Friday, December 14, 2018

Which Royal Enfield brought the mail in Malta in the '50s?

Brochure illustration of a motorcycle.
1956 Royal Enfield brochure illustration of a Model G Deluxe.
Last week's blog item noted that Royal Enfield motorcycles were used in the 1950s to deliver the mail on the island of Malta. In 2007, Malta put a 1954 350cc Royal Enfield on a commemorative stamp.

I made a mistake. The motorcycle on the stamp isn't a Royal Enfield Bullet, as I at first claimed in that item. It's apparently a Royal Enfield Model G Deluxe.

The differences between the two models are significant enough that reader Mark Mumford noticed one of them.

"Actually, looking at that picture, it's not a Bullet but a Model G Deluxe? Note separate gearbox," he wrote me.

Postage stamp showing motorcycle.
Royal Enfield on Malta's stamp must be a Model G Deluxe, not a Bullet.
The gearbox of the Model G was held to the motor by mounting plates (they look like fillers), visible on the stamp, whereas the Bullet gearbox bolted directly to the motor.

The motorcycle on the stamp also clearly has the Model G motor, with its oil filler opening at the front of the crankcase. The Bullet motor had its oil filler behind the crankcase.

The Royal Enfield on the stamp has a rear suspension. I usually associate the Royal Enfield Model G with a rigid frame (no rear suspension), but eventually there was a Model G Deluxe with a sprung frame, courtesy of a rear swing arm, as visible on the stamp.

Mark pointed out that Hitchcocks Motorcycles shows a 1955 "350cc Clipper (Model G Deluxe)" in its online parts books. It has the rear swing-arm suspension. This is clearly the motorcycle on the stamp, although the year given is 1955 instead of 1954.

(Hitchcocks parts books also show a rigid-frame 1954 Model G.)

Was the motorcycle on the stamp really a 1955 instead of a 1954 as it is labelled? Maybe. Model years are slippery things.

A 1956 sales brochure page for the Model G Deluxe shows the Model G Deluxe of that year to be very much like the Royal Enfield motorcycle on the stamp.

One other possibility exists. A 1954 Royal Enfield Clipper — a 250cc motorcycle — would closely match the machine on the stamp except that I think its scaled-down motor would leave more space under the gas tank than is seen on the stamp. Also, a Clipper should have a headlight nacelle without the side pilot lights seen on the stamp.

The main thing is that the Royal Enfield on the stamp is a Royal Enfield, but it is not a Bullet. Which probably makes sense, as the Bullet would have been a more expensive motorcycle less attractive to a price conscious post office.

I only wish I could reach the owner of the Malta post office motorcycle to ask for more information.

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