Friday, May 26, 2017

Royal Enfield WD/CO is a messenger from WWII era

Royal Enfield Model WD/CO was built for World War II.
There's a very pretty wartime Royal Enfield WD/CO motorcycle for sale on CraigsList near Santa Cruz, Calif.

The ad includes a link to a fun and informative video of a ride along the California coast that illustrates what it's like to pilot this veteran.

Is this Royal Enfield an actual war veteran? Hard to say, since the post-war Royal Enfield company and others bought back military motorcycles (some probably never used) and "civilianized" them for sale to customers.

Clever policy: it not only helped meet pent-up demand for transportation, it eliminated war surplus motorcycles as competition.

The seller, Michael, checked the numbers on his machine with Graham Scarth, chairman of the Royal Enfield Owners Club UK. The REOC owns the Redditch factory dispatch ledgers.

Now civilianized, old soldier makes a tidy appearance.
They show that this motorcycle was sent to a War Office depot at Sheffield, West Yorkshire, in October, 1943, as part of a contract for the Royal Air Force.

The motorcycle is not listed among those bought back by Royal Enfield after the war, Graham wrote. So someone else civilianized it.

Michael calls the motorcycle just "mechanically restored," since it differs in intriguing ways from period photos of Royal Enfield WD/CO motorcycles. ("CO" stood for the 350cc single-cylinder overhead valve Royal Enfield bought in large numbers by the War Department.)

The frame and motor numbers match.

"Some have noted the front wheel hub is not original and a few have argued about the transmission, though I don't have any definitive info on that," Michael wrote me in an email. "I do have a spare transmission that looks more like most photos of the war bikes..."

"The color origin is unknown.  Original, if it was delivered for war use, was likely chalky blue, for RAF (not olive green for the more common Army bikes)."

Gearbox is linked to hand-shift mechanism.
Whatever the transmission is — it's not the Burman gearbox fitted to some WD/CO motorcycles in place of the more usual Royal Enfield unit — it has an unusual hand-shift mechanism.

"Riding with the hand shift is much easier and safer for me since 45 years of muscle memory in left-foot shifting and right-foot braking could be disastrous in a fast-reaction situation," Michael wrote.

"The hand shifting presents enough of environment-shift to scramble the muscle memory and cause me, the rider, to think before each action.

"The jump from first to second gear is very tall.

"The bike is very fun to ride and surprisingly comfortable and well-behaved in the corners.

"Here is a video of the bike in its process of restoration to its inaugural ride to Alice's Restaurant."

Friday, May 19, 2017

1934 Royal Enfield Bullet looks magnificent

Could a Royal Enfield motorcycle look more dashing than this 1934 Bullet?
The rare Royal Enfield pictured here belongs to Frank Martens, of La Palma, one of Spain's Canary islands, off the northwest coast of Africa.

It's a "sloper" (with its cylinder canted forward to enhance the look of speed). The big finned oil tank ahead of the cylinder looks incredibly racy. The dual exhausts (on a single cylinder) are extra showy.

Also rare, in Royal Enfield history, is its four-valve head, a production feature only in the 1930s. The valve gear is exposed.

Frank received this dating information from Graham Scarth, chairman of the Royal Enfield Owners Club UK (the club has the factory ledgers):

"The bike is a 1934 Model LFL (meaning an LF with lights) four-valve, 488cc machine that was dispatched from Redditch on the 13th December, 1933 destined for Real of Tenerife." Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands.

Is headlight that big or is the motorcycle that small?
Graham added that the factory ledger mentioned "Electric Horn," probably a nice feature in those days.

He attached a 1934 catalog illustration showing what the motorcycle would have looked like new.

Today this Royal Enfield displays eight decades of well earned patina. While "fully complete," it doesn't start, Frank wrote.

1934 Royal Enfield Model LF carried the "500 Bullet" name.
"I am a German, living on La Palma, a very little island of the Canary Islands," he explained. "The people here told me that a citizen of the island ordered the bike in the year 1933. Then it spent about 70 years on the street, but only on our island. I cannot prove this, but this story was told by older people.

"Then it broke one of the tappets and the bike was sold to a German doctor who begins to rebuild the bike. With the help of a lathe shop they finished a new tappet, mounted new tires, and replaced the primary and secondary drive.

"The new tappet was not installed, so the bike didn't start. Then the doctor lost interest and forgot the bike for 10 years in a garage with a lot of other bikes.

Brass carburetor. Note the exposed valves to right.
"In the last week I came there to look for a 45-year-old Harley that I wanted to buy and rebuild. When I saw the Bullet I was fascinated and bought the two bikes in a package.

"At the moment, I don't know how I will proceed. Is it better to leave all in this state (original) or is it better to paint and rebuild it? I don't know.

"Maybe I will sell it to people who have better possibilities to restore it perfectly."

Sloper motor and finned crankcase attract the eye.
According to blogger Jorge Pullin, 1933 was the first year for the Royal Enfield Bullet. They were intended to bring excitement to the model line-up.

The dashing "sloper" motors were replaced by upright cylinders in 1936 and Royal Enfield returned to two-valve heads as standard for 1938.

...but those twin exhausts must have sold some bikes, too.
All of which makes this rare Royal Enfield exciting to see.

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