Thursday, September 15, 2011

Royal Enfield Bullet looks great, but what is it?

Shiny alloy fenders give this Bullet a racy look.
With bright alloy fenders and nacelle, an usual looking and very pretty Royal Enfield Bullet is for sale on CraigsList near San Francisco. It is  described as a 1952 model in the ad, but has features typical of later years.

The owner, John, didn't much care what it was when he bought it in 1993 according to Chris Thompson, who is selling the motorcycle to help John cut back on his collection.

"He just liked the way it looked," Chris said.

It's an "Enfield" but not one from India.
The paperwork says the motorcycle is a 1952. But Chris says John remembers describing it as a 1954 and was given the impression when he bought it that it might have been some sort of prototype, perhaps for the Bullet-derived Indian Woodsman, which appeared in 1955.

Gorgeous nacelle really draws attention.
The dual seat and silencer parallel with the ground would be features of the 1954 and later Royal Enfield Bullets. The gearbox looks like the kind introduced on Bullet road models in 1955, with concentric kickstart and shift lever. The frame and folding kickstart suggest a 1956 or later Bullet. The dramatic nacelle might be the one that became standard in 1960, near the end of the Bullet's run.

Is that the speedometer drive on the rear wheel?
I don't know enough about these British Bullets to know what to make of the speedometer drive (if that is what it is) coming off the rear wheel.

Why does the tank say just "Enfield," instead of Royal Enfield?

The ad says that the motorcycle was restored 20 years ago. Perhaps the restorer finished it to his liking without regard to the year of manufacture. Again, if it was a trials model being switched to a road bike it would need some additions, such as the nacelle, to hold the lights and instruments.

It's a Model JS.
Perhaps the Royal Enfield Owners Club can pin down the origin of this motorcycle based on the engine number, visible in one of the pictures: JS15124.

Asking price in the ad is $6,800 and Chris is hoping it draws quick attention because John has other British motorcycles to sell, too: he mentioned Triumph, Vincent and Norton.

Nacelle has light switch on right.
UPDATE: REOC Chairman Graham Scarth was able to identify the motorcycle by its frame number and engine number as a clever combination of Royal Enfield models sold as Indians. The motor is an Indian Woodsman 500cc single of 1956 while the frame and probably the cycle parts as well are from an Indian Tomahawk 500cc twin of 1955. Because of differences between the models, the frame — although older than the motor — is of more advanced design.

YOU CAN HELP: If you have a pre-VIN Royal Enfield, the REOC wants to hear from you. Here's how you can help complete its records.


  1. Anonymous1/15/2012

    According to G Scarth - record keeper of the REOC - the frame number makes it a December 1955 Brockhouse Indian Tomahawk 500cc twin frame, and was just beyond the cut-off date from the old type frame ('55 and earlier). My 500cc Tomahawk twin engine also dates from December 1955 like the frame here, and that frame (sale bike) could possibly be the frame that should go with my engine. As shown in the sale pics, the seat, rear mudguard carrier, rear wheel, and possibly the tail lamp, are all correct for the 1956 model year Brockhouse Tomahawk and probably all original. The mudguards are questionable and everything else - as far as I can determine - is non-original. I wish I had the frame, as it matches my 500cc Tomahawk engine number. I used a '58 Trailblazer frame for my Tomahawk twin project, which is substantially the same except for the missing seat bracket.

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    Thank you for an interesting comment. The link you posted shows a very pretty Indian motorcycle:


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