Who would want to buy a British motorcycle that looks like it was made 50 years ago? Greg “Scooter Bob” Stewart hopes lots of people will.
Stewart just became the only dealer in the state selling retro-looking Royal Enfield motorcycles.
“This is the last of the real Brits,” explained Stewart, 46, from the modest showroom of ScooterBob’s EuroBike in St. Albans.
Of the dozen or so classic British motorcycle manufacturers that paved the way for modern bikes, only Royal Enfield remains, Stewart said. The Triumph name still exists, but is no longer a British company, and most of the parts are made in Asia. BSA, Vincent, Matchless and many others are all gone.
Stewart just received two Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycles, one a military version and the other a flashy red-and-chrome civilian model. The 500-cubic-centimeter bikes are actually built in Madras, India, and are based on a design that dates from the 1950s.
India bought thousands of Bullets for its military in the 1950s. “They just couldn’t make them in England fast enough,” Stewart said, so in 1955 Royal Enfield built a plant in Madras.
The Indians have been cranking out Royal Enfields ever since.
“The 350cc version of this is the everyman’s motorcycle in India,” Stewart said. “Everyone has one. It’s daily transportation, it’s a farm truck — it does everything.”
The bikes remain popular in Britain for their low cost, ease of maintenance and retro look. Though they have been updated with modern electric systems and five-speed gearboxes, they’re built and look like the Bullets of the 1950s.