Friday, June 2, 2023

Royal Enfield: Brit brand, made in India

2018 Royal Enfield motorcycle.
Royal Enfield brand originated in England, but they're now made in India. 

 What do you say when a seller in Wisconsin, U.S.A. lists his 2018 Royal Enfield for sale, and notes that its color is Silver, its Engine Size is 500cc, and its "Brand Origin" is England. 

All true! 

Except... that's possibly not the impression he means to give. Suspicion arises is that he intends to suggest that the motorcycle was actually MADE in England. 

Some buyers, we know, will attach value to such a claim. More historic. More original. Higher quality; they hope. 

Even if unintentional, the seller's implication (that "brand" equals "place of manufacture") is a trap for the uninformed. 

Americans who watch the ads for Royal Enfield motorcycles are accustomed to encountering claims that Royal Enfields made in India were "made in England." 

Some of the sellers may in fact just not know that Royal Enfields were not made in England after the 1970 model year, and were subsequently made only in India. They may not realize that, even before 1970, a great number of Royal Enfields were being made in India. 

This probably was case for a different seller, this one in California, who claimed his 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet (with an India-style license plate) was "All original British built." 

He also claimed that it was a 1968 Royal Enfield Bullet, although the accompanying photographs suggest it was made much later, in India. Perhaps the paperwork the seller received when he bought it was bogus (it is easier and cheaper to import a vintage motorcycle than a newer one).

He may have been a victim of a phony sales job and innocently passes the misinformation along.

Knowing the year a Royal Enfield motorcycle was produced can help determine where it was built, whether in England or India.

In particular, after 1995, Royal Enfields officially imported into the U.S. (ALL of them by then made in India) should bear standard VIN numbers.

The 10th position in the VIN tells you the model year. These repeat, so you need some idea of the decade the motorcycle was built. Here's a list that covers the years up to 2036.

For bikes without VIN numbers there is some room for confusion. Here's why:

The earliest Royal Enfields "made" in India were manufactured in Britain, and imported as "Completely Knocked Down" (CKD) kits for local assembly. India gradually developed the ability to manufacture the motorcycle itself, continuing to use some parts made in Britain and elsewhere for some time.

But the curtain falls around 1967, when Royal Enfield in Britain discontinues the sales of Bullet-style single cylinder motorcycles (the big twin-cylinder Interceptor types carried on into 1970). By 1968, the Bullets were being made only in India.

If I am correct that the advertised "1968" motorcycle up for sale is an even later model (based on photographic evidence), there is no way it was built in Britain. Certainly it is not "all original British built."

So what is a careful seller, or cautious buyer, to do? The answer is simple, thanks to the generosity of a Royal Enfield  authority in the UK.

If you would like to know how old a vintage Royal Enfield is just email the frame and engine numbers to Graham Scarth at

Graham has made a study of the numbers stamped into Royal Enfields by factories in the UK and India. He is happy to be of assistance in this matter to all Royal Enfield owners wherever they reside (be sure to thank him). Note that you may be asked to provide photos of the number stampings, along with one of the complete machine. Graham does not charge for this service.

Looking at the photo in the ad, Graham had his own opinion of the motorcycle's age. He wrote:

"The engine has no fins around the cast-in breather which means very late 1989 or 1990 at the oldest. It does not have the raised pad for the engine number stamping so early 1997 at the newest."

Royal Enfield Bullet advertised as a 1968.
One of the photos in ad for supposed 1968 Royal Enfield Bullet.

It's still a valuable motorcycle, and a Brit-styled one at that, very, very similar in important ways to Royal Enfield Bullets made in Britain circa 1955. Just let's get the place and year of birth correct.

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