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#31 Gene Harper and Jan Carl

Denver Colorado

1924 Indian Chief

My wife Jan and I are very excited to be participating in the 2018 Cannonball!! I’ve wanted to do this since the Cannonball started in 2010 but work and family commitments got in in the way. We will both be retired by the end of this year and the kids have grown up, so we can take the challenge! We will be riding the trusty 1924 Indian Big Chief with Princess sidecar and hope to be the second sidecar rig to complete the Cannonball with a perfect score. I’ve dreamed of riding an antique motorcycle with sidecar across the United States ever since I joined the AMCA at age 13, so I guess it’s time to get busy!
All my antique bikes (well, the ones that run anyway) have sidecars so I’m aware of the demands on rider and machine. I’m confident that we can prepare the Big Chief to make the trip in one piece. Now we need to work on preparing ourselves for the trip!

I completed the restoration of the Big Chief and sidecar in 1990 and we have been riding it since, clocking well over 5000 miles. We made our maiden voyage in Durango Colorado on the Rocky Mtn. Chapter AMCA “DJ” Road Run in July of 1990. The Big Chief has been a very dependable and predictable rig ever since. The only problems over the years have been a leaking fuel tank, broken (stainless steel) spokes and one nasty cylinder crack. We participated in the 2015 Badger Derby Road Run in Wisconsin. The freshly rebuilt Chief was running great the first day and as we rode toward the heart of enemy territory (the Harley Davidson Museum) in Milwaukee, the front cylinder developed a huge crack which ended the road run for us. We limped into Milwaukee and I had to get a ride back home in the sweep vehicle while Jan adorned a friend’s Harley sidecar for the return trip. That was the first time this bike has ever broken down and left us stranded in 26 + years of riding. I guess she has aged quite gracefully, as has Jan and I’m doing OK too, though we all have a few more scratches and dings.

The cylinder issue is being addressed with a new (used) set of cylinders courtesy of Kent Thompson. I’m still searching for another front cylinder to have as a spare. A few fins were repaired, the cylinders bored and re-plated, new guides and valves with intake seals are next. The rest of the engine received a complete overhaul in 2015 just prior to the fateful road run in Wisconsin so things are good there. The fuel tank will also be stripped down and rebuilt to avoid any further leaks.

The only modifications we will be making to the bike are to address safety concerns. We plan to incorporate 19″ drop center wheels with steel spokes and brakes added to the front and sidecar wheels. Other than those modifications, plus the existing Linkert carburetor and 26 style rear brake, the machine will be a stock 1924 Big Chief. The sidecar springs and seat need some updating because these items were all made from scratch in 1990 and they were never quite right.

Looking forward to the ride!!!!