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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Was the Sparto tail light a Royal Enfield option?

An eye-catching tail light became cause for discussion.
A 1959 Indian Apache for sale on eBay recently attracted attention of the Royal Enfield Interceptor Owners Group on Yahoo. The Apache was a powerful, twin-cylinder motorcycle, built by Royal Enfield in England for sale under the Indian brand name in America.

One of the topics that came up related to the unusual looking tail light on this Apache.

Its shape immediately struck me as best described with a vulgar two-word reference to a particular organ of the male body, in its relaxed state.

It turns out that "limp dick tail light" is in fact a common way to refer to this style. It's also referred to as a Sparto tail light.

Sparto was a maker of automotive parts in England. Its lights and lenses of various styles ended up on many British products and it must have served the after market as well, because the limp-dick Sparto became popular on the bobbed fenders of  American style choppers. Reproductions are still sold.

In this case, however, the Madison, Wis. seller of the 1959 Apache stated that the Sparto tail light was a "factory option."

That drew some questions.Apaches were meant for scrambles, and would have had light, quickly removable tail lights, one member suggested. Other Apaches seen have had Lucas tail light assemblies. Catalog photos don't seem to show the Sparto.

So, there!

Except, a few days later, a 1958 Apache showed up on eBay for sale in Crystal Falls, Mich.

Another Apache with the same tail light.
It "has the same droopy looking cast alloy tail light we discussed previously on another Apache," a member of the Yahoo group noted.

Silence ensued. What an odd coincidence.

But perhaps it's not so mysterious after all. Things in life that are supposed to be "removable" are far more likely to be lost, stolen, damaged or missing in the first place than items delivered firmly attached. Would the "factory" have objected if customers who wanted lights got whatever lights fell to hand at the point of sale?

For that purpose, the Sparto would have been in the right place at the right time.

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