A Restored Enfield 500 Bullet


Senior member
Jan 11, 2011
Chiang Mai, Thailand
2007 KTM 990 Adventure Suzuki DRZ 400
A Restored Enfield 500 Bullet

A friend in Chiang Mai sourced an Enfield 500 bullet in India, had it shipped to Thailand and then restored it.

Being a perfectionist engineer himself, he's done an amazing job restoring it, hopefully he'll give a us a report on the restoration that will be interesting reading. Some more photo's here:


The speedometer opens clockwise!

Gears are on the right foot, rear brake is on the left foot, that would take some getting used to:

rear brake on the left side!


Standard they come with drum brakes, rob has modified this to disc brakes

from the rear
A year and a half ago my Mate here in Chiangmai, Tim Stanley, offered to arrange a 4 week bike trip for myself and Mrs Hoghead along with Papa Mike and Ian Bungy with their respective wives.
Rather than simply rent a bike, Mike and I decided to buy used models and Tim offered to supervise the rebuild. After the ride, Mike and I ended up stripping the bikes and importing as parts, while The Ambassador sold his before coming home.

A bit of shameless copy and paste from Wiki with orignal contant thrown in for your reading enjoyment:
Royal Enfield was the name under which the Enfield Cycle Company made motorcycles, bicycles, lawnmowers and stationary engines. This legacy of weapons manufacture is reflected in the logo, a cannon, and their motto "Made like a gun, goes like a bullet". Use of the brand name Royal Enfield was licensed by the Crown in 1890.

In 1893, the Enfield Manufacturing Company Ltd was registered to manufacture bicycles. By 1899, Enfield were producing quadricycles with De Dion engines and experimenting with a heavy bicycle frame fitted with a Minerva engine clamped to the front downtube.

Royal Enfield motorcycles had been sold in India from 1949. In 1955, the Indian government looked for a suitable motorcycle for its police and army, for use patrolling the country's border. The Bullet was chosen as the most suitable bike for the job. The Indian government ordered 800 350 cc model Bullets, an enormous order for the time and the company was unable to deliver. In 1955, the Redditch company partnered Madras Motors in India in forming 'Enfield India' to assemble, under licence, the 350 cc Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle in Madras (now called Chennai). Under Indian law, Madras Motors owned the majority (over 50%) of shares in the company. In 1957 tooling equipment was sold to Enfield India so that they could manufacture components. By 1962 Enfield (India) were manufacturing complete bikes, and faithfully continued producing a 1955 model bikes for the next 47 years.

The original Redditch, Worcestershire, UK, based company was sold to Norton-Triumph-Villiers (NVT) in 1968. Production ceased in 1970 and the company was dissolved in 1971. Enfield of India bought the rights to use the Royal Enfield name in 1995. Royal Enfield production, based in Chennai, continues and Royal Enfield is now the oldest motorcycle brand in the world still in production with the Bullet model enjoying the longest motorcycle production run of all time.

Production of the 500 classic cast iron engine like mine ceased in Feb 08 and the 350 ceased production last year. Prices of used Enfields in India have doubled and/or tripled since that time. Since the demise of the classic engine RE has brought out first a similar engine with different top end in a failed effort to reduce emissions and the latest offering is a FI, unit construction retro styled effort. IMHO, their days are numbered given that India is now an open market, and modern, faster, more reliable, and sometimes cheaper bikes are readily available. There is a loyal domestic user base and I hope to be proven wrong and the brand will survive.

My bike started life as a very rare Lightning 535, and is perhaps the ugliest RE ever made. Even the standard 500's are rare in India as most of the production was exported. My logic for not buying a new one was that I wanted shifting as the Queen intended so the new models were out. Given that the 500 classic engine was discontinued by the time we event went to India it had to be a used bike. In the end it cost the same as a new 350 model (2000 USD, ex works India), however is the classic Brit bike that I wanted rather than a modern bodge.
By the time it landed here, rebuilt once again, and I get a registration book you can triple that cost.

