Friday, May 13, 2011

Enfield counterfeit tricycles

Occasionally one sees on ebay Royal Enfield tricycles for sale. David Blasco wrote about one that specialized in creating rainbows (!) recently. They are usually apparently of recent manufacture. Some are alleged to say "Made in Japan" on the frame. This is interesting, since Royal Enfield does not appear to have produced tricycles, not recently. I decided to get to the bottom of this by writing to the National Cycle Museum in the UK. The Royal Enfield Owners' Club in the UK refers questions about bicycles to them. They replied very kindly, stating that they get so many queries about Royal Enfield bicycles that they have crafted a form letter to reply to them. Here are relevant paragraphs from said letter,

"Manufacture of bicycles continued until the late 1960s and the company was finally closed in 1970. The remaining cycle components and machinery were later sold to a Birmingham firm, Kirk and Merifield, who continued to offer some models of bicycle under the Royal Enfield name until they finally ceased production in 1992.

In the later years of production at Redditch, cycle components and complete badged bicycles were bought in from manufacturers in the Far East. It is believed that these makers continued to produce machines after 1970, illegitimately using the Royal Enfield name and to ship these to overseas markets. A number of bicycles and tricycles badged as 'Royal Enfield Quality Bicycle' which are certainly later than 1970 have been identified in theUnited States. These are to designs which were never produced in Redditch or Birmingham."

But this of course raises another Enfield mystery: why would someone decide to use a brand in a counterfeit way when the brand itself was dying in the UK? Or was it? Perhaps in bicycle circles, since Royal Enfield continued as a brand after the demise of the Enfield cycle co. the name carried enough prestige as to be attractive? Who and where in the "Far East" carried out the production?

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