From ‘Flying Flea’ to Turbo Twin, the two-strokes that Royal Enfield built

Everyone remembers the Crusaders, Bullets, Meteors and Constellations that were the flag-bearers of Royal Enfield’s Redditch factory, but they also made some pretty decent two-strokes as well.

Motor Cycling’s Midlands’ editor Bernal Osborne tries out a 1957 148cc Royal Enfield Ensign II in a typical urban setting of the time.

In a 1963 road test report on the 249cc Royal Enfield Turbo Twin, The Motor Cycle’s late Midlands editor Bob Currie put his finger on it in the very first paragraph.

“Don’t look surprised,” he wrote. “There have been Royal Enfields with proprietary engines before: Villiers, JAP – even Vickers if you care to go that far back. The fact that the Turbo Twin has a Villiers Mark 4T unit in a frame which is basically that of the four-stroke Crusader range is immaterial. What really matters is that such a marriage should be a happy one – and indeed it is, using an engine backed by years of two-stroke development with a well-tried frame already renowned for excellence of handling.”

He surmised that producing a sports mount had not been Royal Enfield’s aim, but rather a smooth, quiet, comfortable roadster with a reasonable turn of speed just below the 70mph mark in everyday use. He liked the facts that, with a seat height of only 29 inches, the 17in diameter wheels playing a part in this, even a rider of short stature could plonk both feet firmly on the deck, and that the footrests and handlebar had been positioned to give easy, relaxed touring.

The most outstanding feature though, was the utter smoothness of both engine and transmission.

“Most two-stroke twins are smooth,” wrote Bob, “but in the Mark 4T Villiers seem to have surpassed themselves. Try as you might, you cannot find a trace of a tremor anywhere.

Read more in the April 2017 issue of OBM – on sale now!

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