Monday, December 28, 2009

Royal Enfield offered something for all

Royal Enfield once advertised itself as "The World's Most Complete Line of Motorcycles."

That may seem a bit odd, since, today, Royal Enfield builds a boutique line of retro-classic British style roadsters, all with single cylinders and 500cc displacement.

This advertisement, spotted on the forum, may seem to fall a bit short of a "complete line," since it plugs only the Royal Enfield Models G and J, and the 125cc Model R.E two-stroke. Nevertheless, it asserts, "there's a Royal Enfield for every budget and means."

"Now Royal Enfield motorcycles are traveling the roads of America — the manufacturer's answer to a wide-spread, popular demand from thousands of you who were impressed by the efficiency and flexibility of Royal Enfields overseas."

The ad appears to be from the late 1940s. That reference to "overseas" could only refer to the little excursion many Americans took through Europe, courtesy of the United States government, in 1941-45. Times were different; imagine using wartime experience in ad copy today?

The ad leaves much unsaid. It appears at a time when Royal Enfield knows that it is about to introduce the new Bullet, with its stunning innovation: a working rear suspension. The future holds powerful twin-cylinder motorcycles and advanced unit-construction 250cc motorcycles.

There will be an alliance with Indian that will spotlight big machines and handy off-road products. Eventually Royal Enfield will field so many models and variations that confusion sets in. Some models (like the short-lived Hornet) are created seemingly just to use up random collections of parts.

Not content with making the market's biggest vertical twin, the Interceptor, Royal Enfield will go to the trouble to bring out an improved Series II Interceptor. And, then, the lights will go out forever in England.

It is a remarkable history. Remarkably, thanks to India, the tradition lives on. That may owe something to the fact that India kept the Royal Enfield Bullet unchanged, singular and unique long enough to make it an icon.

It is not everything to everyone. Somehow, it seems to mean more to most as a result.

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