Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Royal Enfield's Bullet marks historic 70th milestone

Collection of Royal Enfield motorcycles on the grass.
Some of the many models of Royal Enfield parked in the Club Rally Area.
Story and photos by Mark Mumford
The 2019 Royal Enfield Owners Club International Rally was organized by the Royal Enfield Owners Club Midshires Branch (supported by members from the Home Counties and South Midlands branches), the event taking place over the weekend of 19 to 21 July at Stanford Hall in Leicestershire, Great Britain.

This charming country house, set in typical English parkland, has long been a home for motorcycle events and at one time hosted the Griffiths Collection of racing motorcycles (now dispersed).

The Sunday of the rally coincided with one of the biggest annual motorcycle events in the UK, Founders Day, named for the Founder of the Vintage Motor Cycle Club C.E. "Titch" Allen.

Vintage Royal Enfield motorcycle on display at event.
Flat-tank Royal Enfield with brass headlamp, bulb horn, fluted silencer and tank shift.
The Indian 350 Bullet in the background has the famed swing-arm rear suspension.
The event attracts thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts and their machines and usually has an overall theme — 2018 for instance was "military motorcycles" to commemorate the end of the First World War.

This year the Bullet was chosen, it being 70 years since the launch of the first post-war swinging arm Bullet, arguably one of the most innovative and influential machines ever built.

The Bullet name originated pre-war of course, in 1933, but was little used by Enfield in this period, machines most often being designated by a letter system. For instance the 1936 500 Bullet was the Model LF.

Close up for motorcycle fuel tank.
The earliest Bullet present, a 1934 Model BO 250.
The tank transfer (decal) actually features a speeding bullet,
a design only found on this model!
The aim of the organizers was to achieve 100 Bullets on the public open day on Sunday and despite worries that total was easily broken. By about mid-day over 200 Bullets were parked in the area of the Owners Club stand and the exhausted tallyman gave up the count!

Many more Bullets and other Enfields were to be seen elsewhere in the enormous event area so it's probably safe to estimate 400-plus machines.

Vintage Royal Enfield on display at event.
The 1934 Bullet's flashy styling included high-mounted silencers,
one on each side for its "sloper" twin-port motor.
Note headlight controls on the tank.
Vintage Royal Enfield on display at event.
The other side of the 1934 Bullet. Is that an Interceptor in the background?
Mark Mumford is a Royal Enfield enthusiast and member of the Royal Enfield Owners Club UK Home Counties Branch. For more photos of the Bullet's 70th birthday see the report by Andrew Papadakis of the REOC Greek Chapter.

Friday, August 16, 2019

MG cars and more wonderful stuff at Owls Head Museum

Studebaker Champion with propeller attached to spinner-nose front.
1951 Studebaker shown by Bob and Nancy Stover of Belfast, Maine.
Not a museum piece, but it suggests the whimsy of the Owls Head Museum.
NOTE: The prestigious 2019 New England Auto Auction is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 16-17, at the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Maine. The auction catalog includes more than 200 automobiles and motorcycles and automobilia.

To be honest, the wonderful thing about the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Maine is not the 1922 Royal Enfield Model 200 motorcycle on display there.

The wonderful thing is the way this museum pulls together all that stuff you dreamed about as a kid: roaring through the air in a World War I Sopwith biplane, blasting down the road in a classic MG, or showing up your friends in a really neat kiddie car.

Our visit Aug. 4 was special because there was a car show and air show at the museum that day. Some of the cars and plane we saw aren't there every day.

But any day at this museum would be a blast. Literally a blast. The museum is dotted with genuine antique bulb horns you're invited to TOOT!

Vintage automobile bulb horn.
1913 Rubes horn. The Rubes brothers started making horns in Brooklyn in 1904.
How fun is that?

Line up of vintage MG sports cars.
Early MG sports cars line an entire wall of the museum.
I love vintage planes and antique motorcycles, but the fantastic collection of MG cars at Owls Head really caught my eye. It's not all the MGs, but it certainly includes a lot of the interesting ones. The core of this assemblage is The Cobb Collection, loaned to the museum by Dick and Dottie Cobb.

1931 MG J2 on display in museum.
1932 MG J2 is a noticeably small car, almost childlike in size.
The museum's Morris Garage line-up starts with the 1932 MG J2. MG had just turned racing's handicapping system on its head, proving that displacement wasn't the only thing that counted. A light car could take on more powerful cars. This J2 is small, even noticeably smaller than the other MGs here. You wanted your J2 with all the racing accessories, including bonnet straps.

1933 MG L1 Magna on display in museum.
MG L1 Magna's ride was likened to a mountain goat.
The 1933 MG L1 Magna, produced only that year, was just one of the bewildering number of variations MG produced from 1929 to 1936 — more body styles than in any other period. It came with a six-cylinder motor and you could get it with a supercharger. And look: even a back seat!

1931 MG L1 Continental Coupe.
1933 MG L1 Continental Coupe; based on a sports car, the back seat was unusable.
The 1933 MG L1 Continental Coupe is an odd ball. It encumbered the sleek MG with an enclosed body, preferred by MG principal Cecil Kimber. It became known as "Kimber's Folly." Only 100 were built and they sold slowly. The sliding sunroof, with oval windows, provided both light and ventilation but was hardly attractive doing either.

1934 MG PA on display in museum.
1934 MG PA, stylish in red.
The 1934 MG PA here and the PB that followed were considered by some the "last of the Midgets" because later models replaced the overhead camshaft with pushrod motors. Was this the beginning of MG fans considering each new model (which would go on to build its own fan base) a betrayal?

1946 MG TC on display in museum.
1946 MG TC, the car that started the sports car craze in America
even though it was only ever made with right-hand drive.
The 1946 MG TC appeared only five weeks after the end of World War II, and they sold well, with 10,000 produced. These were the cars American service members saw, and introduced the United States to British sports cars. The museum's TC is equipped with a "30 light." This is a light on the dash alerting the driver he has reached 30 mph, a common limit in England.

1937 MG VA.
1937 MG VA, big, prestigious, but not fast enough.
The 1937 MG VA shown elsewhere in the museum was meant as competition for Jaguar. It had expensive looking style, but only a four-cylinder motor. How wonderful that it even existed.

Here are other interesting things I spotted at the museum and in a car show held there Aug. 4:

View of car with transparent roof.
1970 Rover 3500S V8 with transparent roof,
shown by Garrett Bourque of Jefferson, Maine.
View of car with transparent roof.
Rover offered this option but owner knows of only one other in existence.
View of rear of car with fins and a lot of chrome.
Magnificent rear end of 1959 Plymouth Sport Fury.
View of biplane on floor of museum.
A Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, right? Well, no...
Airplane on museum floor is a model next to the real thing.
That was just a model. A real 1917 Jenny is behind it.

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