Thursday, May 12, 2011

Royal Enfield Ensign gave the Flying Flea some style

Is this the world's most sophisticated Flying Flea?
UPDATE: Reader Mark Mumford adds this information: "The Polychromatic Beech is the top-of-the-range  color for '53-'55 machines. I have a '53 500 Bullet accurately restored in this color and a '53 700 Meteor which a previous owner has hand painted a charming sludge brown. (I like it like this; it is a very original motorcycle but the dreadful paint means I'm not afraid to ride it all year round!) Anyway, I digress. The catalog pictures at this time show black painted headlights but I think these images were created for publicity material (as graphic art or photos) at the pre-production stage. Base (default) color for Lucas products was black but special finishes were applied for specific manufacturers and I've certainly seen plenty of Enfields with color matched headlights but very few in black. I tend to the opinion that the color would normally be carried through. I had thought that only the Meteor and 500 Bullet were Poly Beech (which looks rather brown unless under bright light) in the '53-'55 period so you've shown me something new!"

Here's another Royal Enfield motorcycle in the United States, advertised with very little indication what its pedigree might be.

Jason in Calabasas, Calif. wrote that he was considering purchasing a Royal Enfield on eBay, and wanted to know "if this is even a real Enfield and, if it is, is this a fair price for this particular model?"

He attached a link to the ad, for a "Royal Enfield 150" with 9,600 miles, for sale in Pomona, Calif. for $2,150.

The seller told us only that it is a "1954 Royal Enfield 150cc with saddle bag. Great condition, used to run when I put it in storage two years ago, clean title, army green, all decals original."

Based on what the pictures show, and the little reference material I have on hand, I replied that this looks like a Royal Enfield, alright: the 148cc Ensign two-stroke, and the model year even looks correct, 1954, which is when the tank badges appeared, replacing a simpler earlier design.

This motorcycle was an outgrowth of the wartime Flying Flea, famously dropped by parachute in World War II. It had a bigger motor, a real front suspension (instead of rubber bands) and even a crude rear suspension (undamped springs).

While these were big improvements, this model does lack the crude, military appeal of the earlier Flea. It's almost civilized.

I don't see test figures for a 1954, but a similar 1956 Ensign had a top speed of 51 mph. That's pretty slow, for American roads.

The speedometer would have been an optional extra.

The correct color for 1954 was something called "polychromatic beech." That may be the color we see here, but my book says the headlight should be black, whereas this one is body color; so maybe this motorcycle has been repainted or my book is wrong. This was the first year for chrome plated wheel rims, and we see them here.

The 1954 had the advantage of a bigger tank, but it did not have the improved brakes that came along in 1955. A bulb horn would have been standard equipment, and this motorcycle would look fantastic with one of those, in my opinion.

Is the asking price fair? What do you readers say?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5/12/2011

    I'd buy it for that price!Happy Motoring,Matt Law~


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