Barely 100 years have passed since a team of Indian motorcycles swept the first three places at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, and now another Indian entry is set to commemorate this historic victory of the first and only American brand to win a TT race.
A replica of the special 580 cc Indian TT model V-twin has been built by Canadian entrant Peter Gagan and on Friday, June 10, 2011 it will lead the centenary parade lap for historic machines. The rider will be Dave Roper, the first American ever to win an Isle of Man TT. Roper has a lifetime of achievement in vintage racing, including more than 20 AHRMA national championships as well as his win of the 1984 Senior Classic TT on a G50 Matchless.
Roper will be first of 26 starters in the “Milestones of the Mountain” parade lap, leading such legends as Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read and current TT star John McGuinness. They and their famous machines represent highlights in the history of the Tourist Trophy in the 100 years since its adoption of the full 37.73 mile Mountain Course. The TT was first held on a shorter course starting in 1907.
The Indian factory’s star rider in the 1911 Senior Tourist Trophy race was Canadian-born board track legend Jacob DeRosier, supported by three local riders from England and Ireland. In the event, though, DeRosier suffered tire failure and was disqualified for accepting outside help while Oliver Godfrey, Charles Franklin and Arthur Moorhouse swept the first three places.
Their mounts were special machines built at the Indian factory in Springfield, Mass., to comply with TT rules. Single-cylinder machines were limited to 500 cc displacement while twins, which operated less efficiently with the atmospherically-opened inlet valves which were common at the time, were given an 80 cc advantage. Chief engineer Oscar Hedstrom adapted a 680 cc Indian “little twin” with a smaller cylinder bore and added a two-speed transmission from the company’s 1,000 cc “big twin” to cope with the demands of the hilly Isle of Man course.
None of these special machines survived intact to the present day, but fortunately about 10 years ago Peter Gagan located a 580 cc Indian racing engine in England. It may have been from one of the original TT machines but the records that could verify it do not exist. Working from his home in White Rock, British Columbia, Gagan constructed a replica using a 1911 Indian frame and transmission. No drawings of the TT bikes exist, so the frame modifications and exhaust pipes had to be fabricated according to photographs of the originals. The machine bears Godfrey’s race number 26.
Gagan has a lifetime of experience with early motorcycles, having been a member for more than 50 years of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, of which he is past president. He has also served as president of the Antique Motorcycle Foundation and was founder of the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group.
Gagan and his team are eager to hear from potential sponsors of this historic return to the legendary Isle of Man. They can be reached at