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Monday, September 10, 2012

1998 Royal Enfield emerges from 14 years in its crate

This Avon Gray Royal Enfield Bullet 350 was lost for 14 years.
Meet "Daphne," the 1998 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet that spent 14 years forgotten in its crate — but started on the second kick!

Alan Galentine, a Salvation Army lieutenant (and ordained minister) in Newark, N.J., put a delightful video on YouTube showing off his find.

In the video he tells how he found the still pretty (but dusty) Royal Enfield in a forgotten container. He shows off the odometer, with only six miles showing. That's after a quick test ride. The motorcycle had only "about four" miles on it when he found it, he told me.

It turns out that finding Daphne is the second half of a story I'd written earlier about Royal Enfields found on the property of a man who had purchased five of them, planning to become a dealer.

That never happened and the now elderly gentleman needed help cleaning up his property. Alan and his family stepped in to help.

"He thought the motorcycles were still there, but wasn't even sure," Alan said. The first Royal Enfields found were in containers that had their doors open, so they had suffered a bit. But the 350 was still in its crate and was toward the back of its container, less exposed to moisture.

Alan helped the man sell the other motorcycles, but decided to buy the 350 for himself.

He would have some trouble getting it registered; New Jersey balked at accepting the old paperwork from India, apparently because the city of Madras, where Royal Enfields are built, is now called Chennai! The city's name changed officially in 1996.

A nice long slow ride brought mileage on the 350 to 156, Alan said. He enjoyed the experience.

"I've always owned modern vehicles; I've never had to break anything in before," he said.

But he's breaking this one in by the book. He felt he could hear the exhaust note improving as the miles passed.

In his video, Alan grabs the exhaust to prove
the motorcycle is stone cold. Yet it starts right up.
Naturally he also had the experience of having people ask about the motorcycle.

"It starts a lot of great conversations," Alan said. At an ice cream shop an Indian man came over to look at the bike he remembered from home. Drivers slow down to keep pace with the motorcycle, looking it over.

Alan has had two Harleys and many Japanese motorcycles, but has known he wanted for a Royal Enfield for 20 years exactly; since 1992.

How could he be so specific about that date? I asked.

"I had just started work at Corning Glass in State College, Pa. and someone had left a copy of Walneck's  on a table, with an article about Royal Enfields. I didn't know they were still available."

But he had heard the name Royal Enfield before. His father had ridden one while serving with the Eighth Air Force in England..

"I just love the motorcycle."

Alan knows that the 350 is preferred by many to the 500 because it is the original size and is considered somehow sweeter. Like most (if not all) 350s imported into the U.S., this one is Avon Gray, an unusual and understated color.

Alan is the sort of guy who gives his vehicles pet names if they have the character to justify it.

So: Why Daphne?

Alan explained the he heard Jeremy Clarkson of the BBC's "Top Gear" show mention Daphne du Maurier,  the British author of the novels "Rebecca" and "Jamaica Inn" and the short story "The Birds" (all of which became films by Alfred Hitchcock).

Clarkson was looking for a way to describe the looks of the new VW Passat CC:

"Pretty, isn’t it?" Clarkson said, according to a transcript. "It might not cause other motorists to swivel round in their seat, nor will it send a frisson through crowds on the pavement. It’s not pretty like Abi Clancy or Meg Ryan . . . was... It’s quietly pretty, subtly pretty. Pretty like Daphne du Maurier. The sort of pretty you don’t really notice until it’s pointed out to you. And then you can’t get its prettiness out of your head."

That certainly applies to this Royal Enfield 350.

Well found. Here's the video:

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