Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Royal Enfield Bullet, the antique you can use guilt free

My 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet; one of many thousands.
Some Royal Enfield motorcycles are fine old antiques of 1916 or fast and pricey twins of 1969. Mine is neither. It is a garden variety, daily-use Bullet, made in India alongside many thousands of others exactly like it for half a century.

And that is the way I like it.

The Vintagent blog, written by Paul d'Orléans, recently spotlighted the superb autos collected by fashion designer Ralph Lauren, on view in an exhibit at the Louvre. Lauren has the money to acquire rare Ferraris, Bentleys and Bugattis, and the chutzpah to alter their original appearance with different paint and "improved" upholstery.

This offends purists, one of whom commented: "...at best they are over restored, at worst he has completely destroyed their value by tweaking colours and finishes for ones that he 'feels' are better than they were originally."

The Vintagent asks whether the same rules shouldn't apply to rare vintage motorcycles. Is the owner obligated to preserve as originally as possible the irreplaceable machinery bequeathed to us by our ancestors and which we will pass along to our children's generation?

"When does an object cease to be 'mine', and become the property of History?" d'Orléans asks.

He provides his answer to the question. Here's mine: I don't want the responsibility.

I have no experience with Bentleys and Bugattis, but some years ago I bought a common 1967 Pontiac Tempest that happened to have the not-so-common overhead-camshaft straight-six engine and manual transmission. It was well used; I only meant to bring it back to life as a decent daily driver.

My brother Phil and dad Lefty drove a '67 Tempest cross country so I'd have two!
 In the spirit of things, my father and brother bought a 1967 Tempest the same color and surprised me by driving it from Los Angeles to Florida to help my project.

The presence of a rust-free California parts car should have made all the difference. But I was foiled by my own lack of ability. When the rust got ahead of me on the OHC car I decided to restore the California car; then an accident ruined a front fender.

Both cars were eventually sold as junk. It was not the financial pinch I minded — both had served me well as inexpensive transportation devices over the many miles I had driven them.

What bothered me is that, in the process of trying to preserve irreplaceable objects, I had destroyed them. Ever seen a Pontiac OHC six? Well, no big deal, but I'll bet the Louvre doesn't have one.

My Royal Enfield Bullet gives me the pleasure that comes from using an antique without any of the guilt I'd have in using it up.


  1. Hey. Nice article.Makes me think if i want to do some cosmetic mods on my Standard 350.

    What is the profile of the rear tyre being used on ur enfield.??

  2. My mechanic recommended Avon Roadrider 100/90-19 rear tire, made in England. Nothing out of the ordinary. It seems very satisfactory.

  3. do have plan to sale this vehicle??


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