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Article And Photos By:Chris Callen
Originally Published In The August 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Not many motorcycle kids from my generation will ever forget the brilliant chase scene from the movie “The Great Escape” where Steve McQueen leads the Germans on a cross-country run that ends with him jumping a barbed wire fence. At the time I was a small boy, Steve McQueen was larger than life, and his role in that movie and his legendary prowess as an avid cyclist away from the silver screen made me want to ride a bike more than ever. These were times when real men rode motorcycles, smoked cigars and ate red meat. Of course, there were the regulars at the track like Gary Nixon and Marty Sipes, Bob Hanna came along years later, but the regular guy appeal that Steve McQueen had, well sir, that was unmatched. He raced in the ISDT, desert scrambles, and in the movies, he was all about fast cars and bikes. Eventually, he had come to a crossroads where the movie people forced him to make a choice between his racing career and his movie contracts.
Of course, he picked the life of the actor that gave him such a great name in the Hollywood history books, but his love for motorcycles never died. By the time of his passing in 1980, McQueen had over 200 motorcycles in his collection. Many of those bikes were bequeathed to friends and family, but many more were sold at an auction in 1984. It was said that although Steve loved all brands of motorcycle, his favorites were Indian and Triumph. I have always dug his Indian Chopper, a bike that for any chopper nut is almost as iconic as the man himself. But when it came to prized members of his motorcycle family, the rare Chiefs were where he really had it. And that brings us to the 35 you see pictured here. I met David Flores when I was staying with Mike and Carolyn Tomas. Kiwi, as he is known by the world, is the foremost authority on Indian Motorcycles and he alerted me to this beauty, making sure I got some time with the owner will I was in LA. It turns out that along with Steve McQueen, this hardtail Chief was also owned, for a short time, by Tom Cruise. David showed me an interview where Cruise explains to the show host how his wife bought him the bike as a present. He wrongly identified it as a ‘34 to which both David and I had a good laugh.
Can you imagine having enough money that your wife could surprise you with a bike this expensive, or not knowing exactly what the bike was after so much was paid for it? Yeah, that’s funny! Anyway, back to David. Flores is a property investor who grew up in LA and lives in Orange County today. He got into bikes in ‘91, and for most of this time he has been into modern machines, even had some rare cars along the way. Then about three years ago he ran into a friend who had just bought a ‘48 Indian Chief. David fell in love with it and was hooked. His vintage bike addiction took off, and as he thinks back to it now, he isn’t sorry one bit. David feels the people are the half of it. The more he gets into vintage bikes, the more people he meets and the more he enjoys it. Unlike the world of exotic cars, where he would regularly lose half his money by the time he sold a car, the bikes are a solid investment, and he gets way more enjoyment out of them.
This one came to him almost by accident. He was at the Mecum Auction buying a ‘32 Chief when his friend, Glenn Bader, a motorcycle broker, told him about it. They hooked up on the deal and just like that David had a McQueen Indian. Having huge respect for Steve, David decided to keep the bike in perfect “McQueen” condition. That meant that despite some things being wrong by Indian standards; he kept them like Steve had them. Take the seat, for example; it was a Harley seat pan with an upholstered Indian cover. Since that was how Steve had it… David had an identical seat remade without the wear and kept it just the same. He has had the bike all over, did the Big Bear run with the LA AMCA, took it to a Steve McQueen car show just recently where he met Steve’s son Chad McQueen and got a picture with him and the bike. Of course, having old Indians and a need to have them in tip-top shape led him to Kiwi Mike Tomas. David says that Kiwi is the kind of man you’ll have a hard time finding in the Harley world. He is reliable, honest and a perfectionist at his craft. Flores found Mike by Google searching Indian Specialists. Ok, so this article is gonna take a while for Mike to live down, I can almost hear him giving me the business about being one of those shady Harley guys now… Thanks, David. But no, seriously, thank you for the chance at shooting such an incredible bike. Flores is on his way to an impressive list of motorcycles as well, but of all of them, he says this one is in the top two or three. He feels pretty lucky that since he has owned it all his has had to do has been to enjoy it… Just like Steve McQueen!
McQueen’s ‘35 Indian Tech Sheet
Owner: David Flores
Builder: Indian Motorcycles
Builder: Indian Motorcycles
Air Cleaner: Stock
Builder: Indian Motorcycles
Triple Trees: Stock
Front Wheel: Stock
Front Brake: Stock
Rear Wheel: Stock
Rear Brake: Aerocraft Drilled Disc
Foot Controls: Stock
Gas Tank(S): Stock
Oil Tank: Stock
Front Fender: Stock
Rear Fender: Stock
Seat: Harley Seat Pan
Tail Light: Stock
Photographer: Chris Callen
got a picture with him and the bike.
Of course, having old Indians and a
need to have them in tip-top shape led
him to Kiwi Mike Tomas. David says
that Kiwi is the kind of man you’ll have
a hard time finding in the Harley world.
He is reliable, honest and a perfectionist
at his craft. Flores found Mike by Google
searching Indian Specialists. Ok, so this
article is gonna take a while for Mike to
live down, I can almost hear him giving
me the business about being one of
those shady Harley guys now… Thanks,
But no, seriously, thank you for the
chance at shooting such an incredible
bike. Flores is on his way to an
impressive list of motorcycles as well,
but of all of them, he says this one is
in the top two or three. He feels pretty
lucky that since he has owned it all his
has had to do has been to enjoy it… Just
like Steve McQueen