Friday, July 22, 2022

Great old Classic Motorworks catalogs

Three Royal Enfield catalogs.
Classic Motorworks catalogs delighted U.S. Royal Enfield customers. 

 A recent home improvement project required me to empty my bookshelf. I was somewhat surprised to find there editions of Classic Motorworks' "Parts and Accessories" catalogs from the 20-oughts. 

They were numbered, in those days, so I have Catalog numbers 9 (2007), 10 (2008) and 11 (2009). 

I was only "somewhat" surprised because these were useful and very complete catalogs, with photos, and U.S. prices. Mixed in their 200-odd pages were bits of advice regarding Royal Enfield motorcycles and motorcycling in general. 

Well worth saving, I thought at the time, and I still do. 

Today you can find what you want on the Internet, sure, but there was nothing as satisfying as sitting down with a beverage and the catalog, paging through it even if there was nothing special you needed to buy. 

Royal Enfield with vintage equipment.
The classy, distinctive "Statesider" kit.

There was so much to dream about. There were sidecars, and vintage-style single-wheeled trailers, and "kits" that could convert your Royal Enfield Bullet into the Cafe Racer or the chrome-laden Continental or the high-piped Scrambler.

Maybe you didn't have the money for those. But it was only $1.95 for the "Spark Plug Disc Gap Gauge."

Now any ordinary catalog of that day would have listed the disc, maybe even shown its photo, and given the price. But here's what the Classic Motorworks catalog said about it, next to its photo:

"The spark plug gap on the Bullet is supposed to be .020" to .028" (.020" for better kick-starting). As you may have noticed it is hard to find a plug gapping tool that goes that low. This disc gauge measures spark plug gap from .020" to .080". Perfect for the bike's tool kit or your keychain. The stated gap works best for a kick start only bike. You can increase the gap up to .028"-0.30" for electric start bikes."

Disc shaped spark plug gauge.
Catalog put a lot of work into description of $1.95 gauge.

And this is not an exceptional description. Many entries are just as informative.

The catalogs include helmets, hats, every imaginable shape of turn signal and even variations on the Bullet's valve tappet cover. 

Among the accessories shown in the catalog are items I see on many Royal Enfield Bullets in the U.S. 

One of these is the "Tombstone Taillight," despite the dutiful warning in the catalog that it does not illuminate your license plate.

And then there are items I have never seen on any Royal Enfield, although they must exist (there's a picture). An example of this is the "Chrome Speedometer Visor." Made of shiny plastic, it easily affixes to the speedometer, the catalog claims. 

"Besides its period appearance, you will appreciate the reduction in glare, especially if you run a windshield," it claims.

Catalog listing for speedometer visor.
Simple and unusual but would you pay that much for it in 2008?

Perhaps $21.95 seemed a bit much in 2008 for something made of plastic. But, given the Florida sun I ride under, it might be a great thing to have, painted in non-glare black.

A lot of thought and design work went into the Classic Motorworks catalogs. No two of the three catalogs I possess are identical. They're artifacts of an earlier time, before all information had to fit on a smart phone screen.

"Browsing" didn't mean "scrolling" in those days.

Classic Motorworks, in Faribault, Minn. delivered Royal Enfields to the United States as the distributor, back when I first learned about the brand.

Royal Enfield of India took over and created its own network of dealers, struggling at first, and never, as far as I know, bothering with printed catalogs of parts and accessories.

You can read the story of Royal Enfield's return to the U.S. and of Classic Motorworks in my profiles on this blog of Martin Scott and Kevin Mahoney, the two men who led the way in the U.S.

The modern story of Royal Enfield naturally will be told by the vibrant, successful corporation it has become. I'm glad I learned about Royal Enfield early enough to experience some of the value created by the guys who first brought me my Bullet.

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