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Jay Leno Takes His 90-Year-Old Indian Chief For A Ride

By Tyler Heatley Feb 04, 2019
Shop Motorcycles
By Tyler Heatley Feb 04, 2019
This week Jay Leno shares his 1930 Indian Chief motorcycle that has just been returned to running order. It's nearly 90 years old!

As well as being one of America’s favourite chat show hosts, Jay Leno is also famed for his extensive collection of classic and exotic vehicles. Cars regularly feature on the weekly episodes of ‘Jay Leno’s Garage’ but this week is the turn of a very special motorcycle. This 1930 Indian Chief is nearly 90 years-old, 40 of which it has been in Leno's possession.

When it first arrived in Leno's garage, the bike was a wreck. "It was the biggest piece of junk. It had been crashed, it had been ridden hard, put away wet. There is not one thing on this bike that wasn’t broken," explains Leno. It spent decades forgotten about in the corner of his workshop, until he decided to see what it would take to return this old bike to the road.

Attempting to maintain the ‘tired’ look of the bike, Leno and his team set to work. The 1200cc V-Twin engine gives it about 40 - 45-horsepower and today it sounds as good as it did back in 1930. The motor is fed oil by an unusual ‘total loss’ oil tank which is aptly named as you run the oil dry until it requires filling again. Another quirk of this bike is its ‘suicide clutch’ which is operated by the rider’s left foot.


The bike is totally stock except for a few ‘life saving’ alterations Leno has made. The throttle has been moved to the other side of the handlebars to avoid confusion and potential death, and a mirror has been installed for better visibility. There were some things he couldn’t fix, with Leno exclaiming ‘you take your life in your hands every time you go out in it'. He then mentions the brakes, which do very little to stop the bike.

Extensive restoration needed to be undertaken to the get the bike in running order. Everything from an acid-eaten battery box, worn sprocket, chewed flywheel, to a fractured magneto gear meant the bike hadn’t gone anywhere in a long time.

On the open road, Leno talks about how the bike is defined by its torque. "You can slow right down to 5mph in top gear, and then pull away," he says. While still looking pretty beaten-up, the bike is now in perfect running order with Leno demonstrating how stable the motorcycle is by briefly removing his hands from the bars.

It’s great to see this vintage bike up and running again.

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