As we know, in order to maximize military vehicle production during World War II, civilian vehicle production was halted—almost. Although built in 1945, this for sale on never served in the military. It was one of few motorcycles built during the war for essential civilian use.
According to the extensive paperwork included with the bike, "essential use" was defined as "Any police department, municipality, plant protection facility or essential user." The literature also pictured a mail carrier and a farmer, implying that they are also essential workers. All civilian purchases had to be approved by the War Production Board.
This particular bike's history is unknown. The owner before the seller purchased it as a box of parts in 2005, which was painstakingly reassembled using as many original parts as possible over the following nine years. It currently wears a coat of Police Gray paint and appears as a police bike might have at the time, right down to a small locking box on the right side of the rear wheel.
Gallery: 1945 Indian Chief Essential Use
This Chief looks quite different than what you might be used to seeing. The only piece of chrome on the entire bike is the speedometer bezel. All other parts that would normally be chrome are painted, saving valuable chromium for the war effort. The bike also lacks the traditional Indian fender side skirts, exposing its wheels instead.
What is normal, however, is the left-hand throttle, which Indian favored at the time. The right wrist manually controlled spark advance. The left foot operates a clutch pedal, while the right hand selects one of three non-sequential gears, like a car.
The bike is fully operational. The video shows the priming and starting process, as well as several ride-by shots. This is a rolling piece of history, as the extensive paperwork and awards that come with the bike prove. There couldn't have been too many civilian models made during the war, and even fewer still around today. Even this one was brought back from the dead in a box of parts. At the time of writing the current bid is $7,900 with five days left in the auction. I wouldn't be surprised to see the price increase quite a bit before it sells.