Friday, November 15, 2019

Glory days: When Avellinos raced for Royal Enfield

Three young men in "Royal Enfield, Revere, Mass." T-shirts.
Sebastian "Sam" Avellino Jr. is third from left and his brother Richard "Dicky" Avellino is far right.
Readers, what else can you tell us about this historic Royal Enfield photo?
(Photo from the archives of the REOC UK)
AN APPEAL TO READERS: Can you help tell us more about this photo from the REOC UK files? Who is the man in the plaid shirt standing so proudly with the young men in T-shirts? And who is that young man standing just next to him? Add anything helpful to the Comments below.

For U.S. Royal Enfield motorcycle enthusiasts of the 20th Century the name Sam Avellino was magical.

"Avellino's" they said, meaning the motorcycle showroom and repair shop at 240 Harris St. in Revere, Mass. It was where you went to buy Royal Enfield motorcycles, parts and service. When you did, you hoped to pick up some of the Avellino's know-how that came with them.

"Sam" — it stood for Sebastian — Avellino was the New England distributor for Royal Enfield in the 1960s. His son — they called him "Sam" too — Sebastian Avellino Jr., raced and then carried on at the shop into the 21st Century, long after Royal Enfield closed its factory in Britain.

So, when Royal Enfield Owners Club archivist Bob Murdoch came across this photo of three young men in Royal Enfield T-shirts, he knew he was looking history in the eye.

"I wonder if you can find out anything about this promotion event or any of the people?" he wrote me. He went on to describe the photo:

"The bike in the foreground is a Constellation, while the one facing towards us on the right looks like a Mk1 Interceptor. This could place the date around 1963. The brochure on the wall — top left hand — is quite clear but I can't find it in our copies, which may suggest that it's a USA export-only poster. It shows a Bullet, a Crusader Sports and a Constellation, circa 1962."

"The photo has no clues on the back, but is certainly of professional size and quality. It came with a photo album donated by Barry Smith the company secretary and son of (managing director) F.W. Smith."

The big banner in the background lists the other Royal Enfield distributors in the U.S. at the time, including Gene Shillingford & Sons in Philadelphia. But given that the T-shirts on the young men specifically say "Revere, Mass," I figured this had to be a photo inside Avellino's store.

In particular, the windows behind the young men seemed similar to the front of the store. Jorge Pullin captured a photo of it for his blog My Royal Enfields. It's fortunate he did.

"For those of you that may have had dealings with Avellino's in Revere, Mass., who was a Royal Enfield and BSA dealer in the '50s through '70s may be interested to know that Avellino's shop was torn down today and is no more," Ron Pare posted on the Britbike.com forum July 22, 2008.

Later he added a note on why Avellino's was so special:

"Sam used to have some unique aftermarket parts still in stock for RE twins from 'back in the day.' Webco, Megacycle, Kosman, etc... I doubt Sam parted with his personal bikes (usually in his showroom). They would be pretty easy to recognize. A unique '700' with an Interceptor dual carb top end, a '60s bobber with dual cylindrical side-by-side fuel tanks, and others."

I found Sam Junior's obituary on the Internet.

"He had operated the Avellino Motorcycle Sales and Service Co. store that his father had started for 30 years prior to his retirement in 2008," it said.

"He enjoyed going up to Laconia every year and helping out at the motorcycle races... He had been a veteran of the Vietnam War serving with the U.S. Army prior to his discharge in 1966." He was predeceased by his brother Richard.

The real breakthrough came when I emailed the photo to Sam Jr.'s daughter Angel Bart. Her answer came back right away:

"Wow! This is a photo that I have never seen before so I must thank you for sending it to me! The gentleman third from the left is my Dad, Sebastian (Sam) Avellino Jr. The gentleman all the way to the right is my Uncle Richard (Dicky) Avellino. The older gentleman is not my grandfather Sebastian (Sam) Sr. I do not know who it is; and the one next to him is a friend of my dad and uncle.

"The three of them used to race bikes. The building they are in does not appear to be the Avellino shop on Harris Street in Revere, Mass. I do not know the friend's name right now."

It turns out the day I reached her was special.

"Today is the fifth anniversary of my dad's death. I asked for a sign from him and I think this was it," Angel wrote.

She sent several photos she has that show Sam Sr. and Sam Jr., and the shop in Revere. I'm researching them as best I can and I have her permission to reprint them here. When I do, readers, I think I'll need your help identifying all they show.

Readers, for the moment, can you help tell us more about the photo from the REOC files? Who is the man in the plaid shirt standing so proudly with the young men in T-shirts? And who is that young man standing just next to him?

The shirts suggest the young men are going to compete for the pride of Royal Enfield. But where? When? And how did they do? Please respond in the Comments section below.

3 comments:

  1. Regarding the comment in the story about the one bike being a Mk1 Interceptor, I respectfully submit that the bike pictured and labeled as an Interceptor could possibly be the predecessor to the Mk1: the short lived 700 Interceptor; AKA 700 VAX Interceptor.
    In looking closely at the photo, it appears the heads resemble 700 heads and the headlight is the detachable version mounted on thin metal struts rather than "ears" as on later models.The bike also appears to not have the polished alloy twin gauge bracket common to the MK1.The earlier 700 Interceptor had a single speedo as standard equipment, which used a flat simple steel bracket to hold it.

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  2. This was a great story David. Really enjoyed it! In years gone by, I had purchased parts from Avellino's shop. Always enjoyed dealing with them.

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  3. Read Jorge Pullin's original post on Avellinos in Revere, Mass. at this link.

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