The Indian Chieftain is a big motorcycle, designed to soak up the miles on the smooth highways of ‘Murica. The star of the show is the new Thunder Stroke engine, a mighty 111 cubic inch (1811cc) monster pumping out 119 ft-lbs of torque.
It’s a remarkably good-looking motor, and it caught the eye of Roland Sands, the man who can do no wrong when it comes to creating genre-bending customs. Sands has now tapped into Indian’s rich motorsport heritage, and slotted the Thunder Stroke into a vintage-style, boardtracker-inspired build: the Indian Track Chief.
There’s so much detail on this bike, it’s hard to know where to start. “The inspiration came from a drag bike rendering that Sylvain from Holographic Hammer sent to me,” says Sands. “I ended up tweaking it into a boardtracker, adding the single sided element and all the detailing. But we retained the spirit of the tank shape, girder fork and frame.”
That single-side rigid frame is a masterpiece, hugging the engine just-so. It’s hand-fabricated from 4130 chromoly steel, finished in black by Olympic Powdercoating.
The frame is a perfect match for the black Paughco Leaf Spring Fork assembly, a fascinating contraption designed for customizers who want a vintage look with high-quality, modern construction. Tucked down low on the left side of the fork, near the axle, is a Fox DHX mountain bike shock—a component popular with riders on the World Cup downhill series.
“It controls the motion of the front end, and works really well,” reports Sands’ project manager Cameron Brewer. “The compression and rebound dampening of the shock is a perfect match to the rate of the leaf spring.”
Sands: “Considering it was a rigid with a leaf fork, I had nightmares about how it was going to handle. Function wise, it couldn’t have turned out better. I rode the Track Chief all over Sturgis and in the twisties, and was really happy with it.”
Sitting above the frame is a hand-fabricated titanium tank; hidden below the frame is an aluminum belly pan. The internals of the Indian Chieftain engine are stock, but there’s a Roland Sands Design Blunt air cleaner, a high-flow, low-profile fitment that doesn’t get in the way of your leg.
The titanium pipes of the custom 2-into-2 exhaust system follow the lines of the V-twin snugly, and terminate in RSD Slant mufflers. “For this bike, reliability was a top concern,” says Roland Sands. “So we retained stockish elements so it would start every time. The wiring loom was a big problem, but we had some underground help from Indian to strip it down to the essentials.”
There’s a see-through RSD Clarity cam cover and a matching outer primary cover too—revealing a custom clutch pressure plate from Barnett. “We told Barnett we were making a one-off primary cover and wanted some high-end billet clutch internals to show off. These are not production parts for either of us, but may be down the road,” says Brewer.
Track Chief sports a serious turn of speed on the road: it’s considerably lighter than the 827 lb. Chieftain that donated its engine. “We haven’t weighed the bike,” says Brewer. “But two of us did pick the Indian up by the wheels—if that’s any gauge of the actual weight, we’d guess it’s in the 400-500 lb. range.” Sands himself adds: “The pile of removed parts is massive!”
The handlebars are welded to the upper triple: allowing Sands to make very narrow bars, and eliminating the use of risers. (“They are basically clip-ons—without relying on a pinch bolt.”) RSD Traction Grips with a custom bronze anodized finish add to the vintage look.
As we all know, wheels are critical to the boardtracker look. And here we’ve got 21” x 3.5” lightweight RSD Del Mar rims—with the same bronze finish as the grips. They’re shod with Dunlop Elite 3 tires, which are conveniently available in a 120/70-21 size for custom builds. Stopping power comes from Performance Machine calipers and Brembo cylinders, and the rear sprocket and drive unit come from Gregg’s Customs.
Paint is low-key: a classic Indian red and black combo, applied by Hot Dog Pinstriping, with gold leaf for the oversized logo on the raw metal tank.
It’s not the kind of machine that will find its way back into Indian’s catalog any time soon. But the burgeoning cool factor of America’s oldest motorcycle brand just stepped up a notch—or three.