2017: The anniversary of 130 years since the birth of the general importer of Indian motorcycles, Ing. Frantisek Marik
In August this year, it will have been 131 years since the birth of a motoring pioneer in Bohemia and Central Europe, Ing. Frantisek Marik. This essay is to remind his character, activity and importance for Indian movement.
Ing. Marik during his visit in Springfield factory
The American company Hendee Manufacturing Company from Massachusetts, which produced Indian motorcycles from 1901, became the most progressive manufacturer that in the period before the First World War that dominated the world production of two-wheelers in terms of technical solutions and the number of produced machines. In 1911, Indian motorcycles took the first 3 places in the toughest circuit race those days - the British Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man. Successes in a number of races in this period, including the creation of world records, confirmed the exceptionality of these mainly V two-cylinder engines.
Indian brand and particularly its most widespread model Scout played an important role in the motorization of former Czechoslovakia, because it was the most represented foreign motorcycle manufacturer in Central Europe with the largest number of machines imported by one company. Although the first Indian motorcycles were imported by Mr. Palecek´s company and separately by V. Chlad before the First World War, the spectacular import of Indian machines occurred after the First World War thanks to the general importer and representative of Indian company in Czechoslovakia Ing. Frantisek Marik. Engineer Marik was not only a business representative and "serviceman" but also a great promoter of motorization, athlete and pioneer of modern methods of sales, service and promotion. He put his great passion for motorcycles in the promotion of their utility value and merged it with the idea of permanent liability of the seller for goods sold by him, expressed by a customer service even after the factory warranty. By tireless promotion at car dealerships, riding shows (skill rides), motorcycle races and various competitions he convinced the general public about easy handling of modern motorcycles which had considerable importance in the beginnings of motorization with the initial large unreliability of means of road transport.
Batch of Indians for police dpt. of Prague, Czechoslovakia
Frantisek Marik was born on August 9, 1886 in Popovice na Morave (by Rajhrad) in a railwayman’s family that was appertained to Sobenov u Kaplice in South Bohemia. After graduating from the Higher Technical School, he was employed at Kolben company from 1906, and subsequently at Prague Iron Company which focused on coal mining, smelting and iron production in Kladno region. For this reason, Ing. Marik moved to Ujezd pod Kladnem, where his wife Vitezslava gave birth to their son Milos in 1913 and later to their daughter.
Ing. Marik contemplated his first motor experience, formation of Indian motorcycles representation in Czechoslovakia and his achievements in Motor Revue magazine in 1943:
“My first motorcycle was the older two-cylinder Rössler and Jauernig machine that not only satisfied my craving for motor driving, but its many failures were excellent school for me. Once it was broken frame while riding, another time twisting the frame by the belt tension or problems with the drive pulley. The speciality of this motorcycle was losing the stretched magnetic chain because the magnet was not movable. It was particularly unpleasant when I sometimes lost the chain to the magnet chain when riding at night and I had to look for it on the road in the dark. Later I made notches on the wheel so I could adjust the magnet by touch in the dark.
In autumn 1912, I gave my old motorcycle to Palecek company to trade in a relatively modern two-cylinder NSU model 1909. This motorcycle was also lower and had a V-belt power transmission which was a great convenience compared to flat belts. The NSU machine worked well but its design still did not meet my ideas about the perfect motorcycle. I was still studying different price lists and professional literature and in the spring of 1913 I discovered the description of the American lndian motorcycle in the "Autotechnisches Handbuch" book. This motorcycle immediately impressed me with its construction because it my suited my ideas about a perfect machine but even surpassed them in some ways.
It has a two-cylinder engine with a volume of 997 cc - as you can see a pattern here, I was only impressed by two-cylinder engines from the very beginning. The cylinders had removable heads, controlled intake valves above exhaust valves (F distribution). Cylinders and fins were machined on the whole surface as it is still made at aircraft engines, and were even matt-nickeled together with the heads. Engine lubrication was already automated. The carburettor was also fully automatic, operated like a magnet, with rotating handles. This Indian model 1913 had already a split gear box with two gears, pedal-controlled disc clutch, as well as a starter. Its frame was closed at the bottom side. The front fork was elegantly reinforced, the front wheel had a long leaf spring. The rear wheel was also spring-loaded with two leaf springs.
There was a luggage rack above the rear wheel, also a novelty at that time. Remember that it was 1913. In short, this machine became my ideal. Do not be surprised that I soon procured its leaflets and that a cut out Indian hung in a nice frame above my desk as the object of my love and my desires.
