A Gilroy Indian Chief

This Indian Chief is on display in one of the dining areas of Ruby’s Diner at the Cabazon, California location. I’ve sometimes thought that it is located there just to make me crazy, but despite that, it makes the food taste better there than at any of the chain’s other locations.

I particularly like the red and cream two-tone paint job. It is the same paint scheme as that on my Road Star, which goes some way toward explaining why non-motorcyclists occasionally mistake it for an Indian. 

On the return leg of a recent ride to the Salton Sea, Mike Harmon and I stopped at Ruby’s for a lunch that included malted milkshakes. Malted milkshakes, which used to be omnipresent, are not completely unavailable, but are dying out slowly. Ruby’s is one of the few places that still serve them.

This is one of the Indian Chiefs manufactured in Gilroy between 1999 and 2003 by the Indian Motorcycle Company of America (IMCOA). The initial model was the Chief. In 2001 Scout and Spirit models were added to the line. All three models initially used the 88 cu. in. S&S engine. In 2002 and 2003 the Chief models were equipped with a 100 cu. in. Powerplus engine evocative of the early (Springfield) V-Twin designs. On September 19, 2003, IMCOA went bankrupt and ceased production.

 The view from where I was sitting.

This motorcycle appeared to be one of the earlier Gilroy Chiefs (1999 to 2001). I took a look at the VIN number on the right front downtube in an attempt to determine the year of manufacture. Although the VIN numbers on all other motorcycles help determine the year of manufacture, I couldn’t extrapolate it from the bike’s number.

I asked our server, who was apparently present when the Chief was installed above the tables, what year the bike was. “A 2003.” He said.

That didn’t seem right. “Then why does it have the S&S engine?” I asked. “The 2002 and 2003 models had powerplus 100s.”

“I’m not sure. It was never intended to run. It was just for display. We got it in 2003 from the factory.”

I suspect that when the Gilroy plant shut down, it was put together from stock parts and it was cheaper to provide a display bike with the S&S 88, since the Powerplus 100 was selling for premium prices at the time.

I’m of two minds about the display of the bike in a commercial operation like Ruby’s. It is a piece of art, after all. But it seems like it could be put to better use in some other location. Like my garage…

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