Nov 30, 2010

Royal Enfield a History of financial difficulties and army motorcycles

Enfield Cycle Company began in 1893, founded by George Townsend as a division of the George Townsend & Co., which manufactured sewing needles and fishing hooks at the "Givry Works" needle-making mill in Redditch, Worcestershire UK. Shortly after Townsend's death, his son George Townsend Jr. decided to get into the burgeoning bicycle business, starting off with a 'boneshaker' pedal-cycle, which soon became known as the "Townsend cycle." George's creation had a iron frame and wooden wheels fitted with a set of iron tires.
Givry Needle works, Hunt End, Redditch

The firm of George Townsend & Co. opened its doors in the tiny village of Hunt End, near the Worcestershire town of Redditch. A firm specialising in sewing needles and machine parts.

In the first flush of enterprise, flitting from one opportunity to another, they chanced upon the pedal-cycle trade. Little did they know then that it was the beginning of the making of a legend.

George Townsend & Co. was manufacturing it's own brand of bicycles. And about this time its products began to sport the name 'Enfield' under the entity Enfield Manufacturing Company Limited. It became the 'Royal Enfield Manufacturing Company Limited' in 1893 and took on the trademark 'Made Like a Gun'.

In the late 1891 the company was facing financial difficulties and was taken over by R.W. Smith and Albert Eadie, and renamed the Eadie Manufacturing Company, Ltd. By the late 1800s Eadie was supplying weapons parts to the Royal Small Arms Factory located in Enfield, Middlesex, and decided to name their new bicycle line the "Enfield."
Townsend got himself into a bit of financial trouble in about 1890 and called in some financiers from Birmingham. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite see eye to eye. So Townsend parted ways with the financiers leaving the company to them. The financiers then brought in Albert Eadie and R.W. Smith. They took control of Townsend’s in November 1891. The following year the firm was re-christened ‘The Eadie Manufacturing Company Limited’. Soon after, Albert Eadie got a lucrative contract to supply precision rifle parts to the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield, Middlesex. To celebrate the contract, Eadie and Smith decided to call the first new design of bicycle, the ‘Enfield’.

Enfield Cycle Co. Redditch

The "Royal" was added to the bicycle's name in 1892, becoming the Royal Enfield Manufacturing Company Ltd., and the company slogan "Made Like A Gun," was added a year later. During this early period in the company's history they built a wide variety of vehicles, from two-wheeled motor cycles, to tricycles, four-wheeled "quadricycles" and even motorcars, using French-built de Dion-Bouton motors.

A new company was created to market these new design bicycles called ‘The Enfield Manufacturing Company Limited’. By October 1892, the Enfield bikes were announced to the public. The following year the word Royal (after the Royal Small Arms Company) was added and thus Royal Enfield began. Then in 1893 the Royal Enfield trademark ‘Made Like a Gun’ appeared. Britain was caught up in a patriotic fervor and the slogan caught the spirit of the time.

In 1899 the first mechanical vehicle was advertised by Enfield Cycle Company. It was available in both tricycle and quadricycle form, powered by a De Dion 1.5 hp engine. The high wheels, solid tyres, block chains and heavy cross frames had by then given way to Diamond frames, the Hyde Freewheel, Enfield 2 speed hub and the well known Eadie Coaster. Then came the ‘Riche Model’ with more refined fittings. By 1907, the cycle industry was still headquartered at Redditch, producing run-of-the-mill conventional cycles of the Roadster, Sports and Racing range.

The 1901 177cc Motorcycle

Royal Enfield built their first motorcycle around 1902, using aftermarket 150cc or 239cc engines. In 1907, Royal Enfield merged with the Alldays & Onions Pneumatic Engineering Co. of Birmingham, and began manufacturing the Enfield-Allday automobile.

By 1910 Royal Enfield was using 344cc Swiss Motosacoche V-Twins engines, or large-displacement J.A. Prestwich JAP and Vickers-Wolseley engines. By 1911, the company introduced its chain-drive motorcycle, using the proprietary "Enfield two-speed gear."

During WWI

The Flying Flea and dropping cage WWII

The First World War began in 1914. Royal Enfield was called on to supply motorcycles to the British War Department and even awarded a contract to build bikes for the Imperial Russian Government during the same period. The machine gun combination and the 6hp stretcher-carrying outfit were some of the models produced for the war purpose. Enfield started using its own engines - a 225cc two-stroke single and a 425cc V-twin about this time. Post-war, it produced a larger 976cc twin and continued to produce the two-speed 225L until 1929. In 1917, the officers of the Women’s Police Force were issued with a 21⁄4 RE 2 stroke.
Interestingly, the models of this period featured 600cc, inlet-over-exhaust, closed valve gear, hand-operated oil pump, two-speed countershaft gearbox and chain final drive. In the 1913-1914 Enfield V-Twin the lubricating oil was contained in a glass tank attached to the frame tube that ran from the seat to the rear of the engine. This worked perfectly and also had the added advantage of providing an instant visual check of oil levels. The 1915 make 675cc in-line 3-cylinder 2-stroke prototype was the worlds’ first with this configuration and engine type.

