c1966 Royal Enfield Bullet 500cc Café Racer Motorcycle
With a proud tradition of building motorcycles dating back to 1899, Royal Enfield continues in production to the present day thanks to the Bullets so famously made in India. The company motto of “Made like a gun, goes like a bullet” reflects the legacy of manufacturing weapons but Royal Enfield branched into producing bicycles, motorised tricycles and quadricycles in the latter part of the 19th Century. Early attempts at manufacturing motorcycles were set aside as Royal Enfield initially focused on automobile production, building a series of light cars and it wasn’t until 1910 that Enfield began building its first serious motorcycles, beginning with a V-twin powered by a 2 ¼-hp Motoracoche engine. The range expanded rapidly prior to the First World War, which saw the supply of large numbers of motorcycles to the British armed forces. The inter-war period saw numerous new models introduced and the firm continued its racing exploits, racing at the Isle of Man TT between 1925 and 1930. Royal Enfield’s most famous model – the 350cc Bullet – became the mainstay of the Redditch Company in the post-war period. An overhead-valve four-stroke single, the Bullet can boast the longest production run of any motorcycle, having been in continuous production since 1948. Originally launched in 1931, the Bullet was initially sold with centre-spring girder front forks until a revised fully-sprung model appeared in 1949, with a swing-arm and non-adjustable hydralic shocks at the rear and a brand new telescopic fork of Royal Enfield’s own design. The engine, mounted vertically in the frame, was also improved, with an alloy cylinder head and higher compression, while the Albion four-speed gearbox featured a unique ‘neutral finder’ lever. In the early post-war period a factory was opened in Madras to supply the Indian Army and built Bullets under licence for sale on the subcontinent. Until 1955 British and Indian Bullets were produced in parallel, incorporating the same detail changes, but diverged thereafter and production of the 350cc in the Redditch factory ceased altogether in 1962.