Friday, November 29, 2013

The racing controversy

Perhaps quite apropos, given the introduction of the Conti, is to revisit some of the aspects of the previous incarnation of the bike. In particular there was a serious effort made to get Enfield back to racing on a machine loosely based on the Continental, called the GT5 and involving racing legend Geoff Duke. The move was surrounded by controversy, as the letters reprinted below show. Basically, it was decided to go with a Villiers Starmaker engine and later with an engine designed by renowned two stroke specialist Hermann Meier and also the gifted Polish engineer Leo Kuzmicki, whom Duke knew from his days at Norton. The Enfield proved to be the quickest British-built 250cc machine, but suffered from reliability problems. Meier even proposed the design of an in-line, liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder two stroke engine, with disc valves, for which he produced a general layout and specification. Like the current Conti, the machine sported a specially designed frame made by specialists, the design was of Reg Thomas and the build by Reynolds Tube Co Ltd. The fairing was produced by Mitchenall. But the racing adventure had proved costly.  Enfield,  was owned since 1962 by E. & H. P. Smith Ltd, a manufacturer of machine tools, static electrical equipment, electronics and equipment for medicine. That is, a large conglomerate which view the motorcycle concern purely in terms of revenue. And revenue was getting hit hard by the influx of Italian and Japanese machines. The racing project was canceled and in 1967 the main factory sold, and it became clear to everyone involved that the end of the company was near.

Sources: "Geoff Duke: The Stylish Champion" and "The story of Royal Enfield motorcycles", books by Peter Hartley. The article is from "Motor Cycling" March 21, 1964

1 comment:

  1. Clicking on the photo of the letters-to-the-editor is interesting. What dedicated and concerned Enfield fans readers were, and how alarmed by the company's downward spiral.



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