RE’s curtain call

Back in March, Royal Enfield pulled the plug on one in every of its longest-running engine platforms — the 500cc single. The large single first got here into existence within the mid-1920s and leaves behind a legacy that won’t be forgotten any time quickly.

The starting

The very first Royal Enfield bike went on sale in 1901, but it surely was solely in 1927 that the corporate launched its first 500cc-single — the Model 500 — costing £52 (the equal of round £3,290 or ₹3.15 lakh at the moment!). Two years later, the corporate showcased the Model 505, but it surely was in 1930 that some moderately monumental steps have been taken in engine design.

In September 1932, Royal Enfield’s manufacturing facility in Redditch got here up with the enduring Bullet. It featured the brand new LF 500, a high-performing unit with a four-valve head that produced 25hp, simply 2.6hp lower than the 2019 Classic 500. However, the corporate’s experimental works division knew it was able to extra, and so a racing package was supplied with the next compression piston and a straight pipe exhaust. The outcome — 29hp!

In 1934, two specially-prepared iterations of this bike additionally took half within the Isle of Man Senior TT race, however sadly, neither managed to complete. The following 12 months, nonetheless, the identical machine, piloted by Cecil Barrow, completed the race in eighth place, averaging a formidable 73.94mph (119kph).

In 1935, RE’s 500cc engine adopted a singular three-valve setup, with the engine rockers and valve gear now totally enclosed, minimising oil leaks. This engine was short-lived although, because the three-valve setup noticed energy go down from the earlier iteration. So, Royal Enfield introduced again the four-valve mechanism with the 1936 JF 500. The J2, an iteration from this era, was additionally commissioned by the British Royal Air Force within the Second World War.

RE’s curtain call

The post-war period

In 1959, the engine was redesigned to ship higher efficiency, with take a look at runs claiming that the bike was able to 91mph (146kph)! This engine was additionally the final big-single to be manufactured on the Redditch plant, its manufacturing ceasing in 1962.

By 1956, operations had begun on the Tiruvottiyur manufacturing facility in Madras, the place 350cc Bullets have been manufactured and exported. They have been an enormous hit domestically in addition to in worldwide markets, however worldwide demand moved within the route of extra highly effective bikes. Enter the 1989 500 Bullet, the primary 500cc Royal Enfield to be manufactured in India. It featured a re-engineered model of the Redditch-made 1956 JS 500 with newer know-how like coil-ignition and alternator electricals.

Today’s basic

The UCE 500 was essentially the most vital step by the corporate with its big-single, that includes a gearbox that was now built-in with the crankcase, hydraulic valve lifters and fuel-injection — all firsts for a Royal Enfield. The engine was utilized in a number of fashions just like the Thunderbird 500, Bullet 500 and the Classic 500, which went on to turn into the bestselling Royal Enfield 500 ever.

RE’s curtain call

A legend within the Indian racing scene, G Subhash Chandra Bose, aka Bullet Bose, had a few attention-grabbing tales to share. He informed me that he felt the fuel-injection system didn’t totally extract the capabilities of the UCE, so together with his workforce at UCAL Fuel Systems, he started growing a carburettor. The outcome was the modern-day Bullet. What began out as a moderately simple conversion, quickly noticed quite a few bench assessments, the realignment of the carburettor mounting factors and even the gas tank, to raised accommodate the carburettor. The conversion was so environment friendly that it even allowed for one of many two catalytic converters to be eliminated, leading to higher efficiency.

RE’s curtain call

The 500’s demise in the end got here all the way down to strict emission laws, but in addition because of the truth that the Classic 500 was priced uncomfortably near the brand new 650s. Royal Enfield is now creating some totally well-engineered merchandise and there’s a brand-new 350 platform set to debut very quickly. The 500’s period has lastly drawn to a detailed and we’re unlikely to ever expertise one other uncooked, characterful, and sure, far-from-perfect engine prefer it. The 500 will at all times be a big and dearly beloved milestone within the firm’s 119-year-long journey.

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