My desire grew even more when I saw real Indians in the summer 1913. During one journey from Zdice, I met two Indian riders in Beroun. I stopped them immediately. They were American students on holiday driving through Europe. They were also properly equipped for such a journey and their racks carried spare tires, a large tank with petrol and various bags. Both riders praised the machines as they had already travelled 9,000 kilometres across Europe without failure, an amazing thing at those times. Believe me, I did not sleep all night and I saw these two beautiful machines everywhere.
Soon after, I learned to my delight that one Indian also rides in Prague. I eagerly searched until I found it. Its owner was a young man, Mr. Berger, the current owner of perhaps the best confectionery in Prague. Again, I admired this next Indian to which I could even sit down and start it on a stand. It was purchased from Palecek company which had recently taken over representation for Bohemia. Even today I remember the beauty of this motorcycle and happiness shining in the eyes of Mr. Berger with whom I started a friendship lasting to this day and to whom I later sold two more Indians and two cars. My desire for my own Indian further escalated, although its price was equal to my then year-round salary, but I said to myself: If you want the Indian - then make money for it. I found a side business and sold pneumatic hammers in my spare time, especially on Sundays, to various municipalities for their quarries.
In late October 1913, the race Jíloviště - Ritka was held in which the Indian also appeared. It was a machine imported by Mr. V. Chlad from Paris and ridden by Mr. B. Kabrna who also won the race. What would I tell further? On November 16, 1913, I remember that day like it was yesterday, I was taking my first Indian from the Chlad family in Rybna street in Prague. I added something in cash to my good NSU and I paid back the rest from the sales of pneumatic hammers. For this business, I was riding on my own Indian which also allowed me a quicker repayment. Here, I first learned to earn by doing business.
fantastic photo of Ing. Marik with his first Indian
Since Palecek company did not have - because of the high purchase cost of the machine and a small sales prospects - its demonstration motorcycle, I willingly showed my own Indian to prospective buyers. By this I helped several purchases to be made and I learned how to demonstrate, offer and treat with the prospective buyers and above all I could still talk about my happiness, my joy, my Indian.
After returning from the World War, in which I was a heavy motorcade commander on the eastern front for three years and a commander of large military garages in Prague with a staff of about 550 men for the last year, I was not very interested in a white-collar job. I wanted to become independent. Of course, I remembered the Indians. I learned from Mr. Palecek that he was not interested in the representation of the Indian brand. I therefore established a contact with The Hendee Manufacturing Co. in Springfield that manufactured Indians and which was later renamed the Indian Motocycle Co. I obtained their general representation in June 1919 and as a general agent I ordered the first four Indians with sidecars. However, I received these machines after a year, in July 1920. As a result of the then post-war chaos the crates with Indians were mistakenly assigned to shipment to Slovakia. I discovered them after a very long, almost a detective search in a railway depot in Bratislava. I let all the crates shipped to Prague, except for one single motorcycle. I immediately assembled it and at about 1 p.m. I started my way to Prague as a happy father with a found son. Protecting a new machine and riding economically, I arrived after 10 p.m. Only a passionate technician - motorcyclist can understand how I was savouring the ride on that beautiful machine that was gently listening to my every thought. The other machines arrived in about a week, and although one set cost about CZK 66,000, they were sold earlier than we unpacked them. I then exhibited one of these machines at a motor show and there also showed a variety of riding skills such as riding with obstacles, riding with more people "on board", the slowest rides, jumps, artistic riding, etc.
At that time, the general public was strongly biased against motorcycles. Motorcyclists and their machines were then seen as fools who sets off for trip, brakes his machine out of the city, and he then must push it back home. However, I believed that modern motorcycles were preferred means of transport for many practical applications and I saw its business future. When I took over the representation of the Indian brand, my various friends warned me, pointing out that nobody could make a living by motorcycles and that there would be a lot of troubles. However, I firmly believed that by selling reliable motorcycles I provide the general public with a good service, and that if I did my job honestly, "I would also eat." With full vigour and enthusiasm of the early pioneers, I threw myself into work and promotion and managed to, as my friends then said, "plunge the nail into the nation’s head" and convince it that a modern motorcycle was something quite different than that pre-war one which was derisively said to be just a nuisance, not for riding."
The mentioned memories were shortened and slightly modified.
Mr. Chlad, with Daytona racer, in 1921
The general representative of Indian company, Ing. Frantisek Marik, gradually expanded the representation of the Indian brand in the 1920s up to 48 individual sales representatives throughout Czechoslovakia. The sales of Indian motorcycles were rising by the tens and hundreds of pieces, mostly of the Indian Scout model. Besides his activity in Czechoslovakia, Ing. Marik was also a general representative of this brand for Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. In total, Ing. Marik imported more than 5,000 Indian motorcycles (the one thousandth in 1925), out of which around 4,000 pieces were sold in Czechoslovakia. In addition to that, on a smaller scale and at different times he also sold Neracar, Cleveland, Zenith-Bradshaw, Humber, Jawa, DKW and Diamant motorcycles, Amilcar, Berliet, Bugatti and Stutz cars, Elto outboard motors and various motoring accessories. The fact that Ing. Marik "plunged the nail into the nation’s head" via Indian motorcycles was proven by frequent reactions of contemporary witnesses at an earlier search for the history of motorcycles in our country, for who the word "Indian" was the designation for all the old motorcycles.
