History of Royal Enfield Motorcycles
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In 1851,a businessman named George Townsend put up a needle making mill in Hunt End, Redditch. His firm was named “Givry Works”. After George Townsend died, his son George Jr. and his half brother brought into Givry Works and made a crude bicycle. It had an iron backbone, wooden wheels, iron tyres and pedals of triangular pieces of wood. The bike was a source of some amusement. But George Jr. and his team felt that they could easily improve on it. By 1880, the earliest modern safety bicycle with two wheels of equal size had appeared. All manufacturers including George Jr. were trying their hand at this new venture. By luck, George Jr. invented a saddle that used only one length of wire in the two springs and in the frame work. This was adopted, patented and marketed as the “Townsend Cyclists Saddle And Springs”. He had entered the bicycle parts trade. From bicycle parts, Townsend slowly moved on producing bicycles himself. The Townsend cycles were reputed for their sturdy frame, a character that all Enfield bikes followed. Givry Works was growing rapidly.
After getting into some financial trouble, financiers appointed R.W. Smith & Albert Eadie to take control in November 1891. The following year the company was rechristened as “The Eadie Manufacturing Company Ltd”. Soon after this, the company got a large contract to supply precision rifle parts to the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield, Middlesex. In celebration of this, they called their new bicycle the “Enfield”. A new company was created to market these new design bicycles called “The Enfield Manufacturing Co. Ltd”, in October 1892. The next year, the word “Royal” (after the Royal Small Arms Factory) was added to the company name and thus the Royal Enfield began. Their trademark, “Made Like A Gun” appeared in 1893.
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 (1 kW) engine above the front wheel. In 1902 a similar contraption appeared with an Enfield engine of 239 cc 2.75 hp (2 kW).
In 1910 came the first of the famous Enfield V-twins, first with Motosacoche 344 cc 2.75 hp (2 kW) 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.
During the first world war Royal Enfield were called on to supply motorcycles to the British War department and also for the Imperial Russian Government.
The year 1924 saw the launch of the first Enfield four-stroke 350cc single using a JAP engine. In 1928, Royal Enfield adopted saddle tanks and centre-spring girder front forks, one of the first companies to do so. The bikes now with a modern appearance and comprehensive range, meant continuous sales even during the dark days of depression in Great Britain towards the end of 1930. In 1927 Royal Enfield produced a 488cc with a four speed gear box, a new 225cc side valve bike in 1928, and a four-stroke single in 1931. Several machines were produced in the next decade, from a tiny two stroke 146cc Cycar to an 1140cc V-twin in 1937. Royal Enfield’s range of bikes for 1930 consisted of 13 models.
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. The most well known offering for the Second World War was no doubt the ‘Flying Flea’. Also known as the ‘Airborne’, this light weight 125cc bike was capable of being dropped by parachute with airborne troops. The Enfield Cycle Company was called upon by the British authorities to also manufacture a variety of special instruments and apparatus to use against enemy forces, so it was not bikes alone during the war years. In 1931, a four-valve, single-cylinder was introduced and christened “Bullet” in 1932. It had an inclined engine and an exposed valve gear. It was then that the first use was made of the now famous Bullet name.
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.
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 end design.
The new swing arm 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 babbitt bearings were fitted, and were used on all subsequent vertical twins.
In 1958 the Ministry of defence sold the Westwood underground quarry factory to Royal Enfield. They had been involved in the production of secret weapons and high precision war machinery, manufacturing in the quarry since 1940.
Then in 1962 the Enfield Cycle Company was purchased by E & HP Smith, who also owned Alpha Bearings. By 1967, only one machine was still in production, the Interceptor, but only the engine was manufactured in the Westwood quarry. This was uneconomical, so the large Redditch factory was sold and the complete production system moved to Westwood. At the same time, an agreement between Norton Villiers and E & HP Smith turned over production of the Interceptor to Norton Villers. But, because of certain difficulties, another agreement transferred the marketing rights back to the Enfield company. The third manufacturer involved in the story is Veloce Ltd, who purchased the complete spares and service department.
Production slowed right down, machines were only assembled by half a dozen skilled men.
The 500 cc Bullet engine produced 25 bhp (19 kW) at 5,250 rpm while torque peaked at 29 lb?ft (39 N?m) @ 3,600 rpm, From 2,000 rpm onwards torque did not fall below 25 lb?ft (34 N?m) 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).
In 1981, Burton Bike Bits acquired the remaining factory stocks and tooling from Aerco Jig and Tool. These stocks still remain with Burton Bike Bits. Despite this, Mr Holder of Aerco Jig and Tool retained the rights to the name. Burton Bike Bits still carry a huge range of Royal Enfield Parts
In recent years Enfield India have claimed to own the name. There has been a long legal dispute between them and Aerco Jig and Tool (Royal Enfield). There is also still an older dispute between Manganese Bronze and Enfield India which relates to a similar matter.
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For Details on the Royal Enfield Interceptor see ourInterceptor registry and Information Pages.