An Inside Look at the New Indian® Chieftain™: Styling Influences

In the 1940s and 1950s, a stylish, fast and powerful new diesel locomotive called the Super Chief powered the legendary luxury train that ran between Los Angeles and Chicago. The locomotive featured a sculpted front end and long, sleek windows down the side that cut through the wind in dynamic fashion. It carried riders to exciting new destinations and new adventures.

The flagship of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, the Super Chief inspired countless thousands of onlookers to travel and see what lay beyond the horizons they could see from home.

Among those it inspired was Greg Brew, Director of Industrial Design (ID), Polaris Industries. He grew up in Arizona and saw the Super Chief and other streamliner trains cut powerfully across the desert.

Fast forward to 2012, when Brew was working with his ID team to design what would become the new Indian® Chieftain™. As he and Lead Industrial Designer Mike Song developed concepts for the Indian Chieftain fairing, Brew didn’t initially realize how many styling cues the front end of the new bagger motorcycle shared with the Super Chief. But when Brew and Song presented a set of renderings to Gary Gray, Product Director, Indian Motorcycles, Gray and his team noted the styling influence.

“It reminded us of the streamliner trains of the time, the Super Chief,” Gray said. “The trains of those times looked very powerful going down the track.”

Which was what he wanted for the new bagger’s fairing. “We wanted it to look powerful coming down the road, wanted lots of light so a rider can see and be seen, and wanted an aerodynamic shell,” Gray said.

Brew realized that, indeed, the trains he saw growing up had inspired him. “When Gary and those guys started talking about it feeling like a train, I almost wished that had been our original explanation, because if you look at the Super Chief, it absolutely fits.”

Brew said the ID team wanted the fairing styling to be distinctive, but they also wanted it to complement rather than overpower the bike’s other signature bodywork.

“The bike is leading with a dramatic fender with the War Bonnet on it. As soon as that fender comes around the corner, you can identify that bike as an Indian Motorcycle,” Brew said. “That fairing has got to fit with that same aesthetic.

Brew and Song worked through numerous renderings as they styled the front face of the fairing. “There’s a fairly sizable space above the headlight because to get all that technology in the fairing, you have to work with a pretty high ‘forehead.’” Brew said.

That’s not unlike the Super Chief, which also featured significant bodywork from its central set of headlights up to the sculpted top edge. On the Super Chief, that “forehead” space hosted another large, powerful headlight, which became integral to the front-end styling. The chrome trim plate above the Indian Chieftain headlight does the same thing, adding style to an expanse of bodywork.

Powerful, stylish, and aerodynamic. That describes the Super Chief train – and the motorcycle it inspired, the Indian Chieftain.