Royal Enfield was the brand of
the Enfield Cycle Company, an English engineering company. Most famous for
producing motorcycles, they also produced, amongst other things, bicycles,
lawnmowers, stationary engines, and even rifle parts for the Royal Small Arms
Factory in Enfield. This legacy of weapons manufacture is reflected in the logo,
a cannon, and their motto "built like a gun, goes like a bullet". It also
enabled the use of the brand name Royal Enfield from 1890. In 1955 Enfield of
India started assembling Bullet motorcycles under licence from UK components,
and by 1962 were manufacturing complete bikes. The original Redditch,
Worcestershire - based company dissolved in 1970, but Enfield of India, based in
Chennai, continued, and bought the rights to the Royal Enfield name in 1995.
Royal Enfield production continues.
In the early 1890s Albert Eadie and R.W Smith formed The Eadie manufacturing
company in Hunt End, near Redditch. In 1893 the Enfield Manufacturing Co.Ltd.
was registered to sell the Enfield bicycle, built by the Eadie Company. In 1896
The New Enfield Cycle Co.Ltd. was formed to take over all bicycle activities. In
1897 that became the Enfield Cycle Co.Ltd. Eadie Manufacturing Co. then moved to
other premises, and the whole of the Redditch works became the premises of the
Enfield Cycle Company.
The first automotive vehicles with the Royal
Enfield name were produced in 1898 - a quadricycle with a De Dion-Bouton 2.75 hp
engine. In 1901 came the Motor Bicycle with a 150 cc 1.5 hp engine above the
front wheel. In 1902 a similar contraption appeared with an Enfield engine of
239 cc 2.75 hp.
In 1910 came the first of the famous Enfield
V-twins, first with Motosacoche 344 cc 2.75 hp engines, later with Enfields own
engine. Until World War I the big twins with 770 cc six hp J.A.P. engines and
after WWI 976 cc eight hp Vickers-Wolseley engines. In 1915 came the first of
the small two stroke 225 cc engines, starting with model 200.
The company merged with Alldays & Onions in 1907
and produced cars called Enfield-Allday until 1925.
During the 1920s a mid range of Enfields left the Redditch factory: model 350
(350 cc SV), 351 (350 cc OHV) and 352 (350 cc twinport sports).
In the 1930s there was a large variety of models
from small two strokes to large side valves, from A-Z. A 225 cc two stroke, B
225 cc sv, BO 250 cc ohv Bullet, C 350 cc sv, CO 350 cc ohv, G 350 cc ohv
Bullet, H 488 cc sv, J 488 cc ohv, J2 488 cc two port ohv, K 976 cc sv v-twin, L
570 cc sv, T 148 cc ohv, Z (Cycar) 148 cc two stroke and many more variants.
The first J model appeared in 1930. In 1938 the
two valve J model rockers were enclosed, and the engine became upright.
In 1932, the first Bullet 500 cc single, with
exposed 4 valve rocker gear and inclined engine, was introduced. In 1935 this
changed to three valves. These engines had their integral oil tank in front of
the crankshaft, while post-war Bullet oil tanks were behind the crank. They were
dry sump, the integral tank being separate from the crankshaft space.
Royal Enfield entered a 500 cc Four valve-Racing
model for the Senior TT 1935. This was the last TT Royal Enfield entered.
Despite having entered in the TT from 1911, the factory never managed a first
The 1938 Model K sidevalve V-twin had grown to
1140 cc and was then called KX.
World War Two
During World War II, production changed to motorcycles for the war machine. The
models produced for the military were the WD/C 350 cc sidevalve, WD/CO 350 cc
OHV, WD/D 250 cc SV, WD/G 350 cc OHV, WD/L 570 cc SV and the "Flying Flea" - a
125 cc lightweight motorcycle that was could be dropped (in a parachute fitted
tube cage) from aeroplanes.
After the war the Enfield Cycle Company came back with the last G and J pre-war
models, and the "Flea". In 1947 the Royal Enfield 500 cc Model J was back in
production, but was now fitted with telescopic forks with two-way hydraulic
damping instead of the old pre-war girder forks. The front axle mountings were
offset forward of the fork legs.
In 1948 the J2 model, with 'twin exhaust ports'
and pipes, was released initially for export only. The J2 exhaust port split
into two after the exhaust valve, so the difference was more for appearance.
