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Please help. Purchased 1939 Indian Four. Authenticating the serial number. This is what it looks like.
20190920_091229.jpg
ating Engine and Frame.
 

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found a reference pic online of an unrestored 1939, looks different, no letter, pronounced capital I, and has a dash
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Beautiful bike there, congrats.

To my eye, and based on experience with old H-D cases, the real tell there is the height of the boss. It looks like the one you've got there has been ground down to get rid of a serial number, and another one stamped on it. That will affect the value to a collector, how much is an open question and depends on the buyer. Doesn't necessarily mean anything malicious is going on though. Sometimes these things were done for perfectly legitimate reasons (under the rules and laws of the times), and sometimes they were done "on the sly". The legal problem is that NOW, you are operating under current laws and if someone (law enforcement) determines that your numbers are questionable your bike could be impounded and you would have to PROVE, to the satisfaction of the law enforcement agency involved, that it is legit. Due to the prevalence of stolen H-D bikes many law enforcement agencies have had in depth training in spotting questionable numbers on old Harleys and don't hesitate to use it. What you do have going for you though, is that most have no idea about those details on Indians.
 

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Purchased this today from an elderly gentleman near DesMonies, IA. Have title, he had it registered and owned it since 1983. Parked it in his living room 5 years ago and its been there ever since (until today). Frame looks to be a 38, chassis stamp starts with 438 instead of 439.

00x0x_b7QDrGdgkd8_1200x900.jpg
 

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Thanks for the quick response. Whizzbang. Was typing another post when you answered. Already made the purchase and paid nearly full market, but did buy it for me to ride, so as long as I can get it state inspected and titled, should be ok.
 

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It seems legite with the DCI designation, but I would call Bob Stark or Kiwi Indian. They can tell you if it is legite I am sure...
 

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thanks pablo94. This is stressing me out.
I wouldn't stress it brother. John Law has better things to do than come look at the stamp on your engine case. Laws vary state to state so you'll want to check what yours are. I'd ask Mr Google not the DMV. Most states register or title (some don't issue titles for old bikes) based on the frame serial number instead of the engine one. If it is titled transfer is usually no problem and I would just do it like everything's fine and not question anything. The DMV doesn't know what serial number 438xxx means.

I'm not familiar enough with Four cases to say with any certainty that's a re-stamp. '40's Chiefs have a more pronounced pad that is machined flat. Yours has rounded edges. I would think if it was ground down to re-stamp there would be a sharper edge than yours on the pad. Indian used different stamp sets at various times. My question would be on the 3rd digit. A '39 would be "I" and a '38 would be "H". That almost looks like a "1" but could just be the particular stamp set used or the stamp was leaned left when punched. It also could be a '39 engine in a '38 frame. Engine swaps are not uncommon. It doesn't affect the value that much and really only matters if you're going for a 100 point bike. I sold a '47 Chief last year that had no serial stamped on the case which indicates a replacement case at a dealer back in the day. I had zero problems with title, registration, or sale here in PA.

The 438 frame stamp would certainly indicate it's a 1938. It's not uncommon to see them titled for the year they were sold rather than the model year. It happens sometimes. Things were different back then.

I think most likely is that third digit is an H, it's not re-stamped, and you have 1938 that is titled or registered as a 1939. I wouldn't sweat that at all.

The 1938-1939 Indians were some of the best looking bikes ever produced. Your's is a beautiful machine. Good luck with it.
 

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Thanks, while getting title work done want to start getting it startable after sitting inside (climate controlled) house for 5 years. Any thoughts or gotcha's will help here. Obvious are flush fuel tank/lines, carb, points, wires/spark, crankcase oil, valve sponges, tires and general lube.
 

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The M at the end of the serial was a concern as well. Found out it stood for Magneto. Some bikes have the coil and upright (90 degree) distributor.
 

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Thanks, while getting title work done want to start getting it startable after sitting inside (climate controlled) house for 5 years. Any thoughts or gotcha's will help here. Obvious are flush fuel tank/lines, carb, points, wires/spark, crankcase oil, valve sponges, tires and general lube.
I did a '47 Chief a few years ago that had sat 20+ years in an unheated shed. Most of what I did should translate to yours.

Check and rinse the gas tanks. Mine had rust so I got a wash and seal kit from Greers. Check the head bolts. Mine were loose. I dropped the bowl on the carb and found a mushroom like fungus growing in there. I pulled the plugs and put a little Marvel Mystery oil in each cylinder (don't go crazy with it) then hand cranked it. Waited a couple days and repeated. I filed and gapped the points but you should have a magneto. Check the timing. Clean or replace the spark plugs. Check for wet sumping. On a Chief there's 2 drain plugs just below the front of the primary. The top one comes out to drain any excess oil in the bottom of the case. I don't know if a four has them in the same location. Change the oil. Mine looked like green pond scum. After a 100 miles I changed it again. Check the nuts at the bottom of the jugs for looseness. Rest of the bike: check all the nuts and bolts for tightness. Look for anything obvious in the wiring. Check tires for age cracking. If the chain is properly lubed it should look dry but a few drops here and there of 3in1 doesn't hurt. Check chain for too much slack. Check headlight aim. Point it a wall from about 8' and mark the wall with tape where the center of the beam is. Measure up to the headlight. Should be centered side to side and just barely pointing down.

Now you have to determine the cold starting procedure. Each bike has it's own quirks but here's how I start mine. Prime: Bike in neutral, clutch engaged, gas on, throttle full open, choke full closed, ignition off, give it one or two prime kicks, close the throttle, open the choke a notch and give it another prime kick. Open the choke another notch, roll the throttle about a quarter, roll the spark about half, ignition on, and kick. A well tuned bike should start on the first or second kick. The first time you start it should be outside as it will smoke like crazy for a couple minutes burning off the MMO. Start when warmed up: leave the gas petcock closed, roll the throttle about a quarter, roll the spark about a third, kick. Once started roll the spark back and turn the gas on (keeps it from flooding). If you're like the rest of us you'll realize you forgot to open the gas once you start down the road lol.

A few tips. Always warm it up before riding and work the choke the rest of the way open as it's warming. After a few minutes remove the oil cap and make sure there is oil coming out of the return line. It's not a stream - more a soft flow in spurts. It's a crashbox. The first time you shift into first after starting it will grind gears - normal. Do it this way. Once warmed closed the throttle to idle. Slowly roll the spark until the engine slows to just about stall. Disengage the clutch, pull the shifter sharply into second then sharply into first. Roll the spark back. Always use regular gas. High test burns too hot for that old soft metal. Don't use oil with a lot of detergent or additives. If you don't have one the first thing you should buy is the Indian Riders handbook. You will stall it - a lot, until you get used to the foot clutch. This all may sound complicated but once you ridden a while it will all seem normal and you'll never have so much fun riding a motorcycle.

If you haven't already join the AMCA (antiquemotorcycle.org) and get on the forum. There's guys there with Fours that know way more than I do and they'd be happy to help you out.
 
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