Enfield's proprietary 4-stroke motors used an IOE (inlet-over-exhaust) configuration with a closed valve gear. Engine lubrication was via a hand-operated oil pump, with a glass oil-tank being bolted to the frame. For a brief time the company even experimented with an in-line three-cylinder 2-stroke engine.

Buoyed by success, Smith and Eadie decided to extend the range of quadricycles and tricycles to include motorcars. The first Royal Enfield cars were built in 1901 and were on the road in 1902. It was an 8hp, using a DE Dion engine. The body was made in Leicester and painted yellow hence the car was known as ‘The Yellow Car’. But this was just a temporary phase, a wild romance that was soon to die.

Motorcycle Craze 1909

It would be interesting to note here that motorcycling was thought to be a temporary enthusiasm that would soon fade out! A brief spin on a motorbike then took several hours of preparations - tuning the tiny water-cooled engine, getting the tyres pumped, the gears oiled and a supply of spare parts packed. In 1909, Royal Enfield took the biking world by surprise. At the motorcycle show that year, they displayed a small 21⁄4 hp V twin-engine machine built in the Swiss tradition, which ran very well. A slightly larger model was developed in 1911. A 23⁄4 hp, with all chain drive incorporating the well-known Enfield two-speed gear. This model stood up until 1914.

The interwar year was a period when the sidecar reached its zenith. In July 1925, the Royal Enfield V-Twin-engine Dairyman’s Outfit took part in the ACU Six Days’ Trial for Commercial Sidecars and obtained a Special Certificate of Merit for completing an arduous course without loss of marks. The year 1924 saw the launch of the first Enfield four-stroke 350cc single using a JAP engine.

Depression year 1928

In 1928, Royal Enfield adopted saddle tanks and center-spring girder front forks one of the first companies to do so. The bikes now with a modern appearance and comprehensive range, meant continuous sales even during the dark days of depression in Great Britain towards the end of 1930. In 1927 Royal Enfield produced a 488cc with a four-speed gearbox, a new 225cc side-valve bike in 1928, and a four-stroke single in 1931. Several machines were produced in the next decade, from a tiny two-stroke 146cc Cycar to an 1140cc V-twin in 1937. Can you even imagine that Royal Enfield’s range for 1930 consisted of 13 models!

The Second World War 1940

1949 Royal Enfield 125cc 2-Stroke   Made Like A Gun logo
At the start of World War II Royal Enfield began building motorcycles for the military war effort, producing the 125cc Airborne, or "Flying Flea" which was designed to be parachuted to the troops in the field. The Flying Flea was fitted into a tubular-steel cage known as the "Bird Cage," to protect it during the drop.

The most well known offering for the Second World War was no doubt the ‘Flying Flea’. Also known as the ‘Airborne’, this lightweight 125cc bike was capable of being dropped by parachute with airborne troops. The Flea was fitted into a steel tubular cage called the ‘Bird Cage’, which had a parachute attached to it. The cage aided in packing turning handlebars easily. The Enfield Cycle Company was called upon by the British authorities to also manufacture a variety of special instruments and apparatus to use against enemy forces. So it was not bikes alone during the war years.

The Royal Enfield 'Bullet'
The Bullet 350cc 1939
In 1932, Royal Enfield introduced a new single-cylinder four-valve engine design nicknamed the "Bullet," which had an inclined (or slopped), long-stroke cylinder-head, with an exposed valve gear assembly. The "Bullet" name would go on to be a mainstay of the Enfield line, beginning with the introduction of the "Bullet 350" in 1939. With the Bullet 350, the valve gear assembly was now enclosed within two rocker boxes.

By the late 1940s, the Royal Enfield marque made its most significant contributions to the world of motorcycling with their telescopic front-fork assembly, and rear swing-arm suspension system which used twin hydraulic-damper units. These advancements were introduced on their 1947 model J2, and 1948 500cc parallel-twin. From here, Enfield was building everything from 125cc two-strokes to the 700cc Meteor 4-stroke.

More at  1948
1949 Royal Enfield 125cc 2-Stroke   Made Like A Gun logo 
The 1939 Bullet 350 kick-started the post-war models. They used two rocker boxes for the first time. This enabled better gas flow and consequently higher volumetric efficiency. Royal Enfield’s own designed and manufactured telescopic front fork placed the Redditch marquee at the very forefront of motorcycle design. The biggest advancement introduced by the new Bullet was its swinging arm rear suspension system and hydraulic damper units themselves. In 1947 Enfield made a J2 - the first model with a telescopic front end, followed in 1948 by a 500cc twin (Enfield's 25bhp answer to the Triumph Speed Twin), which stayed in production until 1958. In 1950, several models were introduced: the 650cc Meteor twin; a 250cc Clipper; a short stroke 250cc Crusader; 250cc Trials; Super 5; Continental; 500 Sports Twin; Super Meteor; Constellation and the Interceptor.

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