‘Made like a gun, goes like a bullet’ Happy Birthday Royal Enfield Bullet!
The Royal Enfield Bullet, distinguished elder statesman of motorcycles, is 80 years old in June this year! It’s having a birthday party in the summer over the weekend of the 23rd-24th of June at the Watsonian-Squire works in Blockley, Gloucestershire. If you go along you can see what the modern fuel-injected Royal Enfield Bullet is like and take one out for a test ride!
Bit of History for fans:
Royal Enfield started out as The Enfield Cycle Company making motorcycles, bicycles, Lawnmowers, engines and even rifle parts for the Royal Small Arms factory in Enfield. It was licensed by the crown to use the name Royal Enfield in 1890. Its logo is a cannon because of its early links with weapons manufacture and this connection is reflected in its slogan ‘made like a gun goes like a bullet’ .
Royal Enfield motorcycles then just got better and better: in 1910 the first of the famous Enfield V-twins appeared with Enfield's own engine. During World War I, the 6hp models were fitted with sidecars and saw active service– the factory which had once produced rifle parts was back in war!
Throughout the 1920s lots were manufactured from small two-strokes to large side valves, until In 1932, came the happy event and the first Bullet 500cc single, with exposed four-valve rocker gear and inclined engine, was born!
The Bullet was already proving to be a great bike - In 1948 at the international 6 days trial two Bullet riders won gold medals and the bike’s beautiful, strong and practical design drew everyone’s attention, including the Indian Army who began to order the 350cc model for use on border patrol. The bike was so good that Enfield India opened a factory in Chennai (formerly Madras) where they at first assembled the bikes from kits and then went on to make complete bikes under licence. The bike was such a hit in India that the 1955 model was manufactured almost unchanged for years at a rate of 20,000 a year. Between 1956 and 1960 several new models of the Bullet were released from the British factory in Redditch with lots of technical improvements including a 350 cc Trials "works replica" version, a 350 cc "Clipper" model and in 1958 the Airflow version. This model was comfortable with full weather protection from a large fibreglass fairing and included panniers for touring. The 350 cc model continued in production, but the 500 cc model was discontinued in 1961. In 1962, the UK company was sold and the Bullet discontinued in Britain. 1970, Royal Enfield closed down completely in the UK.
Luckily for Bullet lovers though, production of the Bullet, with a few variations, continues to this day in India and we now import them back! This bike is unique! It has been in continuous production, one way or another, since its birth in 1932, a great survivor and both vintage and modern at the same time! It is a testimony to its original design and engineering roots. Happy Birthday to you Bullet have a great day and many happy returns!
Strange but true:
- Royal Enfield had a contract to supply bikes to the Imperial Russian Army in WW1
- Some Royal Enfield Bullets were fitted with sidecars in WW2 and used as ambulances
- During WW2 Royal Enfield produced a 125 cc lightweight motorcycle that could be dropped (in a parachute fitted cage) from planes called the Flying Flea – would need more than an umbrella that day!!
- The Indian Army Motorcycle display team ‘Daredevils’ are equipped with Royal Enfield Bullets
- The bike is so loved in India that it is often featured on special government issued stamps and first day covers
- The new Bullet has an all aluminium engine to meet emissions legislation so it is still right up to date
Royal Enfield Website: http://www.royal-enfield.com/