Friday, September 18, 2015

Here's how to date (tell the age) of your Royal Enfield

Here's how to find out how old your Royal Enfield is.
Graham Scarth, chairman of the Royal Enfield Owners Club UK, has offered to help Royal Enfield owners the world over "date" their Royal Enfield motorcycles.

The task is far more difficult than it sounds and, what's more, Graham has offered to do it for free. The box on this page tells you the address to email him your frame and engine numbers to find out how old your Royal Enfield is.

Graham will try to help date your Royal Enfield whether it's a British made Interceptor, an Indian Tomahawk built by Royal Enfield for sale in the United States, or an early Royal Enfield Bullet made in India. He will try to date any Royal Enfield motorcycle for you.

The important numbers and any suffixes (send them all) will be on the left side (facing forward) of the motor, and on the left side (facing forward) of the headstock.
Here's the email address you need
To have your Royal Enfield identified.
Some Royal Enfields will have numbers on the front of the crankcase — send them along, they can be helpful.

The numbers on the right side of the headstock are casting numbers (they stick out) and are not useful.

Numbers on the gearbox don't help with dating, but Graham finds them interesting if you can include them.

This is a hugely unselfish offer Graham has made. I hope that Royal Enfield owners who contact him for help do so with the appropriate gratitude.

They should also realize that they must provide accurate information, and that, even then, accurate dating may not be possible in all cases.

Please don't bother Graham if your Royal Enfield was officially imported into the United States from 1995, and has a VIN number. You can easily decode the VIN number yourself.

But it can be a lot more difficult if you own a vintage Royal Enfield motorcycle made in Britain or one of the early Royal Enfield Bullets from India.

The Royal Enfield Owners Club UK has original records from the factory in Britain. But these are incomplete. Factory workers sometimes made errors in the records, just as they sometimes made errors when they stamped the numbers in the metal.

This is why Graham appreciates clear digital photos of the numbers and the motorcycle itself. Sometimes the very layout of the number and suffixes is significant. Sometimes he can detect a typographical error.

And sometimes the only way to effectively date the motorcycle will be by looking at it. (But, of course, maintenance and restoration may have altered a motorcycle's features and appearance.)

A further unfortunate problem is that counterfeiters exist. Numbers are altered in an attempt to increase a motorcycle's value by making the "numbers match," or making the bike seem more historic than it is. They try to fool government agents into allowing exceptions for vintage motorcycles or to make the motorcycle match existing paperwork.

It all makes dating a Royal Enfield a challenge. The hobby is lucky to have someone who is willing to attempt such an important task.


  1. Hi David, I posted a picture in your Twitter timeline (as @enfielder) since I couldn't figure out how the do that here. Basically I wanted to show you that I have what appears to be a date stamped in the engine block, right under the tappet cover. It says 17 09 99. My RE Bullet 500 (exact same colouring as yours on your 2001 picture) has an X in position 10 of the VIN, and a 4-wire alternator, positioning it in the second half of 1999.

    I bought the bike in 2010 while living in Greece. The seller told me he ordered it new from the dealer/importer in Athens in 2000. I have no idea where the importer sourced them, I went there but the business has been taking over by other people, they couldn't (be bothered to) tell me anything.

    I've never heard about such precise date being stamped in the engine block, so I'd like to have your opinion on that.

    1. I just checked and my 1999 Bullet has no such marking under the tappet cover. I'm stumped.

  2. I have an old RE with no motor. I think its from the 40's but not sure where to look for the numbers. It has a plate on the rear fender but hard to make out the writing. I'm not sure how to send photos here. I tried the e-mail link on this page but it won't work. Any help
    from someone will be appreciated. Thank you

    1. Anthony, email links are troublesome. TYPE the email address into your email yourself and attach your photos and I suspect that will work. The frame number should be on the left side (facing forward) of the headstock. If you have the gearbox that may have relevant numbers as well. Good photos of what you have will help Graham date the bike. Good luck.


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