1948 Indian 648 Big Base
45 cu. in. Flathead engine
One of only seven factory Big Base Daytona Scouts believed to exist
It was March 1948 and motorcycles were once again roaring down the 4.1-mile beach course for the Daytona 200. With a remarkable 153 entries, the winner was Floyd Emde, riding one of the 20 to 30 factory-built Indian Model 648s. Holding on to the lead from start to finish, he set a new course record at a speed of 84.01 miles per hour.
The Big Base took its name from its enlarged oil capacity, thanks to a large sump cast in the rear. The additional lubrication was designed to help withstand the rigors of racing. Built for strength and reliability, internal and external modifications included cast steel flywheels with the same counterweight pattern used on the Army shaft-driven models. Pinion and drive bearings were switched out for Sport Scout roller bearings and cages. The crank pins were redesigned with graduated oiling holes. Bonneville-style cams, lifters and valves were used while the front camshaft was machined to drive the new gear-drive aluminum oil pump which first appeared in 1948. Pistons were domed even higher than Indian's Bonneville models and contained two compression rings and one oil ring.
In designing the race bike, Indian looked for the best components it already had available. The three-speed transmission, clutch and primary drive came directly from late model Indian Sport Scouts. Out of the 500 parts required, all but 10 were standard. Dave 'Huggy Bear' Hansen, of The Shop in Ventura, California says, 'The Big Base was Indian's swan song for its racing career. They combined all the good things the privateers were doing prior to World War II and put it all together in one bike and it turned out to be a winner. It was probably the pinnacle of flathead technology.'
A milestone in the history of the Indian motorcycle in particular and one for motorcycling history in general, the Big Base was a success on all levels. Some 40 years later Indian 648 Big Base Scouts were still competing. The #41 racer seen here, restored by Jim Suter, went on to win twice at Daytona during the AHRMA series in the 1980s. One of only seven factory Big Base Daytona Scouts purported to exist, the bike wearing the #41 racing plate carries both factory pedigree and the aura of victory in battle. Professionally restored and exceedingly rare, it is highly desirable and tremendously capable.