Saturday, August 30, 2014

Royal Enfield 500 Twin race bike

Royal Enfield 500 Twin race bike

Does anybody recognise this bike?

The engine is a Royal Enfield 500 twin from the early fifties, it has no number stamped. The frame looks like a Norton but is in fact a one off in the style of a featherbed. The build of the frame is a work of art, beautifully executed with a lot of very nice attention to detail. Forks are Enfield with a one off top yoke. Wheels are also Enfield and the gearbox is an Albion stamped HCR 454 which I would guess stands for 'high close ratio'. I believe the machine is from the early fifties and was built at a time when pukka race bikes were hard to get and featherbed frames were not available on the open market.

The bike has a dealer sticker on the frame top rail 'Tony Cooper Motorcycles' of Dudley, this dates from the seventies. Apparently TCM bought the bike from the James Brothers at the Old Railway Station in Baschurch, Shropshire. I had a lead that it might have been built by a guy called Geoff Rawlings in Filton, Bristol from someone who possibly remembered it as a child. The other lead was from a guy I met at the VMCC Wroughton Sprint a few years ago when I took the bike along, he recognised it as a machine he had worked on and it had belonged to a friend of his but he had no further history.

Royal Enfield 500 Twin race bike

I would love to know more of the Enfield's history, for it must surely have an interesting past. My story with it begins nearly ten years ago when I bought it at auction in the West Country, unloved by other bidders and hammered down to my solitary speculative hand in the air. It sat at the back of the garage for a while whilst I pondered what to do with it, time went by, we moved house and then I realised I wasn't going to easily find the time to sort it out. I got in touch with Paul Henshaw of Performance Classics who agreed to rebuild the motor for me. I had run it but just for a few seconds but was nervous of running it longer as it had been using Castrol R and was left standing for a lengthy time, there was a chance that serious use could result in mechanical disaster from blocked up oilways.

Royal Enfield 500 Twin race bike
Close ratio Albion gearbox.
Paul did a great job on the engine for very reasonable money and I collected a sweet running bike. He was even kind enough to do some enquiries about its history but mostly drew a blank. There followed several months, time was short, but I managed to take it to a VMCC sprint at Wroughton. The bike started sweetly but wouldn't pull under load, a sign of ignition or more likely fuel woes from storage. Then we moved house, the shed at the new place started leaking and the Enfield had to be evacuated to safer storage.

Royal Enfield 500 Twin race bike
Classic fifties race bike lines.
There's now a grander and rain tight shed been built and the Enfield has come home. I've realised I am not going to get much use with it out on the track so it is getting prepped for road use. It has been registered on an age related number with DVLA and is getting a few light modifications to make it closer to road legal. The front mudguard has been added courtesy of Hitchcocks motorcycles. I made a frankenstein side stand from a sidecar mount grafted on to an Indian Enfield stand and it still needs a bulb horn to be discretely tucked away somewhere.

Royal Enfield 500 Twin race bike
Nice detailing on the one-off frame.
I've made one or two minor cosmetic changes. When the Enfield came to me it had flat handlebars and looked as if it had been used for hill climbing. I removed these bars and fitted a pair of clip ons which look a lot more graceful. The aluminium Manx style fairing was an ebay spot. I knew it would complement the machine nicely. I also fitted a new, slightly longer rear mudguard as I felt the old one was cut slightly too short.

Royal Enfield 500 Twin race bike
BTH TT magneto fitted.
In making changes to the machine I learnt a lesson that what looks good on the bench might not look so good from different angles. I can see that the mounting of the fairing needs some adjustment now it is out of the workshop and also the bike is heavily over-tyred. The front tyre is rather too large a section and could be narrowed down considerably. The bike came to me with a set of flanged ally 19 inch rims so perhaps these are the answer over the 18 inch currently fitted. I think they will probably give it a little more grace.

Royal Enfield 500 Twin race bike
Cut out primary cover and home made
side stand.
Hopefully the Enfield will be out and about on the streets soon, probably only on special occasions as with no kickstart it's certainly not going to be a daily runner. If you do recognise it and know any more of its story please comment or get in touch via email.

Royal Enfield 500 Twin race bike
As built the bike was fitted with a pair of pre-monobloc Amal
carbs with a remote floar chamber.  It now has a pair of
concentrics fitted. Once I have it running sweetly with the
concentrics I'll try to go back to the original set-up.

Royal Enfield 500 Twin race bike
Riders-eye view of the Royal Enfield 500 Twin racer.

Royal Enfield 500 Twin race bike
Tail view of the 500 Twin racer. With the end
caps off the megaphones the sound is

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