Royal Enfield

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The Enfield Cycle Company Limited
TypePublic Listed Company
IndustryMotorcycles, Guns, Bicycles
FounderAlbert Eadie and Robert Walker Smith
ProductsRoyal Enfield Clipper, Crusader, Bullet, Interceptor, WD/RE, Super Meteor

Royal Enfield was a brand name under which The Enfield Cycle Company Limited of Redditch, Worcestershire[1] sold motorcycles, bicycles, lawnmowers and stationary engines which they had manufactured. Enfield Cycle Company also used the brand name "Enfield" without the "Royal".

The first Royal Enfield motorcycle was built in 1901. The Enfield Cycle Company is responsible for the design and original production of the Royal Enfield Bullet, the longest-lived motorcycle design in history.

Royal Enfield's spare parts operation was sold to Velocette in 1967, which benefitted from the arrangement for three years until their closure in early 1971. Enfield's remaining motorcycle business became part of Norton Villiers in 1967 with the business eventually closing in 1978.


George Townsend set up a business in 1851 in Redditch making sewing needles. In 1882 his son, also named George, started making components for cycle manufacturers including saddles and forks. By 1886 complete bicycles were being sold under the names Townsend and Ecossais. This business suffered a financial collapse in 1891.[2][3] Albert Eadie, sales manager of Birmingham's Perry & Co Ltd, pen makers who had begun to supply components for cycles, and Robert Walker Smith, an engineer from D. Rudge & Co,[4] were chosen by Townsend's bankers to run the business. Then, in 1892, the firm was re-incorporated and named Eadie Manufacturing Company Limited; it was based in Snow Hill, Birmingham.[5][6] Later, in 1907, after serious losses from their newly floated Enfield Autocar business, Eadie Manufacturing and its pedal-cycle component business was absorbed by Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA).[7] Years later, the BSA chairman was to tell shareholders that the acquisition had "done wonders for the cycle department".[8] Eadie still retained a separate identity when Raleigh bought BSA's cycle interests in 1957.[9]


Share of "The New Enfield Cycle Company", issued 11. January 1897

Eadie had won contracts to supply precision parts for firearms to the government's long-established Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield, Middlesex, with its offshoot in Sparkbrook and had assumed the brand name Royal Enfield.[10] In 1896 they also incorporated a new subsidiary company, The New Enfield Cycle Company Limited,[note 1] to handle much of the cycle work and in 1897 Enfield making complete cycles as well parts for other assemblers took all the cycle assembly work from Eadie.

Enfield diversified into motor cycles, 1901 and motor cars, 1902. The motor department was put into a separate subsidiary, Enfield Autocar Company Limited incorporated in 1906 and established in new works at Hunt End, Redditch.[11] However Enfield Autocar after just 19 months reported a substantial loss and, aside from Eadie himself, shareholders were unwilling to provide more capital so in early 1907 Eadie sold his control of Eadie Manufacturing to BSA. Albert Eadie and Robert Walker Smith had been appointed directors of BSA before the proposed sale had been put to shareholders. The new combined BSA and Eadie business manufactured "military and sporting rifles, (pedal) cycle and cycle components, motor-cars etc."[12] "BSA and Eadie cycle specialities".[13] But there were still minority Eadie shareholders alongside BSA in 1957.

The business of Enfield Autocar, that is to say the plant and stock, was sold to Birmingham's Alldays & Onions Pneumatic Engineering.[14] Enfield Cycle Company took over the Hunt End premises.

In 1955, Enfield Cycle Company partnered with Madras Motors in India in forming Enfield of India, based in Chennai, and started assembling the 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle in Madras. The first machines were assembled from components imported from England. Starting in 1957, Enfield of India acquired the machines necessary to build components in India, and by 1962 all components were made in India.

