Sunday, November 6, 2011

Return to the USA

The blogosphere is abuzz with the return of Royal Enfield to California. This is an important development as it is the largest US market. It is interesting that this is the second return of Royal Enfield to California. From the years 1955 to 1961 Royal Enfield motorcycles were rebadged "Indian" and sold in the US after the Springfield motorcycle company had closed its factory in the hostile takeover by Brockhouse Ltd. Apparently, during that period, Royal Enfield stopped selling motorcycles in the US with its own name. Eventually the deal with Indian came to an end. Indian had been selling AJS/Matchless motorcycles in the early 1950's as an additional source of revenue for dealers as production in Springfield was wound down. In 1961 they went back to Matchless, although they were still disposing of Enfield machines they had in stock, which created some confusion in the ads.

The Enfields marketed as Indians had fenders, lights and instrument panels made in the US to give them a more "American" look and native-American related names as "Tomahawk", "Chief". Apparently they were trying to disguise their UK origin. By 1960 a lot of British bikes were being sold in the US and Indian did not make attempts to "dress up" the AJS/Matchless machines sold from there on. Enfield decided to start marketing its British bikes with small modifications in the US until the demise of the company in 1970 in the UK. The article on the left is from the November 1959 issue of American Motorcyclist. More on the Enfield Indians here and here.

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