Indian–Yes, That Indian–Once Made Outboard Boat Motors

by Gabrielle DeSantis

An automaker collaborating with a boat company, like Volkswagen’s doing with Silent-Yachts, isn’t anything new or necessarily unusual. Motorcycle companies, though, rarely dabble in the boating world—except, of course, as motor suppliers. Companies like Yamaha, Suzuki, and Honda all make outboard boat motors. And once upon a time, so did Indian.

Indian Motorcycles briefly made outboard motors for boats

1928 Indian 101 Scout | JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP via Getty Images

No, that’s not a typo or miscommunication: the Indian Motorcycle company once sold outboard boat motors. And this isn’t like how Mercury Racing has the same name as the discontinued automaker despite being a completely unrelated entity. The same company that made the 101 Scout also made boat engines—albeit briefly.

In the late ‘20s, Indian had several excellent bikes, like the Scout, the original Chief, and the Ace-derived Four. And by that point, it and Harley-Davidson were the only major American motorcycle companies left. However, the Great Depression meant no one was buying bikes, so Indian tried to diversify, the San Diego Automotive Museum explains.

A silver-and-blue Indian Silver Arrow outboard boat motor on its stand
Indian Silver Arrow outboard boat motor | Mecum

Unfortunately, none of Indian’s diversification attempts were truly successful. But for a short time, it meant you could get a genuine Indian snowmobile engine, Bonhams reports. And boat owners could pick up an Indian Silver Arrow outboard motor.

Does the Indian Silver Arrow outboard boat motor share anything with the motorcycle engines?

Sources are slightly contradictory when it comes to Indian Silver Arrow outboard motor production.

The side view of a silver Indian Silver Arrow outboard boat motor on its stand
Indian Silver Arrow outboard boat motor side | Mecum

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According to Farm Collector, Indian only made boat engines for one year. However, the New Zealand Maritime Museum reports the motorcycle company made outboard motors in 1929 and 1930. As a result, some examples date from 1929 and some from 1930. And depending on when they were originally sold, some may date from 1931, like the motor sold in a June 2020 Mecum auction.

Regardless, the Indian Silver Arrow doesn’t appear to share much with the company’s contemporary bike engines. That’s slightly odd, seeing as several Honda outboard motors are based on the company’s car engines, Car and Driver reports. However, the Silver Arrow does have a few motorcycle-like touches.

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The Indian Silver Arrow is a twin-cylinder boat motor, but it’s not a four-stroke V-twin. Instead, it’s a two-stroke 321cc opposed-twin engine, Mecum reports. And it only makes 8-10 hp, NZMM reports. On the plus side, it’s less than four feet long, Mecum reports. But, while it uses a pull starter rather than a kickstarter, it does have a motorcycle-like twist throttle. And the cooling ridges on the engine case borrow from Indian’s motorcycle expertise.

A Silver Arrow can cost more than a new Indian

Indian Silver Arrow outboard boat motors rarely come up for sale at auctions. And given production was likely fairly small, that’s unsurprising. However, well-restored and/or pristine examples can be more expensive than you might think.

The side view of a black-and-red 2022 Indian FTR by a gray building
2022 Indian FTR side | Indian

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Although Silver Arrows have sold for less than $5000, in January 2020 one example sold for $14,160 at a Mecum auction. That’s more than a base 2022 Indian FTR or a 2021 Scout Bobber. This begs the question: could someone make a modern Silver Arrow with the Scout’s V-twin?

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