Frank Walker Smith (1888-1962), eldest son of Robert Walker Smith, joined Enfield Cycle Company in 1909. Appointed joint (with his father) managing director in 1914 he took over the full responsibility when his father died in 1933.[15] After his death Enfield was bought by investors E & H P Smith who sold Enfield for £82,500 to Norton Villiers in 1967.[16] While Norton Villiers acquired 33 per cent of Enfield India the assets of Enfield's diesel engine division and pedal cycle and spares divisions were not picked up.[17]

Royal Enfield produced bicycles at its Redditch factory until it closed in early 1967. The company's last new bicycle was the 'Revelation' small wheeler, released in 1965.[18][better source needed][better source needed] Production of motorcycles ceased in 1970 and the original Redditch, Worcestershire-based company was dissolved in 1971.[19]

Royal Enfield's spare parts operation was sold to Velocette in 1967, which benefitted from the arrangement to such an extent that the company as a whole survived for another three years until their closure in early 1971. C C Cooper, a West Bromwich metals dealer, continued to produce limited spare parts for a short time by a small team of engineers.[20]

Enfield of India continued producing the 'Bullet', and began branding its motorcycles 'Royal Enfield' in 1999. A lawsuit over the use of 'Royal', brought by trademark owner David Holder, was judged in favour of Enfield of India, who now produce motorcycles under the Royal Enfield name.[21] The models produced and marketed in India include Cafe Racers, Cruisers, Retros and Adventure Tourers.


Royal Enfield Quadricycle

By 1899, Royal Enfield were producing a quadricycle – a bicycle modified by adding a wrap-around four-wheeled frame, retaining a rear rider-saddle with handlebars – having a front-mounted passenger seat, driven by a rear-mounted De Dion engine.[22]

After experimenting with a heavy bicycle frame fitted with a Minerva engine clamped to the front downtube, Enfield built their first motorcycle in 1901 with a 239 cc engine.

1907 Enfield 15

A light car was introduced in 1903 powered by either a French Ader V-twin or De Dion single cylinder engine. In 1906 car production was transferred to a new company, the Enfield Autocar Co Ltd with premises in Hunt End, Redditch. The independent company only lasted until 1908 when it was purchased by Alldays & Onions.[6]

In 1907, Enfield merged with the Alldays & Onions Pneumatic Engineering Co. of Birmingham, and began manufacturing the Enfield-Allday automobile.

By 1910, Royal Enfield was using direct belt drive 297 cc Swiss Motosacoche V-Twin engines which were enlarged to 344cc for 1911 with the advent of chain drive and the Enfield 2 speed gear. Enfield hired Bert Colver from Matchless and competed in the 1911 Isle of Man lightweight TT.

1913 Enfield 425cc

In 1912, the Royal Enfield Model 180 sidecar combination was introduced with a 770 cc V-twin JAP engine which was raced successfully in the Isle of Man TT and at Brooklands. Enfield developed a prototype for the soon to arrive 1913 425cc model 140. The prototype was Enfield's first in house manufactured V twin, also at 344cc, being of overhead inlet, side exhaust layout.

First World War (1914–1918)[edit]

In 1914 Enfield supplied large numbers of motorcycles to the British War Department and also won a motorcycle contract for the Imperial Russian Government. Enfield used its own 225 cc two-stroke single and 425 cc V-twin engines.[23] They also produced an 8 hp motorcycle sidecar model fitted with a Vickers machine gun.

Inter-war years (1921–1939)[edit]

1923 Royal Enfield 225cc

In 1921, Enfield developed a new 976 cc twin, and in 1924 launched the first Enfield four-stroke 350 cc single using a Prestwich Industries engine. In 1928, Royal Enfield began using the bulbous 'saddle' tanks and centre-spring girder front forks, one of the first companies to do so. Even though it was trading at a loss in the depression years of the 1930s, the company was able to rely on reserves to keep going. In 1931, Albert Eadie, one of the founders of the company, died and his partner R.W. Smith died soon afterwards in 1933.

