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Friday, April 11, 2014

Royal Enfield history in the U.S. captured in a photo

1999 visitors to the U.S. Royal Enfield display included Siddhartha Lal,
at right, the young man who in 2000 would offer to save Royal Enfield.
(Kevin Mahoney Photo)
Books about Royal Enfield history always include photographs of distinguished looking English gentlemen in business suits posing next to the classic motorcycles of the day.

Some day fans of the brand might find this photograph just as interesting. Classic Motorworks president Kevin Mahoney came across it recently and shared it with me.

Taken at the February, 1999 Dealer Expo in Indianapolis, Ind. it shows Mahoney and Marty Scott — the original U.S. importer of Royal Enfields — with some visitors from India at the Royal Enfield booth.

Among the visitors is Siddhartha Lal, today the managing director and CEO of Eicher Motors Ltd., parent company of Royal Enfield.

In 1999 he was a college student.

In 2000 he would encourage his father Vikram to let him try to take Royal Enfield and make it profitable instead of selling off the money losing company. Today, he is credited with taking Royal Enfield from the brink to a raging success in India.

What else is visible in the photo?

"If you are sharp you will notice that the bikes are kickstart only," Mahoney wrote.

That's hard to see, but I can make out that the motorcycles are still labelled "Enfield." Not until the next year would new U.S. bikes be badged "Royal Enfield."

"If you are really, really sharp (and old), you may notice that the booth backdrop on the right rear is the Wilson Centers (psychiatric hospital that Doneen and I worked at) booth with Enfield signs Velcroed over it," Mahoney wrote.

Left to right are Marty Scott; Sam (Sarva) Bajaj; Sam's son (who is now a doctor); Kevin Mahoney; and Siddhartha Lal.

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