-Glide front end.
Indian in its early days developed many 1sts in the industry and was about racing and innovativeness. In the late 30’s and 40’s it was reduced to just style as Indian lost the technological battle in the later 30’s to Harley. While Indian still had a hot running flat head that would run well against Harley’s over head valve engines, Harley also had a superior transmission which was a far cry from Indians never changed (since 1920) 3 speed crash box (non synchromesh). Indian has ever since been left behind and is the follower and depends on its past heritage for marketing.
Indian has had troubles re inventing itself ever since the original factory closed in 1953 and none seem to have understood what Indian is truly about. Many have had big money believing they could buy their way into it only to leave with a lot less. People are its greatest asset and companies would do well in respecting and acknowledging those who have kept marks alive over their dead years. Without them, there would be nothing today. I like our Native American heritage, and just like the Chiefs of yesteryear used to do, they’d pass around the peace pipe and enjoy what was around them. United we stand, divided we fall”. Mike Tomas, President Kiwi Indian MotorCycle Company.