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Friday, September 10, 2010

Royal Enfield Interceptor is better than ever

Don McMahan has had his 1967 Royal Enfield Interceptor since 1971 — except for three years, when it was stolen from him.

He got it back and made it better than ever with the help of Royal Enfield guru George Helm, of Pease, Minn. Here's the story McMahan tells:

"I bought it used when I fried the clutch on my new Honda 750 on a sand road. Convinced my banker that the loan of another $700 was worth it so he wouldn't see me go nuts in the remaining weeks of our short Minnesota summer.

"It was stolen from me in the mid '70s, out of my sight for three years. Then one snow melting, spring day a Minneapolis police officer got curious about a fellow unable to kick start a motorcycle between the snow drifts in a city alley.

"Turned out that the license plate was registered to a Honda; curious cop knew that this was not a Honda. I had to pay the towing charge and impound fee!

"(The late) George Helm overhauled and rebuilt the engine for me between 1985 and 1987. George took his and my time, but it still starts with one kick, idles, etc. Good thing too, because it is a leg breaker to kick over. George had a touch for building honkers.

"I've been in fiberglass all my working life, so there are many modifications, improvements to original parts, when I could construct a mold and fabricate a part that filled the space and did the job better.

"I'm from Lino Lakes, Minn. George Helm was a legend in these parts with a lot of people. He sold and worked on any British and other machinery, but had a real soft spot for Enfields. When I first met him in 1985 his wife said, 'You know he's retired now.' The problem was George never knew he was retired.

"Correctly, this is a 1967 Series 1A, GP7 Roadracer. You will note that it has the TT exhaust. George said that back in the day, dealers would swap out any parts the buyer wanted to get the sale. I believe that this bike came from the West. The original monoblocs were jetted for mountain air when I first bought it in 1971 and boy did it run rich. Also originally there was no air cleaner, just wide open velocity stacks.

"At the time George rebuilt the engine he put in an electronic ignition; later we added the Amal Mk 1 1/2 carburetors (no flooding) and a Triumph Trident air filter between a fiberglass housing that I built. I built the fiberglass battery cover, fiberglass battery carrier (designed to hold a larger battery), and fiberglass tail light housing/bracket to replace the original, which was destroyed in a mild rear ender.

"George provided the NOS rear fender after that accident; there just aren't any of those around. Other updates are the correctly shrouded Hagon shocks and Avon tires. And, of course the tank got the proper chrome side panels, badges and knee rubbers. George came to my rescue again, tapping out the screw holes in the tank that had been filled with bondo in the '70's, so I could mount the panels and badges.

Back in the day, about 1973.

"As bought in 1971 the gas tank had the yellow faded-to-orange paint with the barely visible webbing, all under 40 coats of lacquer. The brothers I bought it from did the paint and were so proud of it that they couldn't bring themselves to put the red lettered decals that they had bought from the dealer on the tank. The first day I rode it some guy asked me, 'How old a Norton is that?' The decals went on the tank the next morning.

"When I got it in '71 I went to the old dealer in the twin cities, who was still very much in business, bellied up to the parts counter demanding a stock air cleaner. They still had a new 1970 Interceptor (last year of production) on their sales floor, and proudly pointed out to me that they came from the factory with no air cleaner; that's the way there meant to run, thank you.

"You can see that I had put air cleaners on the monoblocks by '73 and replaced the stock saddle with a solo and pillion cushion. Oh, and I was responsible for the gold paint on the frame; the '70's — yikes.

"I had painted the Interceptor with spray cans out of the rack at three local auto parts store in the '80s. There was a little of the original Enfield blue left on the underside and I found a General Motors color called Mariner Blue metallic that was very close to the British paint.

"I just repainted this year, spray cans again, but that color is no longer in the racks. The color I chose was the closest I could find — it is a slightly bluer tint with less green in it."

Addendum: McMahan had this interesting piece of information to add:

"Another minor detail that I left out is the reason I had to buy the Interceptor to make it through the summer of 1971. The blown clutch on my new Honda was covered under warranty, however there was a longshoreman's strike on the west coast. No Honda parts were getting through the work stoppage. The dealer's service department was accommodating, but they couldn't begin to guess when parts might be available to fix the four cylinder Honda.

"I had always lusted over those little, black and white ads that Royal Enfield had in the back pages of Cycle World. Just at the right time, I heard from a friend that there was a used Royal Enfield for sale for about half of what I'd paid (I should really say, owed the bank) for that Honda, and my banker was very understanding.

"He even left his desk a couple of times to walk out to his parking lot and survey his two wheeled investments when I'd ride in after work on Friday to deposit my check and make payments on my loans. Small town banks were just as different as the motorcycles are from today's in 1971."


5 comments:

  1. I want to buy an Interceptor bike, can someone please help me out. I am from New Delhi, India. My email ID is kailcom at yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. PLEASE, I WOULD LIKE TO BUY ANY ROYAL ENFIELD INTERCEPTOR TWIN. CALL ANY TIME, RANDY AT 805-217-2644, THANKX.

    ReplyDelete
  3. LOOKING TO PURCHASE A 1968 THRU 1970 ROYAL ENFIELD INTERCEPTOR MOTORCYCLE. WILL PAY YOUR PRICE. NOT A TIME WASTER. PLEASE CALL JOHN FINCH AT 661-946-3270

    ReplyDelete
  4. I HAVE TWO ROYAL ENFIELD INTERCEPTOR MOTORCYCLES. THE FIRST IS A 1968-1/2 MK 1A. THIS BIKE IS UNRESTORED ORIGIONAL PATINA AND RUNNING SWEET. IT NOW HAS 4000 PLUS MILES ON IT AND IT IS SWEET AND COMFORTABLE. MY SECOND ROYAL ENFIELD IS A 1970 CLYMER INDIAN ENFIELD 750 TWIN. I BROUGHT IT AS A BASKET CASE WITH A FRAME, ENGINE REAR WHEEL AND GRIMECA REAR BRAKE. THATS ALL. I WILL BUILD IT TO CAFE SPECKS. NEED PARTS. ANY HELP IS GREATLY APPRECIATED. PLEASE CALL KIRK ANY TIME AT 805-217-2644. THANK YOU.

    ReplyDelete
  5. HI. I WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY ROYAL ENFIELD MK 1 THRU ANY MK11. ANY CONDITION IS PERFECT. FROM BASKET CASE TO A COMPLETE RESTORED MOTORCYCLE. PLEASE CALL MIKE AT 818-703-6346. THANK YOU.

    ReplyDelete

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