Friday, September 21, 2012

This new Royal Enfield Crusader is no replica

Lower handlebars and higher exhaust distinguish this Royal Enfield.
Here's a sneak preview of the new Royal Enfield Crusader model, latest project of Watsonian Squire, the UK importer of Royal Enfield motorcycles.

Watsonian explains in its email newsletter that the original Royal Enfield Crusader of 1956 "was a sporty 250cc roadster, which sold in huge numbers, and was the basis for the iconic Continental GT cafe racer."

This inspired them to create a "slightly sportier" version of the 500cc Bullet  Classic (we call it the C5 in America). The Watsonian Crusader isn't intended to be a replica of the original Crusader. It will be an upgrade kit with drop handlebars and Gold Star style muffler.

Original 1956 Crusader looked fairly up-to-date.
The Watsonian Squire email says they're calling it Crusader "for now." Perhaps they will reconsider. But should they?

Their Royal Enfield Fury, unveiled in 2010, recycled a name from the legendary 1959 Fury built in limited numbers by Royal Enfield for the U.S.

Watsonian Squire's Fury.
Modified from the Electra (what we call the G5 in the U.S.) the Watsonian Squire Fury is no replica of the original. Among other differences it has a digital instrument panel never imagined in 1959, and a tailpipe on each side serving the single-cylinder motor.

1960 Fury illustration from a book by Gordon May.
Will Watsonian Squire use up all the great names of the past on what are essentially just variations of existing Bullets? Maybe. But it will take a long time.

Royal Enfield used few model names in its early history, typically describing motorcycles by engine capacity or alpha-numerics (Model G and RE2, for instance).

Starting after World War II we begin to get the great names: Clipper, Connie, Constellation, Continental, Crusader, Crusader Sports, Ensign, Interceptor, Meteor, 700 Meteor, Olympic, Prince, 500 Sports Twin, Super 5, Super Meteor, Trials, Turbo Twin, Turbo Twin Sports and 500 Twin.

Plus, of course, the longest lasting name of all: Bullet.

There's yet another set of names from the period in the 1950s when Royal Enfields sold in the United States were badged as Indians: Apache, Chief, Fire Arrow, Hounds Arrow, Lance, Patrol Car, Tomahawk, Trailblazer, Westerner and Woodsman.

Except for the time honored Bullet name, Royal Enfield in India tends to go its own way, with such original names as Battle Green, Chrome, Classic 500, Desert Storm, and Twinspark. An exception is the Thunderbird which, to American ears seems to evoke either the Triumph motorcycles of that name or the Ford automobile.

Royal Enfield USA also has gone its own way, dubbing Royal Enfield Bullets broadly as B5, C5 and G5. These originally were factory code names. Retaining them for the showroom floor probably made describing them much easier in a country where the brand was less well known.

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