The Original Thrill Rider

Article By: Milwaukee Mike

Photos By: Phil Damiano

Originally Published In The September 2013 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Feature 5a Sep 13 Kerri

About two-and-a-half years ago, I attended my first Kev-Mar show in Boston. There I had the opportunity to get to know the guys who had two of the best bikes at that show. The first was Jamie Dykeman of Black Frame Cycle Projects, and the second was sharing the vendor space with Jamie. His name is Roger Chouinard and he is now the caretaker of this amazing piece of motorcycle history. The bike you see on these pages is not only a rare Indian, but it was owned by one of the pioneers of the stunt riding fraternity. That’s right folks, this particular machine was owned by Lucky Thibeault. It was the first bike that Lucky ever rode on The Wall of Death, and it stayed with him until he could no longer ride the wall. This was no small feat as Lucky rode on the wall until he was 91 years old! He started his illustrious career in 1940 and rolled until 1 9 9 4 , ending his days on the wall near where he started in Massachusetts. He was well known around his home base of Brockton, MA, and was known as “The Fonz” of Brockton according to Roger. Lucky also had another alias: he was known as “The Golden Age Kid” for many years of his drome career. Lucky lived the life of a drome rider, and it’s also where he met his lifelong riding partner. His wife, Sparky, rode with him for many, many years and still turns up for the Brockton shows to lend some class to the event.

As one can imagine, the man had quite a collection of bikes after all those years of rolling across the country. When he passed, an old friend and fellow rider understood how important these bikes were. He knew that they needed to be preserved, so he bought the whole collection from Sparky. That man was none other than actor Steve McQueen. He ended up with all the bikes except for the one you see here. As you can already guess, this one was a little extra special and it needed to stay in or near Lucky’s MA. home. It enjoyed its retirement hanging from the rafters as a tribute to Lucky and all his amazing feats. The Indian was in the care of Bob Cullen, and he was not shy about telling people the stories of that bike’s lineage and the things that it had seen. One amazing thing about this bike is that even though it hasn’t seen a wall in a whole lot of years, it is exactly as Lucky left it and it still has good compression — a small testament to quality, I think. Before I start on the next phase of this little Indian’s life, let’s do a short history for those who are not familiar with this model, like myself, until very recently.

Feature 5b Sep 13 Kerri

The Indian Motorcycle Company started its life in 1901 as Hendee Manufacturing. That was changed in 1928, and they were known as one of the best made motorcycles in the world. This was especially true in the 1920s as they improved on the Chief and Scout models. They proved this by extensively racing them and relying on the old adage: What wins on Sunday, sells on Monday. Because of this success, Indian was able to develop smaller and lighter bikes for first-time riders in the hope that after they outgrew them, they would return for bigger bikes The Indian Prince was only made for 4 short years (1925 – 1928) as an alternative to the larger displacement bikes such as the Scout, Chief and the large diameter Harley- Davidsons of the day. This 21 cubic inch(350cc), 265 lb. motorcycle was the brainchild of Charles Franklin, Indian’s chief engineer. It had a single cylinder motor, three speed transmission and spring suspended seat. It was capable of speeds up to 55 m.p.h., and was marketed to the public as an inexpensive mode of transportation for the masses. There were some slight changes in the Prince in 1926. Most notably was the gas tank shape from that of the wedge style to the more popular rounded shape, as well as the lower seat height and longer bars so smaller riders could easily reach. Unfortunately, the little Prince did not catch on with the American public.

Either it was ahead of its time or just not accepted as Indian thought it should be. Regardless, these little bikes are now sought after and coveted by collectors because of their rarity, and it is obvious they make great bikes for a motor drome. In the case of this particular Prince, Lucky bought this bike as a civilian version and set it up to do just that. To bring this story back around, in steps Roger Chouinard who purchased the bike from Bob. He started bringing it to bike shows with a display that has photos of Lucky as well as the signed posters of the Brockton Fair, where Roger first saw the bike as a child and has fond memories of spending time with his dad. Obviously those great memories of watching Lucky do his magic and seeing his dad be the 1st to put some dollar bills out there to get the rest of the crowd in the giving mode, had struck a chord. Roger’s father passed away in the not too distant past, so this bike is a reminder of the good times with his dad. For the faithful Cycle Source readers, I have a follow up to this story as well. It is a beautiful Sportster that Roger had Jamie at Black Frame do over in the same vein as his dad’s old VW racer. But that story will come at a later date so stay tuned! I would just like to give a personal thanks to Roger for bringing this bike back out into the world for us all to enjoy!

Feature 5c Sep 13 Kerri

Lucky T Tech Sheet

Owner: Roger Chouinard Jr

City: Cape Cod, MA.

Fabrication By: Lucky T

Year: 1928

Model: Prince

ENGINE

Year: 1928

Model: Prince

Builder: Indian/Lucky Thibeault

Ignition: N/A

Displacement: N/A

Pistons: N/A

Heads: N/A

Cam(s): N/A

Carb: Schebler

Air Cleaner: N/A

Exhaust: None

Primary: N/A

TRANSMISSION

Year: 1928

Make: Indian

Shifting: Foot

FRAME

Year: 1928

Make: Indian

Rake: Stock

Stretch: None

FRONT END

Type: Girder

Builder: Indian

Extension:

Triple Trees:

WHEELS

Front Wheel: Stock Indian

Size: 20”

Tire: Bridgestone

Brakes: External Contracting

Rear Wheel: Stock Indian

Size: 20”

Tire: Bridgestone

Brakes: External Contracting

PAINT

Painter: Lucky T

Color: Red

Type: Flat

Graphics: Gold Leaf

Chroming: None

ACCESSORIES

Bars: N/A

Hand controls:

Gas Tank(s): N/A

Front Fender: None

Rear Fender: None

Seat: N/A

Foot Controls: N/A

Oil Tank: N/A

Headlight: None

Taillight: None

Photographer: Phil Damiano

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