Royal Enfield: 15 things you may not know

Publish Date: 
Oct 29, 2013
By Mike Vaughan

HERE are 15 things you might not know about Royal Enfield.

ALTHOUGH THE ROYAL ENFIELD marque has changed hands a number of times, the brand itself has been in continuous production since 1901, making it the longest continually produced motorcycle brand in the world.

THE BULLET NAME first appeared on three bikes in 1932. The Bullet model debuted at the Earl’s Court show in London in 1948 as a 1949 model of 350cc displacement. The company in 1952 introduced a 500cc version.

ROYAL ENFIELD WAS THE FIRST to introduce cush drive, internal oil tanks and neutral shift finders.

IT ALSO DESIGNED several motorcycles specifically for sidecar duty, and during both World Wars was contracted to build motorcycles for the British army, navy and other branches of the government.

WHILE INDIA, as part of the British Empire, was an existing export market, a closer relationship developed in 1954 when the Indian army ordered 800 350cc Bullets. The bikes had to be ready upon delivery for combat duty in the then-war with Pakistan.

SOON THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT decreed that a variety of products, including motorcycles, should be manufactured in India by Indians. In 1956 Royal Enfield and India’s Madras Motor Co. signed a 49/51 partnership to produce motorcycles in India.

PRODUCTION IN INDIA STARTED in stages, with Royal Enfield initially shipping knockdown units that required assembly. The Madras factory soon began building and assembling frames and ancillary parts. In 1957 tooling for the Bullet was sold to what was then known as Enfield India.

BY THE MID ‘60s Royal Enfield was feeling the pinch caused by Japan’s success in producing and selling reliable, inexpensive machines and thus shut the doors of the Redditch factory in 1967. The rights to the Royal Enfield big twins were sold to Manganese Bronze, who also owned the Norton Villers Group. Afterwards the manufacturing rights passed through several hands, including the Rickman Brothers. British Royal Enfield’s days ended in the early ‘70s.

ENFIELD INDIA soldiered on, producing the 350 cc Bullet. By 1977 Enfield India began exporting to England and other countries, and in 1984 started producing the
500cc Bullet.

IN 1990 EICHER MOTORS, a $1.3 billion automotive concern in India, purchased a 26 percent and then a 60 percent share in Enfield India. (continued)