From the Track to the Street & Beyond

Story by Alan Cathcart// Photos by Indian Motorcycle/David Shelleny
February 13 2019

Indian’s third brand-new engine design is destined to take on the world

Had to happen. After Indian Motorcycle’s two full seasons of utter supremacy in the 2017-18 American Flat Track (AFT) racing seasons on its return to competition after a 70-year absence – in which its FTR 750 race bike has earned the No. 1 plate in successive years, winning 17 of the 18 races held in the 2018 AFT season – America’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer has almost predictably now launched a street spinoff of that title-winning racer. Clearly inspired by the FTR 750 in terms of both styling and engineering, the base model 2019 FTR 1200 (costing $15,999) and the FTR 1200S (from $18,499, depending on colours chosen) broke cover at Germany’s Intermot Show last October and will inevitably usher in a series of Street Trackers from several other manufacturers. Okay, Harley already tried to do it once before with the relatively short-lived XR1200 back in 2008, but nothing since. Fuelled by its racing sister’s two seasons of dirt-track dominance, the tag line that the new Indian was “Born on the dirt, built for the street” rings true when you ride it.

The FTR 1200 and 1200S are the real deal, and a visit to the Minneapolis headquarters of Indian’s parent company, Polaris Corp., for an exclusive ride on the pre-production prototypes on the roads of Minnesota and Indian’s R&D centre’s test track six weeks before their Intermot launch revealed these to be only the first of several future Indian models to be powered by the FTR’s all-new liquid-cooled, 1,203 cc V-twin engine. Delivering a claimed 120 hp at 8,250 rpm with 85 ft-lb of torque peaking at 6,000 rpm, this third Indian engine platform under Polaris ownership following on from the Chief and Scout shares little beyond a general overall format with the Scout motor, which it’ll inevitably be compared to, Indian CEO Steve Menneto says.

A Flat Tracker for the World

The 2019 Indian FTR1200 with Palm Trees“It’s a totally different engine than what the Scout’s is, and I think you could say that it’s a very flexible platform for us to go forward with,” Menneto says. “We have many opportunities in front of us with this potential family of models. It’s exciting how we’re going to stretch Indian way beyond Cruiser/Bagger/Tourer – and the FTR 1200 is a perfect example of how that’s going to happen. Our focus is not only on the North American market, but about Indian becoming a global brand.”

So while rather ironically this all-new engine is making its debut mounted in something as quintessentially American as popcorn, baseball and apple pie, its future will see it powering models aimed at a world audience, with an adventure tourer to rival the BMW R1250GS likely to be up next, then maybe a streetfighter or sport tourer – take your pick. To realize their vision of Indian becoming a global brand, not merely a producer of modern American-style V-twin motorcycles of various types, however excellent, Menneto and his colleagues on the Polaris board are counting on this engine as the platform they’ll use to achieve this.

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