He started with his shop and service in 1920 in Prague's district Letna, then Skroupova street (now Zajicova street). In 1924, he added another sales space in the Terminus Hotel at Prague's main railway station to his store in Letna.
"Indian house" - dealership headquarters in Prague
Regional dealership of Mr. Moravec
Indian advertising stand during fair in 1922
During 1926, he invested considerable finances and generously reconstructed a large building in Smichov in Prague. In his new Prague dealership of the Indian brand at Nadrazni street no. 46 (now Nadrazni no. 76) in Smichov, called "the Indian House", Ing. Marik built a perfect pre-sales and after-sales service. He introduced order and instalment sales and the customers who bought the Indian motorcycle had free inspections guaranteed (every Tuesday), facilitated by discounted accommodation in his own Indian House Hotel for riders outside Prague.
Since 1922 he began to publish the "Motorcycle” magazine, later renamed to "Motor", and he further projected promotional and motoring films in the Indian House. As one of the first, in 1927 he introduced a motoring swap meet of used vehicles focused mainly on motorcycles. The thoroughness and organizational skills of Ing. Marik and the range of services provided to customers are proven by the structure of his company, which was divided into the following departments: sales, warehouse, electrical engineering, administrative, financial, technical issues, promotion, workshop, photographic and film, and hotel with a restaurant, and magazine. Besides the Motorcycle magazine, he published special "Indian News" as the equivalent of the US factory newsletter, in our case for the Czech-speaking customers. This newsletter was free for owners of Indian motorcycles and for CZK 1 for the others.
Czechoslovak edition of "Indian news", Ing. Marik on the coverphoto
Mr. Marik and regional dealers "teambuilding"
distribution of "Motocykl" magazine published by Ing. Marik
He intensively promoted motorcycling of all kinds. Initially he raced on Indians himself including his participation in artistic riding or riding shows. For a considerable amount of money, he brought many famous factory specials with the capacity of 350, 500, 750 and 1000 cc, which achieved many successes in the 1920s in uphill races, competitions, on road circuits, speedway races and when attempting to break the national speed record. Marik’s ride almost to the top of Snezka mountain at 1600 meters above sea level in 1921 was commented by a contemporary press as an excellent sports performance (see pics at the very end of article).
Ing. Marik with a team of distance race riders
Czech racer and sportsman captain Kucka
Mr. Zdenek Pohl flat tracking one of the Czechoslovak Daytonas
Mr. Tichy on a 500cc OHV racer
Mr. Pohl going for a win of 1st "Golden helmet" race in 1929, on a famous 45ci OHV "Altoona" racer
one of the promotional movies Ing Marik brought to Czechoslovakia. The original cumbustable tape is still with us.
one of the promotional movies Ing Marik brought to Czechoslovakia. The original cumbustable tape is still with us.
Due to his generous and patronal nature, Ing. Marik was affected by a major economic crisis in the early 1930s, more than other motorcycle importers, and he never fully recovered in business terms from the subsequent decline. From 1932 to 1933, although in decline and under receivership (he owed CZK 500 000 to creditors), he still produced and offered radio receivers of his own production, reduced the price of petrol at the Indian House petrol station in order to increase the sales and focused on selling various components. According to contemporary witnesses, the main causes of the decline of Ing. Frantisek Marik’s company were his small business caution, uncollectibility of receivables from customers with instalment sale, a large increase in duties on imported machines and parts, and too large range of activities of this company. Finally, the related nervous tension caused psychological problems to Ing. Marik which lead to his short-term withdrawal from reality and immersion in his own imaginary world.
Another delivery for police dpt. in Prague
In 1933-34, due to the initiative of his son Ing. Milos Marik, a new company Ing. Frantisek and Milos Marik was founded which was trying to resume the importation of new models of Indian motorcycles. At the same time, the older models Scout 101 from 1930 and 1931 were still sold. However, in terms of figures of sold motorcycles this representation was insignificant and the sale of radio parts and manufacture and sale of transformers became its main activities. The original Ing. F. Marik company did not disappear but its main activity is performed under the auspices of a new company Ing. F. + M. Marik. Well after 1933, this company was continuously presented on new brochures of motorcycles up to the models for 1948, even though their import was not mostly implemented. Officially, both companies ceased to exist in the early 1950s by their deletion from the court register ex officio after the additional confirmation from Ing. Miloš Marik that the companies were no longer operated.