Second World War (1939–1945)[edit]

Royal Enfield 250 cc, type 11F

During World War II, The Enfield Cycle Company was called upon by the British authorities to develop and manufacture military motorcycles. The models produced for the military were the WD/C 350 cc sidevalve, WD/CO 350 cc OHV, WD/D 250 cc SV, WD/G 350 cc OHV and WD/L 570 cc SV. One of the most well-known Enfields was the 125cc 2-stroke Royal Enfield WD/RE, designed to be dropped by parachute with airborne troops.

In order to establish a facility not vulnerable to the wartime bombing of the Midlands, an underground factory was set up, starting in 1942, in a disused Bath stone quarry at Westwood, near Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire. Many staff were transferred from Redditch and an estate of "prefabs" was built in Westwood to house them.

As well as motorcycle manufacture, it built other equipment for the war effort such as mechanical "predictors" for anti-aircraft gunnery: the manufacture of such high precision equipment was helped by the constant temperature underground. After the war the factory continued, concentrating on engine manufacture and high precision machining. After production of Royal Enfield motorcycles ceased, the precision engineering activities continued until the final demise of the company.

Postwar Model G and Model J and ex-military C and CO (1946–1954)[edit]

Postwar, Royal Enfield resumed production of the single cylinder ohv 350cc model G and 500cc Model J, with rigid rear frame and telescopic front forks. These were ride-to-work basic models, in a world hungry for transport. A large number of factory reconditioned ex-military sv Model C and ohv Model CO singles were also offered for sale, as they were sold off as surplus by various military services.[24]

In 1948, a groundbreaking development in the form of rear suspension springing was developed, initially for competition model "trials" models (modern enduro type machines), but this was soon offered on the roadgoing Model Bullet 350cc, a single cylinder OHV. This was a very popular seller, offering a comfortable ride. A 500cc version appeared shortly after. A mid 1950s version of the Bullet manufacturing rights and jigs, dies and tools was sold to India for manufacture there, and where developed versions continue to this day.[24]

500 Twins, Meteors, Super Meteors and Constellations 1949–1963[edit]

In 1949, Royal Enfields version of the now popular selling parallel twins appeared. This 500cc version was the forerunner of a range of Royal Enfield Meteors, 700cc Super Meteors and 700cc Constellations. Offering good performance at modest cost, these sold widely, if somewhat quietly in reputation. The 700cc Royal Enfield Constellation Twin has been described as the first superbike.[25]

250 cc models[edit]

The 250cc class was important in the UK as it was the largest engine which a 'learner' could ride without passing a test. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Royal Enfield produced a number of 250 cc machines, including a racer, the 'GP'[26] and a Scrambler, the 'Moto-X', which used a modified Crusader frame, leading link forks and a Villiers Starmaker engine.[27][28] The Clipper was a base-model tourer with the biggest-seller being the Crusader, a 248 cc pushrod OHV single producing 18 bhp (13 kW).

RE GT with flyscreen
RE GT with Avon Speedflow nosecone fairing

In 1965, a 21 bhp (16 kW) variant called the Continental GT, with red GRP tank, five-speed gearbox (which was also an option on the Crusader), clip-on handlebars, rearset footrests, swept pipe and hump-backed seat was launched. It sold well with its race-styling including a fly-screen resembling a race number plate which doubled as a front number plate mount.[29]

RE Turbo Twin

The Avon 'Speedflow' full sports fairing was available as an extra in complementary factory colours of red and white.[30]

Other variants were the Olympic[27] and 250 Super 5, notable for use of leading-link front suspension (all the other 250 road models had conventional telescopic forks) and the 250 'Turbo Twin', fitted with the Villiers 247 cc twin cylinder two-stroke engine.

