Blast from the past

If a vintage Royal Enfield is what you’re looking for, the company is bringing them to specialised stores

By Abhijit Mitra
  • Published 1.04.18
A now discontinued diesel RE in green (in the foreground) at the Vintage store in Chennai 

Royal Enfield (RE), which has been cashing in on its ‘heritage’ chops to become the global leader in the mid-size motorcycle segment, has opened the first Royal Enfield Vintage store in Chennai. This store deals exclusively in pre-owned, refurbished and restored motorcycles, and is the first instance in India where a manufacturer is offering restoration services for its older models.

Initiatives like this are not uncommon abroad for brands that have been around a long while. Jaguar Land Rover Classic, for instance, offers similar services to collectors of older cars who want to keep their vehicles on the road. They can get the vehicles worked on by people who have access to the original service instructions.

1A Royal Enfield Crusader motorcycle with a Villiers engine from the late 1960s 

The Vintage store in Chennai is designed to cater to existing and potential RE customers looking for tested and certified pre-owned motorcycles, giving peace of mind in the used vehicle market, which is always tricky territory for the inexperienced. The store takes the idea of a manufacturer-operated pre-owned vehicles business and a restoration operation and rolls them together.

“We have observed a healthy demand for refurbished and pre-owned Royal Enfield motorcycles, and believe that this business will continue to grow. We are targeting to open 10 Vintage stores across the country in the first year,” says Shaji Koshy, head, India + Business, RE. 

The Fantabulous was RE’s take on a scooter. It had a Villiers engine and, hold your breath, a self-starter  

Since it began operations in India in the mid-1950s, Royal Enfield has produced many different motorcycles apart from the Bullet in 350cc and 500cc avatars, on which it has built its reputation and business. There have been a step-through and a small bike in the 1980s called Silver Plus and Explorer, respectively, that used technology from Zundapp of Germany. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were

150cc bikes called Crusader and Sherpa that used engines from Villiers of the UK.

The Mini Bullet was a 200cc Enfield that the company sold during the 1980s

There was also a Royal Enfield that used a Greaves diesel engine. The company had also got Austrian engine expert Fritz Egli to tweak an engine in the 1990s. There was the Fantabulous, which was probably one of the first scooters in the Indian market. And there was, of course, the so-called Mini Bullet 200cc motorcycle from the 1980s. To a greater or lesser extent, most of these have takers among vintage motorcycle enthusiasts and, potentially, they could buy these vehicles at the Vintage stores.

RE says the Vintage store gives the advantage of transparent pricing and standardised processes for pre-owned motorcycles. It will only deal in Royal Enfield-badged bikes and have three lines of business — Pre-owned, Refurbished (refurbished as needed after a thorough quality check), and Restored (vintage motorcycles repaired and restored to original condition).

The 350cc Bullet has embodied all that is macho for an amazing 60-plus years in India

Vintage stores will also offer assistance with financing options and ensure motor insurance, warranty and post-sales service. With trouble-free documentation, the entire customer experience is smooth and effortless. “With Vintage, we have created a place where epic motorcycling journeys, experiences, and the stories will never end,” says Koshy. 

RE’s Shaji Koshy with a 1980s Explorer bike