Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is Royal Enfield project bike a rare model?

While Royal Enfield in India survived and prospered after 1955, selling the same standard 350cc Bullet motorcycle based on a British design, Royal Enfield in Britain moved on. In the last decade or so of its life, the British company seemed to explode with creativity.

There were big twins of 700cc and more, new 250cc motorcycles, unit constructed motors, airflow streamlining, a five-speed transmission and a partnership to produce motorcycles badged as Indians in the United States. Parts were mixed and matched to create new models and some of the bikes badged as Indians were not just renamed, they were different in appearance, too.

It is all very interesting and very confusing. Maybe that is why a pretty Royal Enfield for sale now on CraigsList in Rocklin, Calif. looks so unfamiliar to me. The seller is the owner's daughter, and here is what she knows:

"My dad's many-year project bike. Nearly complete — still needs a little work, but a great deal of money and hard work has gone into restoring it. Willing to sell to the right buyer.

"My name is Aimee and my Dad is Jim Luzier. He received the bike from his father who ran a motorcycle shop in Richeyville, Pennsylvania. It's a 1960 Royal Enfield and something of a puzzle... but it seems to have been made partly a Crusader, partly a Bullet — not sure of all the particulars. Anyway, Dad rebuilt and restored it, and it's nearly done. It has a little trouble starting right now but it's an amazing machine."

"Dad says it's a Crusader Sports... It's a mystery! I'll look forward to hearing what your fellow Enfield fans have to say. Dad says that it's a 250 and I'm pretty sure he's right about that."

The motorcycle does appear to have the 250cc Crusader unit constructed motor. A 350cc version of this was marketed briefly as "the new Bullet," but it had extra fins on the barrel this motor does not have.

On the other hand, this motorcycle has a svelte tank and clean, narrow fenders. The Crusader and Sports Crusaders in particular, tended to have chunky tanks and elaborate, valanced fenders. They also had fully boxed tail light appendages, yet this motorcycle has an "open" style structure to hold its tail light and license plate.

And then there is the separate headlight and speedometer seen on this motorcycle. Crusaders had the Royal Enfield nacelle combining instruments and headlight into one unit. The exception was the trials version of the Crusader, which carried this very style of tank and a stand-alone speedometer. But it had no headlight at all, its exhaust was tucked up high (the right-side toolbox was cut up to accommodate this) and its fenders were drastically cut down.

An obvious possibility is that Aimee's father, or his father, mixed parts from other motorcycles to create this one. The contrasting color of the tank certainly suggests that. The seat looks new, and the unusual crash bars appear homemade, as may be the speedometer mount.

If Jim Luzier assembled his own motorcycle, he did a fine job, because it looks as though it is supposed to look this way.

Still, I wonder if this isn't just a Royal Enfield model I've never seen before.

One Royal Enfield model I know little about is the 250cc Hornet, which seems to have been sold, at least in the United States, shortly after the agreement with the Indian company ended. The only picture I can find on the web is black and white and of such poor quality, I can't even tell if it has the nacelle.

Why is it so hard to find a picture of the Royal Enfield Hornet? Could it be that it was a short lived model, existing only to use up left-over parts? In 1960 the Indian Fire Arrow sold in the U.S. was a re-badged Crusader. I can not find a picture of it either, but other Indian models did do away with the nacelle.

Maybe what we have here is a Royal Enfield Hornet — at heart a Crusader, but with some parts originally intended to make an Indian. What do you think?


  1. Mark M1/01/2010

    David, Gordon May's book of original photos and Factory Brochures ("Royal Enfield, By Miles The Best") has a so-so picture of a 1961 Hornet on page 156 and some pictures of the Fireball Scrambler in '63. The Hornet is very like the bike above, it uses the same forks as the Fury and Woodsman with a QD headlamp, according to the text. A nice find, the Royal Enfield Owners Club here in the UK could confirm the identity from the original factory records if the new owner applies...
    REgards, Mark

  2. Thank you, Mark. It turns out the owner of the bike left a clue that solved the mystery in a picture taken before his death. Here's the blog item I did on the answer.


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