Roland Sands Chopped an Indian Chief Into an El Camino Restomod

Classic choppers were a big source of inspiration for Ola Stenegard’s team during the Indian Chief’s 2022 redesign. As a result, the motorcycle has both vintage lines and a customization-friendly design. So, it’s no surprise that several builders have already taken a crack at modifying the Chief, often adding additional vintage-inspired touches.

For its latest build, though, Roland Sands Design flipped the script. Rather than making a brand-new Indian Chief look older, it gave a classic Chief an injection of modernity. And with a new way of riding comes a new, rather appropriate name: El Camino.

The vintage ‘El Camino’ Chief is the latest Roland Sands Design custom Indian motorcycle

The left-side view of Roland Sands Design's 'El Camino 1946 Indian Chief chopper
Roland Sands Design ‘El Camino 1946 Indian Chief chopper | RSD

Although Roland Sands’ portfolio includes a variety of brands, his company has a special relationship with Indian.

For one, RSD has run Indian Challengers in King of the Baggers since the series’ inception. It also has a healthy history of sliding FTRs in American flat-track events. And secondly, Roland Sands has already built several custom bikes for Indian, including the ‘Trak Chief’ flat-tracker.

The El Camino, though, isn’t based on a modern Indian Chief. Instead, Roland Sands sourced a “crashed, bent” 1946 Chief frame from renowned vintage Indian experts Kiwi Indian. And because the shop wanted to “’pay homage to the original Chief,’” it decided to source as many classic parts as possible, whether original or reproduction, Bike Exif reports.

As a result, the El Camino doesn’t just have a 1946 Indian Chief frame. It also has an original ’46 girder fork, rebuilt with modern reproduction parts. The bike has a reproduction saddle, headlight, split fuel tank, foot controls, floorboards, headlight, handlebars, saddle, and split fuel tank. RSD even sent out the frame’s original castings for metallurgical analysis so it could properly solder everything, Bike Exif says.

That analysis wasn’t about fitting the previously-mentioned reproduction parts, though. The El Camino might be built on a vintage Indian Chief frame, but it has a modern Chief engine. Well, sort of.

Roland Sands gave the vintage Indian Chief some modern Chieftain muscle

A close-up view of the Indian Chieftain V-twin in Roland Sands Design's 'El Camino 1946 Indian Chief chopper
Roland Sands Design ‘El Camino 1946 Indian Chief engine closeup | RSD

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Instead of leaving the original V-twin, Roland Sands gave the chopper Indian’s air-cooled 1811cc Thunderstroke 111 V-twin. Hence why RSD needed to modify the frame: the new engine is significantly bigger. And likely heavier, too.

However, while the 2022 Chief uses this engine, that’s not the version in the El Camino. Instead, it’s the torquier version Indian puts in the Chieftain. Indian claims the 2022 Chieftain makes 119 lb-ft of torque, which, based on Cycle World’s dyno results, suggests the V-twin makes 83 hp. That’s roughly double what a 1946 Chief makes. But Roland Sands replaced the Thunderstroke’s fuel-injection system with a Mikuni carburetor, so it’s likely not making 83 hp anymore.

Regardless, giving this vintage Indian Chief a modern engine means it’s arguably a restomodded motorcycle. Something like a chopper done Egli-Vincent style. And modern performance demands more modern hardware than just an engine.

A brown-clad rider slides the Roland Sands Design 'El Camino 1946 Indian Chief chopper
Roland Sands Design ‘El Camino 1946 Indian Chief chopper side view | RSD

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So, while Roland Sands’ El Camino has a 1946 fork, it has a modern chromoly-steel swingarm with a Penske Racing Shocks-sourced mono-shock. That shock is technically from a Ducati Panigale, but it echoes the 2022 FTR’s rear suspension. The El Camino also rides on Roland Sands Racing Traction wheels with quick-change and TT hubs wrapped in Dunlop K180 road-legal flat-track tires. And it has Galfer discs with Performance Machine calipers.

Although Roland Sands gave the Thunderstroke V-twin a carburetor, it also gave it some modern-style upgrades. This 1946 Indian Chief now has a lithium-ion battery, mini dual-fire ignition coil, and an Altmann Micro Machines Haan P3 ignition system. Plus, that V-twin bellows through a hand-made manifold, custom RSD exhaust headers, and some patina-d Cone Engineering mufflers. Finally, the El Camino features a Biltwell throttle, custom RSD shifter, and Lowbrow Customs fender.

Can you buy your own version of the custom El Camino?

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Speaking of patina, the El Camino’s beautifully-weathered look isn’t based solely on age. Roland Sands aged the parts in a special mix of primer, vinegar, salt, hydrogen peroxide, and black paint. Once the look was set, the shop rinsed everything and sealed the parts using linseed oil.

This classic Indian Chief chopper’s look came at the client’s request. That’s right, it’s a one-off customer build, and it’s not for sale. However, that doesn’t mean Roland Sands couldn’t build you a similar chopper. But it wouldn’t be cheap: a good-condition 1946 Chief donor would set you back about $25,000 alone, Hagerty says. That’s more than a brand-new Indian Chief Dark Horse.

Still, this is the way of restomods and custom motorcycles. And for at least one rider, it’s worth it.

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