Midlands Royal Enfield - A Brief History of Royal Enfield Motorcycles
The following article is by our webmaster, Paul Mercer, and is from his website
The Royal Enfield
story starts in Redditch with George Townsend and
Company who were manufacturers of sewing needles and machine parts in the 1880s.
Like many manufacturers of the time, they diversified into the bicycle
In 1890, George Townsend and Company was running into financial difficulty
and sought financial backing.
The company was taken over in 1891 by Alfred Eadie and R.W. Smith who created
the Eadie Manufacturing Company in 1892.
George Townsend did not stay with the company.
In 1892, the Eadie company won a contract to supply rifle parts to the Royal Small
Arms factory in Enfield, Middlesex.
In honour of this contract, their bicycle design was to be called the
The Enfield bicycles were announced to the public in October 1892 and were
marketed by the newly formed Enfield Manufacturing Company Ltd.
The word "Royal" was added in 1893 and the company slogan "Made Like A Gun" came
later that same year.
By 1899, Royal Enfield were producing tricycles and quadricycles powered by De
They also experimented with a Minerva engine fitted to the front
downtube of a strong bicycle frame.
Enfield built their first motorcycle in 1901 with a 239cc engine.
In 1904, Enfield stopped motorcycle production in favour of the motor car
The Enfield Autocar Company was formed, however this ran into difficulty and in
1907 went into liquidation.
The 'Alldays & Onions Pneumatic Engineering Co.' of Birmingham took over the
assets and began manufacturing the Enfield-Allday automobile.
The cycle factory was taken over by Birmingham Small Arms
Royal Enfield revived their interest in motorcycles in 1910 when they introduced a
machine with a 344cc Swiss Motosacoche V-Twin engine.
In 1912, the Royal Enfield Model 180 sidecar combination was introduced with a 770cc
V-twin JAP engine.
The 180 was successful in the Isle of Man TT Races and also at
In 1913, a 3hp 425cc V-Twin solo machine was introduced.
These were reduced to 350cc for racing at Brooklands and the Isle of Man.
On the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 Royal Enfield supplied large
numbers of motorcycles to the British War Department.
They also won a motorcycle contract for the Imperial Russian Government.
They used their own 225cc two-stroke single and 425cc
They also produced an 8hp motorcycle sidecar model fitted with a Vickers machine
In 1921, Royal Enfield developed a new 976cc twin.
In 1924, they launched a four-stroke 350cc single using a
In 1928, Royal Enfield began using the bulbous 'saddle' tanks and centre-spring
girder front forks, one of the first companies to do so.
The company struggled through the depression years of the 1930s and were
running at a loss.
They did survive and 1934 saw the introduction of the Bullet in 250cc, 350cc and
During World War II, Royal Enfield was called upon by the
British Government to develop and manufacture motorcycles for military use.
The models produced were the WD/C 350cc sidevalve, WD/CO 350cc OHV, WD/D 250cc SV,
WD/G 350cc OHV and WD/L 570cc SV.
The WD/RE, a lightweight 125cc motorcycle known as the Flying Flea, was designed
to be dropped by parachute with airborne troops.
After the war, the 350cc Bullet was reintroduced with a redesigned
The Bullet featured a swinging arm rear suspension system with
hydraulic damper units.
In 1947, Royal Enfield made the J2 model with telescopic front
In 1948, a 500cc twin was produced which stayed in production until
From the 1950s to mid 1960s, several 250cc Royal
Enfield machines were produced.
The best selling of these was the Royal Enfield Crusader, a 248cc pushrod OHV single
producing 18 bhp.
The Crusader Super 5 was added to the range in 1962.
There was a 250cc Trials model.
Another variant was the 250 "Turbo Twin", fitted with the Villiers 247cc twin
cylinder two-stroke engine.
There was also the 250 Clipper which used trailing-link front suspension. The
other 250cc models had conventional telescopic forks.
In 1965, the 21 bhp GT Continental was introduced featuring a GRP tank,
five-speed gearbox, clip-on handlebars and rearset footrests.
It sold well with its "cafe racer" looks.
Also in the 1950s, several other models were introduced including the 692cc Meteor
twin, the 500 Sports Twin, the 492cc Meteor Minor, the 692cc Super Meteor, the 692cc Constellation and
the 736cc Interceptor.
From 1955 to 1970, 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, a motorcycle manual publisher, was involved, however the venture
was unsuccessful. The largest Enfield "Indian" was 700cc.
In 1958, Royal Enfield purchased the Westwood factory, near
Bradford-on-Avon, from the Ministry of Defence.
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 shipment of Series II Interceptor engines
were stranded at the dock in 1970. These engines had been intended for delivery to Floyd Clymer in the
US, who unfortunately had just died.
Clymer's agents approached the Rickman brothers for frames and a limited
run of Rickman Interceptors were promptly built.
Enfield India (1949–present)
Royal Enfield motorcycles had been sold in India from 1949.
The Indian government chose the 350cc Bullet for its police and army.
In 1955, the Redditch company partnered with Madras Motors in India and 'Enfield
India' was formed to assemble, under licence, the 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle in Madras (now called
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.