The Royal Enfield GP production-volume racer was first raced in the Manx Grand Prix in September, 1964. Developed in conjunction with Royal Enfield Racing Manager Geoff Duke[26] the first public appearance was at Earls Court Show in November, 1964. Using a duplex-tube frame, leading link forks and one-piece tank and seat unit, the 250cc two-stroke single engine was similar to other small capacity race machines offered from rivals Greeves, Cotton, DMW and particularly Villiers,[31][32] which provided the engines for these marques and many other manufacturers and bike-builders including the 'Starmaker' competition engine used for the Scorpion racer and Sprite scrambler.[27]

Royal Enfield Interceptor[edit]

Royal Enfield Interceptor motorcycle

During the onslaught of the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers in the late sixties and early seventies, the English factories made a final attempt with the 692cc Interceptor[33] in 1960-1961,[34] followed in 1962–1968 by the 736cc Series I and Series II Interceptors.[35] Made largely for the US market, it sported much chrome and strong performance, completing the quarter-mile in less than 13 seconds at speeds well above 175 km/h (105 mph).[36] It became popular in the US, but the company was unable to supply this demand, which accelerated the demise of this last English-made Royal Enfield.[37]

The Redditch factory ceased production in 1967 and the Bradford-on-Avon factory closed in 1970, which meant the end of the British Royal Enfield. After the factory closed a little over two hundred Series II Interceptor engines were stranded at the dock in 1970. These engines had been on their way to Floyd Clymer in the US; but Clymer had just died and his export agents, Mitchell's of Birmingham, were left to dispose of the engines. They approached the Rickman brothers for a frame. The main problem of the Rickman brothers had always been engine supplies, so a limited run of Rickman Interceptors were promptly built.[38]

Enfield Indians[edit]

From 1955 to 1959, Royal Enfields were painted red, and marketed in the US as Indian Motorcycles by the Brockhouse Corporation, who had control of the Indian Sales Corporation (and therefore Indian Motorcycles) and had stopped manufacturing all American Indians in the Springfield factory in 1953. But Americans were not impressed by the badge engineering, and the marketing agreement ended in 1960, and from 1961, Royal Enfields were available in the US under their own name. The largest Enfield 'Indian' was a 700 cc twin named the Chief, like its American predecessors.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ From 1896 to 1897 known as "The New Enfield Cycle Company Limited"