In 1946, the Auto magazine published short information that the Indian company was extending the mutual relationship with Ing. Frantisek Marik as a general importer of Indian motorcycles for Czechoslovakia. Furthermore, this information indicates that in the spring 1946 the importation of Chief 1200 models was prepared and 750 cc and 1,260 cc four-cylinder engine models in the future. This is probably unverified information because there is no known post-war import of Indian motorcycles provided by Ing. Marik and commercial models 750 and four-cylinder engine models were not produced after the war.
Despite the sad stage of his life after the bankruptcy of his own company, the person of Ing. Frantisek Marik is among the greats of the beginnings of motorization in Czechoslovakia, not only as a model of avid businessman and sportsman, but also a man who laid the foundations for professional motoring journalism. He raised some editors who then worked successfully in major magazines Motor Revue, Auto, Motor, etc. At the end of his life he published his memories in the Motor Revue magazine where he also published the series of "Short Instructions for Riders." At that time, he performed the function of a court expert in the field of road accidents. On May 7, 1948, he died of heart failure. We honour his memory - as evidenced by a number of laudatory obituaries published after his death, and keeping the tradition of the famous Indian machines in our country.
However, the death of Ing. Frantisek Marik did not mean the end of a specialized care for Indian machines: The service of pre-war machines was further provided by a number of former regional servicemen and retailers, some of the mechanics of his defunct workshops (e.g. P. Krajhanzl in Letná) and other experts in repairing vehicles, even though they were no longer sole traders. In Prague, the service and trade with Indian motorcycles was mostly dealt with B. Tichy company. A colleague and a Czech collector Milan Vlcek remembers that his father-in-law Jaroslav Tichy had spare parts as a former sales representative of the Indian brand in Kromeriz even in the early 1960s. Milan Vlcek further states: “At that time, the veteran movement was at the beginning and these motorcycles were regarded as an old piece of junk, old-fashioned, with high consumption, without rear suspension, with manual shifting, foot clutch etc. Even the sidecars were not in. People were massively cancelling their registration, scrapped them - in the best case they remained somewhere in a barn, if they were not taking up space. I think that Indians stopped riding especially at a time when a tax on motor vehicles by capacity was introduced (between 1964 and 1974). For Indian 600 cc, it was CZK 400 which was big money at that time (author note: a statutory insurance was also paid besides this tax). I did not know anyone in Kromeriz who was riding around the city on Indian at that time. But it was the fate of most of the pre-war motorcycles. Modern Jawa and CZ were a big competition. Those who longed for a powerful motorcycle could already buy Jawa 500 OHC and Norton ES2 or Matchless G80 after 1960."
Gradually, due to the lack of spare parts, but also to improve the archaic appearance of Indian motorcycles, a number of them was modernized often using non-original parts. Parts used for repairs were often from different periods of production, so in terms of the veteran movement it is necessary to use contemporary literature and current manuals in order to achieve the originality of machines by the year of manufacture. Great help from the 1980s was a new opportunity to use the services of brand specialists - renovators of motorcycles including the development of shortage parts production. During the 1990s it was possible to increasingly buy parts from abroad. Nowadays, the import of complete Indian machines from the entire period of their production is common.
Compared to Harley Davidson brand Indian did not have its branded club in Czechoslovakia, so the fans of these motorcycles often used the opportunity to participate in events organized by HD clubs in Czechoslovakia. A certain turning point came in 2001 when it was 100 years since the production of the first Indian motorcycle. In connection with this anniversary, the national meetings and drives of Indian supporters started to be organized, mainly with foreign participation. The person most involved in this area is Jan Pestal Sr., the organizer of the annual June "All Indians Weekend", later together with his son Jan junior. These meetings showed the difference in the structure of the surviving Indian motorcycles at home and abroad. The participants from the Czech Republic and Slovakia came especially on machines made before 1931 - mostly Scout types, the foreigners mostly on Chief models produced after 1940.
As a further important step necessary for developing cooperation with other national Indian clubs and for mutual support the "Indian Motocycle Club CZ, z.s.“ (IMC-CZ) was founded in 2014 with a nationwide activity. This is a brand club which is open to all fans of the Indian brand, whether they have their own machine or they just support it.
At the end of this extensive, but – as we believe – interesting story and article, we would like to invite you to All Indians Weekend meeting, which will be held 19.6.2020-21.6.2020. Feel free to make a registration and/or contact organisers at www.a-i-w.cz. You will be very welcomed!
collective of authors
Journey to Snezka, highest point of The Czech Republic
1x Indian Power Plus (rider Ing. Marik)
2x Indian Scout 37ci