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Bullet History

The Royal Enfield Bullet holds the distinction of being the world's longest running production motorcycle. Bullets were built in 250, 350 and 500cc capacities between 1933 and 1939 and were aimed at the sporting rider. The post-war Bullets, built with telescopic front forks and swinging-arm rear suspension, were first seen in trials competition use in 1948. The 350cc model was made available to the public in early 1949.

Royal Enfield India opened their Madras factory in 1955. Production was first based on the assembly of kits imported from Britain. The bike proved so ideal for use in India that the factory thrived. By the time Royal Enfield folded in Redditch in 1967, the Indian plant was producing all but a handful of components for their Bullets.

In 2005, Royal Enfield India celebrated 50 years in production. Although some variants use modern-day technology, including an electric starter, coil ignition and improved brakes, the Bullet is essentially the same bike the company started with in 1955.

The 500cc JS Bullet was launched at London's Earls Court Motorcycle Show in November 1952. Originally painted a dark chocolate colour called copper beech, the model underwent a series of changes before it was dropped from the Redditch company's range in 1962.

Most notable of these changes were the addition of Enfield's famous casquette, a combined headlamp and instrument panel in 1954, double-sided 6" SLS front brakes and an all-over maroon paint finish in 1955 and a revised frame and new fuel tank with chrome side panels in 1956.

Throughout the late 1950's, specially prepared 500cc Bullets were exported to the USA where they were sold under the renowned Indian badge. Models included the Woodsman street scrambler and a true competition mount, the Westerner.

1960 saw the introduction of the iconic Big Head cylinder head and a redesigned casquette and petrol tank. Colours were burgundy or peacock blue and chrome. The Big Head Bullet produced a modest 27 BHP, but was easily tuned for racing. Exports to the USA continued, but now using the Royal Enfield name. A tuned street scrambler, the Fury, was the most sought after export model.

Although the production of 350cc Bullets commenced in India in 1955, a 500cc version was not introduced until 1989. The model was primarily aimed at export markets and was finished in classic all black or deluxe red, blue or black with chrome colour schemes. An all green army version with metal panniers also entered production.

A more 1970's styled deluxe version, the Superstar, was available in the early 1990s, but it was not until the new Millennium that significant changes appeared. The electric start ES model was introduced in 2001 and the 5-speed left foot gear change Sixty-5 model in November 2002.

The Electra X model, with a revised all alloy Lean Burn engine became available in 2004, with the original standard engine still sold in parallel. However, with emissions laws tightening in Europe, the original 500 Bullet engine will be phased out in 2008

The all new C5 Bullet Classic was unveiled at Intermot, Cologne, in October 2008. Its UK launch is planned for the NEC Motorcycle & Scooter Show, November 28 2008. Styling is pure 1950s, coupled with a completely new 500cc OHV single cylinder engine. Built in unit construction and using fuel injection, this latest Bullet is set to become a modern classic.

2015 Gordon G. May. All Rights reserved. | info@overlandtoindia.co.uk

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