  1. ^ Royal Enfield. The Times, Wednesday, 2 Oct 1912; pg. 27; Issue 40019
  2. ^ "2017 Royal Enfield Himalayan – Taking It Easy". Motorcycle alliance.
  3. ^ "Royal Enfield Background". Natur Freundejugend. Archived from the original on 21 September 2017.
  4. ^ W.F. Grew. The cycle industry, its origin, history and latest developments. Sir Isaac Pitman, London, 1921
  5. ^ The Irish Times 17 July 1897: 11
  6. ^ a b Worthington-Williams, Michael (September 1989). "The Enfield-Allday story". The Automobile. 7: 10–13.
  7. ^ The Motor Industry. The Times, Friday, 2 Sep 1910; pg. 8; Issue 39367
  8. ^ Birmingham Small Arms. The Times, Tuesday, 30 Sep 1913; pg. 16; Issue 40330
  9. ^ Business Changes. The Times, Friday, 12 Jul 1957; pg. 16; Issue 53891
  10. ^ Altstedter, Ari (14 October 2020). "An Indian-Made Motorcycle With a Retro Look Is Coming After Harley". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  11. ^ Prospectus. The Times, Wednesday, 7 Mar 1906; pg. 15; Issue 37961
  12. ^ Important Cycle Trade Amalgamation. The Times, Wednesday, 13 Feb 1907; pg. 12; Issue 38255
  13. ^ B.S.A. display advertisement. The Times, Wednesday, 2 Oct 1912; pg. 26; Issue 40019
  14. ^ Enfield Autocar Limited. The Manchester Guardian 18 January 1908: 11
  15. ^ "Major F. W. Smith." The Times 27 April 1962: 13.
  16. ^ WCycle Company Sold. Daily Telegraph, 9 Mar. 1967, p. 2.
  17. ^ The Guardian, 9 Mar 1967: 12.
  18. ^ "Royal Enfield Revelation 1965". Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2013. Royal Enfield Revelation (retrieved 26 August 2013)
  19. ^ Millers's Classic Motorcycles Price Guide 1995 Volume II, p. 78. Judith and Martin Miller, general Editor Valerie Lewis.
  20. ^ Goodman on Velocette, Part 2. Interview with works director Peter Goodman, by Dennis Frost. The Classic Motor Cycle, June 1996 pp. 47–51. Accessed 13 January 2020
  21. ^ Trade mark decision, Patent Office, UK Government. Retrieved 12 March 2016
  22. ^ [1] Grace's Industrial Guide 1900 advertisement Retrieved 2013-12-31
  23. ^ "The History of the Marque". Archived from the original on 13 June 2009. Retrieved 4 April 2009.
  24. ^ a b "Royal Enfield By Miles the Best" book by Gordon May
  25. ^ "Royal Enfield By Miles the Best", Gordon May
  26. ^ a b Motor Cycle, 9 September 1965. p.371 SLIM and LOW by David Dixon. Track test at Oulton Park of RE GP with Racing Manager Geoff Duke. Accessed 2013-08-18
  27. ^ a b c Motor Cycle, 19 November 1964. 'Earls Court Show Guide'. p.847 "Geoff Duke demonstrates the riding position of the new Royal Enfield racer..." and p. 860. [images]:caption:" Britain's newest racing two-fifties, the Scorpion and...Royal Enfield". [Royal Enfield stand] "The preliminary range announcement brought an interesting newcomer in the leading-link fork Olympic sportster....a highly potent super-sports (the Continental GT) and a very tough looking Starmaker came the dust sheets and there stood a two-fifty production racer with a Redditch-built power unit!". Accessed 2013-08-18
  28. ^ Motor Cycle, 5 November 1964, pp. 770–771. A flourish for the GT. About the bike—and a Moto–crosser". Accessed and added 2014-12-23
  29. ^ Motor Cycle, 19 November 1964. 'Brighton Show Guide'. p. 17. Royal Enfield "The new Continental GT" full-page factory advertisement. Accessed 2013-08-18
  30. ^ Motorcycle Mechanics, August 1966 p.48 'Fancy a Fairing?' [image]caption: "This is the new 'Speedflow' shell from Mitchenall Bros.; it is finished in red and white. Produced for the Royal Enfield GT, it retails complete at £26".
  31. ^ Royal Enfield 250GP at Bonhams Retrieved 2014-04-20
  32. ^ Motor Cycle, 19 November 1964. 'Earls Court Show Guide'. p.880 'Show Snips'. [image]"...Starmaker-powered road racer displayed on the Villiers stand: the machine is—completely—a Villiers and will be factory-sponsored in next year's short-circuit meetings; rider, probably, will be Peter Inchley" "..the Starmaker itself in its various forms can be supplied to owners of machines at present using other Villiers engines. Orders can be placed direct with the factory, or through dealers." Accessed 2013-08-18
  33. ^ "VAX Interceptor". The Gun. Royal Enfield Owners Club. June–July 2012.
  34. ^ Skelton, Richard (2021). Royal Enfield - a Global Motorcycling Success Story. Morton's Media Group Ltd, Horncastle, Lincolnshire. ISBN 978-1-911639-38-1.
  35. ^ Skelton, Richard (2021). Royal Enfield - a Global Motorcycling Success Story. Morton's Media Group Ltd, Horncastle, Lincolnshire. ISBN 978-1-911639-38-1.
  36. ^ Robert Smith (May–June 2009). "1968 Royal Enfield Interceptor: England's Forgotten Twin". Motorcycle Classics. Retrieved 7 August 2009.
  37. ^ [2] Is-it-a-lemon Enfield review (retrieved 22 October 2006).
  38. ^ Gary Ilminen (January–February 2010). "1971 Rickman-Enfield Interceptor". Motorcycle Classics. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  39. ^ Post 1953 Indian Motorcycle History - The Floyd Clymer Indian Archived 4 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2014-09-10

External links[edit]