It will never be the world's fastest, but the Army Indian Scout motorcycle found in a swamp near Kerikeri might be the daftest Indian according to Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga volunteer researcher Jack Kemp, who is keen to learn its story.

Was it an accidental wrong turn? An ill-timed twist of the throttle? The result of a night's inebriation? Nobody knows, but Jack would like to find out.

The machine had been retrieved from the swamp some years ago, and was now in the hands of the vintage car club in Whang─ürei.

"People believe it found its way into the swamp during World War II, but nobody knows the circumstances in which it disappeared," Jack said. He appealed to anyone who may have heard stories, perhaps from family to tell how it ended up there.

Advertisement

"As part of carrying out research for Heritage New Zealand's heritage inventory of war sites in Northland, I have been involved in a number of oral history interviews, including people sharing mementoes and photographs from the war," he said. "We've discovered pictures of mysterious American float planes landing at Mangonui and a mine sweeper clearing sea mines from the Bay of Islands, and when we've put them out in the public domain it's been amazing how much more information people have been able to share about them. We're hoping we can pull it off again with our formerly submerged Indian."

The Army Indian was made by the same company that produced the Indian Scout motorcycle souped up by Invercargill's Bert Munro in his successful bid to break the motorcycle under-1000cc world record at Bonneville in August 1967. His epic run was later made famous in the movie The World's Fastest Indian.

The Indian was not an easy motorcycle to ride, as Heritage New Zealand's Northland manager Bill Edwards can attest.

"When I was younger I owned, briefly, an Army Indian Scout 741B. It was only 500cc, and was a very difficult bike to drive, with the right-hand throttle set for 'advance' or 'retard' to line up the pistons properly for ignition. It also had a gear stick and a foot clutch. The throttle was operated by the left-hand grip, and oddly enough you had to take your hand off the throttle to change gears," he said.

"Presented with such a complex sequence of operation, I can see how a driver could lose control of the bike quite easily during a tricky manoeuvre, or even encountering something a bit unexpected on the open road."

Whether the complexity of operation was a contributing factor, or whether other factors came into play, the mystery of the misdirected Indian was worth following up.

"Our research has touched on the daily lives of men and women in military service, volunteers and civilians, all of whom have shared some wonderful stories with us," he said.

"We'd really love to hear the story of how the driver of this military motorbike may have taken the thrill of off-roading just a bit too far."

Advertisement

Anyone who can shed any light on the mystery is invited to contact Bill Edwards on (09) 407-0471 or bedwards@heritage.org.nz