This Saturday, May 3, thanks to the efforts of Don Emde and Joe Colombero, about 2-dozen riders will take off on the Cannon Ball Project, a cross-country adventure commemorating Erwin George Baker’s record-setting ride across the US on a 1914 Indian. Naturally, there needs to be an Indian on this modern 11-day event. And we’re happy to report there is: Elnora, which is named in honor of Baker’s wife. Elnora (the motorcycle) began life as an engineering development mule, an Indian Chief Vintage that, by law, cannot be sold and must eventually be crushed. But Robert Pandya, PR maven for Indian, saw an opportunity and pounced, leading a very quick build on the bike that he will ride on the Cannon Ball Project, which features some dirt and sandy sections before concluding at New York City’s Battery Park on May 14. Pandya turned to his friend Jeb Scolman (the man who built “The Spirit of Munro” streamliner) of Jeb’s Metal and Speed in Long Beach, California, to handle most of the modifications. The most obvious changes are a specially fabbed high exhaust, which offers better clearance, plus a special bash plate that protects the low-slung and massive Thunder Stroke 111 V-twin engine.
Says Pandya: “We stiffened up the suspension and added an early prototype air filter for performance. Most of the mods were eliminating things—the windscreen, saddlebags, driving light and fender skirts. As the bike had seen a rough testing life, the chrome was attacked with a Scotchbrite pad and some 80-grit sandpaper—it might as well be evenly scratched up!” Other modifications include hand-grooved Dunlop tires, black powdercoated rims and a springer seat from Saddlemen. Is Pandya crazy to be attempting the Cannon Ball on an Indian weighing around 800 lb? For sure. But he’s also celebrating American motorcycling history in a very cool way. Here’s to Robert and Elnora making it all the way to New York City, and let’s hope Indian figures out a way to preserve this great machine, not crush it. Check back with CycleWorld.com for updates from the Cannon Ball Project. Also, Pandya—who is wearing a special helmet with Cannonball Baker graphics Sharpie-painted by a designer at Victory—will be blogging about his adventure on Indian’s social media outlets.