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Thursday, March 14, 2013

250cc Royal Enfield Continental more rare than he knew

This handsome Royal Enfield has some uncommon features.
A sharp looking 250cc 1964 Royal Enfield for sale on eBay in Hatley, Wis. turns out to be more rare than the seller suspected.

You might have wondered about it, if you had seen the pictures with the ad, showing a peculiar muffler and a blanking plate where the tachometer might have been.

Tidy instrument panel has a blanking plate instead of tachometer.
Graham Scarth, chairman of the Royal Enfield Owners Club, UK, gave this identifying information, based on the engine number provided by the seller:

"That machine is not a Crusader, but a Continental in what was known as 'standard' trim at that time, finished in color known as Blaze.

"The factory offered the bikes as either deluxe (chrome plated tank and mudguards) or standard with painted items. In the case of the Continental deluxe, a rev counter was fitted alongside the speedometer. The standard (cheaper!) version had no rev counter drive and the blanking plate in the fork crown instead of the instrument.

In the UK and Europe a Continental would have had a bigger, boxier tank.
"Your machine also has the small petrol tank with 'loose' chrome panels usually found on U.S. market machines instead of the larger plated tank of UK market models. It also has 'Western' handlebars instead of the more usual low Ace bars for other markets.

"...Most of our members will have never seen a standard Continental, let alone an export version of it... Although not recorded in the factory ledgers, I am certain that it would have left Redditch in late 1964."

Muffler looks a bit anemic. There's a reason.
The motorcycle is a rare little beauty but there is just one thing that bothered me: what an ugly muffler! Then came this note from Mark Mumford, a keen observer and restorer of Royal Enfields in the UK:

"..It looks very original indeed. I notice it is also fitted with the original Villiers silencer (muffler).

"An ex-factory employee told me that Enfield had bought loads of these silencers, intended for use with Villiers' own two-stroke engine (and therefore detachable for cleaning, note the removable cap), presumably thinking that the Villiers-engined (Royal Enfield) Turbo Twin would be a big success.

"Finding themselves with piles of stock they used them on the whole 250 range, apparently with the result that the bikes simply wouldn't rev properly because the two-stroke required much more back pressure that the free breathing four-stroke Crusader!"

In his book "Royal Enfield, The Postwar Models," author Roy Bacon notes Royal Enfield's experiment with the two-stroke Villiers motor slotted into the company's own Crusader frame. The Villiers motor was a twin, with a muffler running down each side of the motorcycle, so Royal Enfield might have anticipated needing a lot of the Villiers mufflers.

In U.S. trim, Continental has a clean, open look.
Bacon specifically criticizes Royal Enfield for dropping the tachometer on the standard Continental for 1964, "a curious move for the machine sold as much on appearance as performance, and one that Enfield were to reverse inside a year."

Perhaps so, but the result is a fascinating example of Royal Enfield's "creativity."

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