Harley Davidson celebrates 110 years of uninterrupted existence in 2013. Triumph turned 110 in 2012 but did close down for a few years in between. For a brand name to survive this long is an amazing achievement, especially in the extremely volatile motorcycle market. Yet why do we not see T shirts, especially from the Harley marketing machine, with “The oldest surviving motorcycle manufacturer” printed all over them? The answer is simple, or should that read basic and it wears the badge Royal Enfield.


In 1893 the Royal Enfield name was registered, ten years ahead of Harley and Triumph. The company it evolved from was a bicycle manufacturer which gained a large contract to supply weapon parts to “Royal” Arms from “Enfield” in England. Their famous slogan “Built like a Gun” bears testimony to their history in arms manufacture. In 1898 Royal Enfield produced their first motorised quadricycle and in 1901 their first motorised bicycle. Until their official demise in 1970 Royal Enfield produced a wonderful range of motorcycles which included both two stroke and four stroke, single and twin cylinder¬†models.


Although not Royal Enfield’s most sophisticated or most powerful model the Bullet model has become the best known Royal Enfield of all because they are still available off the showroom floor today. The Bullet name was first used in 1932 but the fully sprung model, which has the looks and single cylinder engine we all recognise in the latest model, appeared as a 350cc in 1949 and a 500cc in 1953.

The Bullet’s existence today was determined by the Indian government in 1955 which ordered eight hundred 350cc Bullets for the army and police. The motorcycles were assembled in an Indian assembly plant. In 1957 tooling to manufacture the parts was sold to the Indians who were producing complete motorcycles by 1962. The motorcycles have been improved over the years, mainly to meet legislation requirements but remain close to the 1949 originals. With the Bullets increasing popularity, its record as being the motorcycle model with longest production run looks unthreatened.
Onto our featured motorcycle…a Royal Enfield Bullet 500cc based classic racer. South Africa and Rhodesia produced some great international motorcycle racers in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. The South African Motorcycle Group preserves and continues racing historic racers pre 1975. Dion, a member of this group, decided to build this machine as there were no Royal Enfields being raced locally. Just about all the components including top triple tree clamp, tank, seat, rearsets and fairing were fabricated by Dion from scratch. He has built an unusual machine worthy of the slogan which was added to the original: Goes like a Bullet.