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Friday, October 21, 2011

Royal Enfield Super Five was too special for 1962

Roy Poynting's Super Five. Terry Joslin Photo.
The Royal Enfield Super Five is the subject of a super story by author and motorcycle journalist Roy Poynting in The Classic Motor Cycle.

Like so many really special and innovative designs in motor vehicle history, the Super Five was too special, too innovative and too expensive to be a success.

"Not for the first time, Royal Enfield lived up to its ‘Built like a gun’ motto, and shot itself in the foot over the styling, cost, and the mechanical details," Poynting recounts. He tells how he restored his 1962 Super Five, gaining an appreciation for what Royal Enfield had in mind, rather than for what it accomplished.

The Super Five was the first British production motorcycle with a five-speed gearbox but that was not the only departure from normal practice:

  • The five-speed transmission and 250cc motor were all one unit, in the advanced format pioneered by the Royal Enfield Crusader.
  • Complex leading-link forks improved handling.
  • The front fender was fixed to the forks instead of the wheel, to reduce unsprung weight.
  • Deep valences on the front fender — so deep they could display the registration number on their flanks — kept road grime off the rider.
  • An extra large nacelle without pilot lights enclosed the entire top of the forks.
  • The tank was large and shiny.
  • The rear of the motorcycle was semi-enclosed for improved weather protection.

The overall effect was ungainly rather than lithe, as a sporting 250cc single should have been. Worse, Enfield painted the original Super Fives gray. Poynting suggests that the color and styling would have sunk the Super Five, even if its price had been competitive. Instead, the price was 30 percent more than the competition.

On top of this, the five-speed gearbox was considered fragile and, on Poynting's machine, was changed to the conventional four gears by a previous owner, a common modification.

One lucky thing, for Poynting, at least: in the midst of restoration he found that his Super Five originally had been a non-standard Peacock Blue. The pleasant color almost — but not quite — saves his Super Five from  being the barnyard ugly duckling.

Royal Enfield would improve the Super Five into the better looking and better loved Continental.

Poynting's story fills in the story of a very fascinating missing link in Royal Enfield history. Recommended reading.

2 comments:

  1. Would have made a nice 5-speed,500 CC Bullet...

    ReplyDelete
  2. had a nearly new super 5 in the 60s , maroon paint , chrome tank , great bike , cost me 6 months wages !!

    ReplyDelete

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