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Custom: Manitoba Scout – A Personal Vision

Indian Motorcycle challenged its global network of dealers to a custom Scout contest. Some entries, like this one from Manitoba, drew very personal sources of inspiration.

“Barn-fresh” is not exactly the look Indian Motorcycle dealer Mitch Ruth and his technician Jeff Altenburg wanted for their custom treatment of this 2016 Scout, but they weren’t after sparkle and shine either. The liquid-cooled, double-overhead cam Scout is a modern bike in every sense but the marquis on the tank is an instant portal into the past—and a strong link to motorcycling heritage was the bar the Manitoba boys set for themselves when they returned from the drawing board with plans. Their interpretation of the modern Scout would celebrate Indian’s legendary tradition but would also remain respectful of the Scout’s contemporary styling and engineering.

Ultimately, the intent with the custom Scout was to create a look that would evoke the standard mental image many of us have when someone speaks the name, “Indian.” Instinctively, our thoughts turn to mythic discoveries of long-forgotten bikes tucked away in sheds and dusty garages, neglected for decades until they’re uncovered by accident and then restored to their former glory. This is how Ruth and Altenburg imagined their custom Scout—it would pay tribute to the past, but remain mindful of the present. 

custom indian scout studio headlight closeup

And for Ruth, it was personal. The custom Scout he calls the “Rebel” was also meant to honour the memory of his grandfather, John Killbery, whose multi-line dealership, Headingly Sport Shop, has been a fixture on the western outskirts of Winnipeg since he opened its doors in 1969. 

Since the store’s very beginning, it has enjoyed a long, happy relationship with Polaris and today, following a 10,000-square-foot expansion of its floor area, is one of a mere handful of licenced Indian dealers in Canada. Polaris is, of course, the parent company of Indian and Victory.

Headingly Sport Shop has also had a long and happy relationship with Mitch Ruth who began working there as a boy and is now the owner and manager of the firm, which also flies under the banner, Indian Motorcycle of Winnipeg. 

“When I was about 11, I started work with [my grandfather] in the back where he taught me the fundamentals of mechanics and engineering which led me to a diploma in mechanical engineering technology,” says Ruth. “He passed away in November at the age of 84. This Scout would have been right up his alley which is why I’ve dedicated this build to him.”

The timing of Killbery’s death coincided with Indian Motorcycle’s introduction of its ‘Project Scout: Build a Legend’ custom program where dealers were challenged to create their own version of a custom Scout from the base model Scout.

With minimal rules to the in-house contest—which was intended to generate broader public interest and hopefully inspire customers in their own projects—dealers were free to customize a 2016 Scout using any theme, style or budget as long as it incorporated at least three genuine Indian Scout accessories from the current 200-item catalogue.

custom indian scout studio exhaust closeup

In all, 35 dealers participated in the custom Scout contest worldwide and on January 8 each of them submitted final photos of their custom creations, which were published on Indian’s website on January 18, with fans casting votes for their favourites up until February 19.

On February 20, the top three finalists were announced and each was given an all-expense-paid trip to the 75th annual Daytona Bike Week for themselves plus a guest. 

Of the three finalists (based on fan voting), two were from Canada: Ruth and Altenburg’s Rebel, and a themed entry called the “Boardtracker” from Terrebonne, Quebec dealer Motos Illimitees. The Quebec bike ultimately proved to be the top choice of a judging panel that included celebrity custom builder Roland Sands and online blogger Cyril Huze, who convened at the Boot Hill Saloon in Daytona Beach, during Bike Week.

custom indian scout studio engine closeup

Ruth’s online blog tells how Altenburg took the lead during the build, disassembling the entire bike before the frame was sent out for powder coating. Altenburg also re-assembled and installed all the bits that included suspension components and a custom double LED headlight conversion setup. From the Indian catalogue came the requisite three OEM accessory items: gloss black spoke rims, bronze control levers, and bronze rear fender washers.

“During the teardown, I myself was busy painting the flat rustic oxide across all the fenders, tank and trim pieces,” says Ruth, who has been doing custom paint work on customer demand for the past 11 years. “I always wanted to do a flat clear coat,” he says. To get there, Ruth first started with a base coat of a colour-matched primer red. Then came a layering of Auto-Air Wicked Oxide Red followed by Auto-Air Transparent Root Beer to give all the edges and contours a darker colour and depth. Auto-Air Wicked Gold for the Indian script and a few trim pieces was applied at the end to finish the paint off. Finally, “To give the bike an older look I added a urethane flattening agent to the clear coat to achieve an ultra flat finish,” says Ruth.

But show without go is nothing. Ruth and Altenburg installed the Power Commander V fuel injection module to tune performance in conjunction with their custom exhaust that was hand fabricated starting from the header mounts back. “I wanted to keep similar lines as the stock exhaust but make it a loud, true dual exhaust,” says Ruth. “To keep with the theme we wrapped the pipes in one-inch black header wrap.”

Renthal Street bars add a subtle touch of flat tracker influence while the RunAround solo seat from Mustang lends attitude. Taken as a whole, the Rebel nails the assignment it was handed—to commemorate the Scout’s past, without detracting from what is has become today.

By John Campbell Canadian Biker Issue #321 / Gary Barringer photos


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