As the second day of the 2015 Goodwood Revival gets under way so does the sympathetic restoration of a 1949 Royal Enfield Model G. The bike is the centre point of the Royal Enfield’s retro dealer display at the corner of the Revival Market. Situated next door to Shell service station and facing the Porsche garage, there’s a constant stream of visitors to watch as Royal Enfield mechanic and classic motorcycle enthusiast Rod Geskell twirl the spanners preparing to bring the barn find vintage bike back to life.
Meanwhile across the other side of the recreation of a late ‘50s Royal Enfield dealership the display of motorcycles continues to gather interest from visitors young and old alike. Original ‘60s Royal Enfields are displayed next to their modern day counterparts. The company’s entire range is represented with the current Classic, Bullet and the café racer inspired Continental GT all present.
Many of the older visitors to the reproduction dealership are keen to point out that they used to have a bike just like that back in the day. In fact, they may well have done, for beside each of the current machines is an example of the ’50s and ’60s model that inspired the current designs. A 1951 350cc Bullet clearly shows the way for the 500cc Classic which it stands next to. Then there is a 500cc Bullet ‘Big head’ model from ’61, which features the alloy cylinder head introduced in 1959, sitting next to a new 500cc Bullet. Completing the line-up are old and modern Continental GT models; a 250cc from 1965 and the visually very similar current 535cc design.
The Royal Enfield replica dealership blends in perfectly in this cultural milieu with its fat-serif exterior signage typeface—“Royal Enfield Made Like A Gun”—while inside famous Royal Enfield models like the ‘Big Head’ Fury, a 350 cc wartime WD/CO favoured by despatch riders, the 1965 250cc Continental GT that begat its modern-day 535cc avatar in 2013, all jostle for space and attention. The walls are adorned with 1960s advertising posters, while on the other side a 1949 Model G is being given a live ‘sympathetic’ restoration by master mechanic Rod Geskell. Over the Road, at the Café hundreds descend to quell their breakfast pangs while going over our apparel for the modern day motorcyclist, on and off the motorcycle.
Among the visitors to the Goodwood Revival Royal Enfield dealership is Ed Montgomery who has a story to tell about his grandfather. “My granddad used to tell me stories of how he used to ride a Royal Enfield when he was my age. It’s great to be able to see a Big Head Bullet like the one he told me he used to ride. I don’t think the modern Classic is my style, but I do like the look of the Continental GT, and if it’s as fun to ride as they stories grandad told me about his Enfield I’ll have to get one. I’ve already made plans to get a test ride after the Revival has finished.”
The mixture of old and new machinery on display at Royal Enfield’s marquee in the ‘Over the Road’ section of the Revival is gathering a lot of interest too. Once again old and new motorcycles are sitting side-by-side, this time in a recreation of a ‘60s style café. On one side of the café, there’s a pair of café racer – Royal Enfield Continental GTs; one an original 250cc the other its modern counterpart 500cc. Across the other side of the display, there’s a 125cc Model RE from 1947 and a ’59 350cc Trials Works replica demonstrating the diversity of the brand’s heritage.
Venture further into the café, past the Seeburg jukebox amazing youngsters with its selection of seven-inch vinyl singles, and there’s a WD/CO 350cc from 1942 in full military trim, just as it was when it was ridden in service. Visitors can then draw comparisons with its modern equivalent. One of only 200 built, there is a modern Despatch, based upon the Royal Enfield Classic 500 which has drab camouflage paint and a solo seat.
Outside the Royal Enfield café, there’s plenty to see too. As the meeting point for Royal Enfield owners, there are plenty of bikes to be seen from across the years, but perhaps the most interesting is not just a motorbike, but a sidecar outfit. The bike and its sidecar carry the world’s smallest theatre. Able to seat an audience of just two for each performance the theatre brings a touch of English eccentricity to Royal Enfield.