The post-war J models had a rigid rear frame, and
a four-speed Albion gearbox with an extra lever that the rider could press to
find neutral. This was a simple, solid 499 cc push-rod single with 84 mm bore x
90 mm stroke and a compression ratio of 5.5 to 1. It also used a fully floating
white metal big end, similar to those found in radial aircraft engines, with the
usual felt oil seals, Amal carb, and Lucas magneto ignition. The fully floating
white metal big end could be replaced with an aftermarket caged roller bearing
conversion. By 1950 the compression had been raised to 5.75 to 1, with a claimed
power output of 21 bhp at 4,750 rpm. These were essentially torquey sidecar
In 1949 the first new models were introduced: the
350 cc full sprung Bullet, and a 500 cc twin. The sportier alloy head, swing arm
frame 350 cc Bullet was a sensation. It was the 1954 350 cc Bullet model which
was to be made in India until the present (read further down). In 1953 the 500
cc model appeared, using the same bottom end. After 1956 a new frame was
introduced in the British-made version of the Bullet, making it different from
the 1954 model still being produced in India. The British made version was
manufactured until 1964. The Bullet 350 and 500 also used the fully floating big
The new swingarm frame 500 cc twin of 1949 would
eventually evolve into the Interceptor. The 500's big end had no bearing
inserts, the machined con-rod running directly on the crank pin. In the 1956 700
cc Super Meteor, a development of the 500, conventional babbit bearings were
fitted, and were used on all subsequent vertical twins.
The 500 cc Bullet engine produced 25 bhp at 5,250
rpm while torque peaked at 29 ft·lbf @ 3,600 rpm, From 2,000 rpm onwards torque
did not fall below 25 ft·lbf till beyond 5,300 rpm.
Later models like the 250 cc Crusader (1957) and
700 cc Meteor (1955), were followed by the 250 cc Continental GT (1965), the 700
Constellation (1959), available with Royal Enfield's "Airflow" full fairing, and
the 736 cc Interceptor (1963).
Royal Enfield Interceptor
During the onslaught of the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers in the late
sixties and early seventies, the English factories made a final attempt with the
1962 - 1968, series I and Series II. Made largely for the US market, it
sported lots of chrome and an engine performance with less than 14 seconds to
the quarter mile at speeds well above 175 km/h (105 mph). It became very popular
in the US, but the classic mistake of not being able to supply this demand,
added to the demise of this last English made Royal Enfield.
The Redditch factory ceased production in 1967
and the Bradford-on-Avon factory closed in 1970, which meant the end of the
British Royal Enfield.
After the factory closed a little over 200 Series
II Interceptor engines were stranded at the dock in 1970, originally on their
way to Floyd Clymer in the US, but unfortunately he had just died, and his
export agents, Mitchell's of Birmingham, were left to dispose of them. They
approached the Rickman brothers for a frame, and the Rickman brothers' main
problem had always been engine supplies, so a limited run of Rickman
Interceptors were promptly built.
As far as the motorcycle brand goes though, it
would appear that Royal Enfield is the only motorcycle brand to span three
centuries, and still going, with continuous production. A few of the original
Redditch factory buildings remain (2006) and are part of the Enfield Industrial
From 1955 to 1960 Royal Enfields were painted red, and marketed in the USA as
Indian Motorcycles by the Brockhouse Corporation, who had acquired the rights to
the Indian name after it went under in 1953. Floyd Clymer, of manual fame, was
involved, but Americans were not impressed by the badge engineering, and the
venture was unsuccessful. It was rather ironic that Enfields went 'Indian' in
two different ways. The largest Enfield "Indian" was a 700 cc. The marketing
agreement expired in 1960 and from 1961 Royal Enfields were available in the US,
still through Clymer, but under their own name, up until Clymer's death in 1970.
Royal Enfields had been sold in India from 1949.
In 1955, the Indian government looked for a
suitable motorcycle for its police and army, for use patrolling the country's
border. The Bullet was chosen as the most suitable bike for the job. The Indian
government ordered 800 350 cc model Bullets, an enormous order for the time.
In 1955 the Redditch company partnered Madras
Motors in India in forming 'Enfield India' to assemble, under licence, the 350
cc Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle in Madras (now called Chennai). In 1957
tooling equipment was sold to Enfield India so that they could manufacture
components. The first machines were assembled entirely from components shipped
from England, but by 1962 all components were made in India. The Indian Enfield
uses the 1960 engine (with metric bearing sizes), in the pre-56 design frame.
An independent manufacturer since the demise of
Royal Enfield in England, Enfield India still makes an essentially similar bike
in 350 cc and 500 cc forms today, along with several different models for
different market segments.
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