eBay: Rare 1956 250cc Indian Brave
Brockhouse | Southport | Corgi | Single cylinder
These quarter-litre single-cylinder sidevalves were manufactured by Brockhouse Engineering Ltd of Southport, Lancashire. This was the firm that gave the world the 1948 98cc Brockhouse Corgi which was developed from the 98cc WW2 military Excelsior Welbike (as used by British paratroopers at D-Day in 1944).
The above example is on eBay at this moment (1pm, 28th August 2015). The price has ratcheted up to £3,300 with 25 bids driving it. There are two days left until the auction ends.
▲ The sprung front fork didn't arrive until 1951, three years after the Corgi was introduced as a rigid, basic transport machine derived from the WW2 Welbike. The two-speed gearbox came late and was a welcome addition.
Introduced in 1950, the Brave was never a successful bike. It's famed for little except being a (poorly built) British made Indian-by-name-but-not-by-tradition, and it will be mostly of interest to ... well, we're not sure who exactly.
Hardened collectors of classic Indian V-twins generally scoff at these 'non-authentic' pretenders. Lovers of veteran and vintage Indians will probably see a hole in the air whenever they look at a Brave. Dedicated two-stroke fans won't have much truck with an unorthodox (or even very orthodox) sidevalve. Mainstream British bike collectors will generally look for something a little more ... established. And most of the rest of the potential market has barely heard of the Brockhouse Indian Brave.
Nevertheless, there's clearly an esoteric, masochistic, morbid or simply obscure classic curiosity out there from some folk, because £3,300 is big bucks for such an inconsequential bike.
▲ 1956 Indian Brave 248cc engine. British built. Rejected by the Americans. Not much loved by anyone else. But it's a rare machine that still attracts a fair amount of attention.
By the time the Brave was launched, Indian was rapidly running out of road and was looking in all directions to stay afloat as a going concern. During its final years, the firm produced a range of lightweights including the 149cc Arrow, the 249cc Super Scout, and the 250cc Warrior. In 1953, Indian went bust. Brockhouse bought the manufacturing rights.
During the short-lived Brockhouse motorcycle manufacturing period, British-built Royal Enfields were tarted-up, re-badged as Indians and sold into the US market. Sales were poor, not least because Triumph and BSA had launched full scale post-war US invasions, and these sportier (and generally better looking) twins and singles were far more desirable than warmed over/adulterated Enfields. Later still Velocettes would receive the same warmed-over treatment (this time courtesy of US racer/publisher/engineer Floyd Clymer, 1895 - 1970) and would be sold as Indian Velos.
In 1960, AMC bought the rights to Indian, and Brockhouse bowed out of the motorcycle business. Six years on, AMC itself went bust. So much for the 30-second corporate history lesson.
The first 248cc Braves, although built in England, were not for sale in the home market. "Export-or-die" was what the government demanded. There was a war to pay for. So instead, the Americans were offered the bikes at around 350 dollars each, this at a time when a British pound was worth around three dollars. Within a few years, the price had risen to around $420.
Unusually, these Brockhouse sidevalves/flatheads were built with unit-construction engines (as opposed to pre-unit). The drive is on the right side instead of the more conventional left. The first bikes were rigid-framed R-models with left-side (American-style) gear change levers concentric with left-side kickstarters. A three-speed Albion gearbox is deployed to handle the transmission. The oil pump is submerged and driven by the timing gears. Wheels are 18-inchers with 5-inch drum brakes. An Amal carburettor c/w air filter was fitted.
▲ 1951 Indian Brave. Bonhams offered this bike for sale in 2008 at San Francisco. The estimate was £3,200 - £5,200, but the bike went unsold.
▲ Brockhouse had clearly put a lot of thought into the Indian Brave engine. But the bike needed far more development. Cash was short, and it was later than everybody realised. The ignition, by the way, is by coil. Charging is alternator.
▲ Left side kickstarter with concentric (3-speed) gear lever on this 1951 Indian Brave. Forget what you know about British-built motorcycles. This one breaks with a lot of convention.
By 1954, a swinging arm frame was introduced (the S-model). The brakes were upgraded to 8-inch. But little else was altered. By now, the game was up with the Yanks, and they weren't much interested in British-built Indians. So to boost sales, the bikes were offered to those Commonwealth countries still clinging to the pound Sterling. And finally, a few bikes were actually flogged in the UK.
All Braves feature an undamped telescopic front fork. All Braves are wet sump. All engines feature cast aluminium crankcases with a cast iron barrel and cast aluminium cylinder head. All manufacturing of these bikes was discontinued in 1955 (but sales continued over the next season or two to mop up stock).
Handling was (at best) considered "so-so". The top speed was around 55mph. The MPG was around 60 to 70. The exact rarity of these two-wheeled Dinky toys is unknown, except to say that there might be only a handful or so within British shores.
If you want to get your hands on one, eBay is calling. Investment potential? We've no idea. Curiosity quotient? Pretty high.
Note: The Brockhouse Corgi was supplied with a 98cc Excelsior Spryt engine as opposed to a 98cc Villiers engine.
UPDATE: The Indian Brave sold for £4,550 and had 29 bids.
— The Third Man