Tim supervised the complete rebuild in Agra by the local Bullet Babba, Taku DeSouza at Taj Choppers. This kid is a wizard with Bullets and I am convinced that a rebuild by any other Indian spanner monkey would have blown up long ago. While the mechanical workmanship is first class, the quality of paint, chrome and general finishing is not what I wanted, so when it got back to Chiamgmai I proceed to paint, chrome, powdercoat, and polish everything, while making some mods and fitting some special bits from the UK Enfield specalists Hitchocks.

I wanted a better brake which dictated the styling theme, so that it ends up looking like a 1970 version, or something that an enthusiast would have built in its day. Everything is a new RE replacement part plus a few mods of my own:
A 350 Classic tank
Front and rear mudguards off a modern 350 but painted, rather than cheesy chrome
New 5 speed gearbox as I got tired of the standard 4 speed with 5 neutrals. Shifting on the right as the Queen intended, but modified to the standard 1 down 4 up pattern.
Changed the gearing
Taillight off a RE thunderbird
Stainless Clubman bars made in Chiangmai
Clubman style seat made in Chaingmai
Bar end mirrors
Proper chain adjusters rather than the crappy Indian snails
SKF sealed bearings as the Indian rear hub one lasted 2 rides to Samoeung.
All non Whitworth bolts are stainless - WTF is Whitworth I hear the yougngsters cry!
Boyer electronic ignition so no more points
Disc brake front end off a late year model
Fork gaiters
Stainless brake line
Proper RE decals and pinstriping (the Made In England decal is a small fib)
The sausage muffler is gutted, and sounds the part. I think the next step is to make a stainless swept back megaphone exhaust.

The bike looks the part but the engine produces an alleged 22 crank Hp, which is pretty anemic when up against the likes of a modern 150. I have now collected the top end, induction, and cam parts to make it go, and awaiting development of a steel rod and proper bearing from the USA before I split the cases. I am hoping for 35 Hp on the back wheel with the engine mods and still docile on the street.
I think the next step is to make a stainless swept back megaphone exhaust so I am ready for the new better flowing top end.

The right shift takes concentration and in an emergency reflexes take over and I tend to hit the wrong pedal. I learned this way oh so long ago on a G-50 Matchless but it, like the Enfield 4 speed it was 1 up and 3 down. The new 5 speed is a conventional Jap pattern but still one forgets as it is still on the right for the classic Brit bike look.

Just paid the excise tax and on the road to legality but that is the subject for another article.

All in all a fun classic bike.
Nice job it looks like one of the New ones they sell in UK with disc brakes and modern electrics .

Good bikes actually honest traditional engineering.

Enfield india have tried for years to get sales in Thailand and the bikes would be popular here but the Thai customs wont play ball on import duties.
Yes the front brake is a modern feature, however it is not quite like the newer models as this is RH shift, kick start only, different tank, completely different top end, different controls, different primary due to KS only, and naturally the mods. For these reasons I chose to buy this 2000 domestic model rather than a newer domestic or export one as it is still the traditional version.

IMO, Enfield does not have a hope in Thailand. The vintage version is no longer available and they are now offering a new "Classic" with a different unit construction FI engine and retro styling. If there was a following I think it would be for the vintage version and the numbers would be very very small. Why would someone buy an expensive retro bike from India (with the quality connotations that that carries) when a local Jap bike is better, faster, and cheaper? Come to think of it, those same factors are what killed the Brit bike industry.
Sad to say, with no longer being protected in their domestic market, I think their days are numbered.
Thanks the report Robert,

I think I'm going to ask Tim to find me one over in India, I especially like the 500 bullet.
Very interesting to read and tremendously good and hard work done on that Enfield!! My hat is off to you!

I would consider getting one as well if some decent bikes can be found and shipped across.

Enfield would be able to sell a shed load of bikes here ..the Thais love old retro and british iron there are over 2000 old BSA M20s running around in the vintage clubs alone and they love the old enfield.

Enfield wanted to sell the assemble 350 version here for 160,000 baht but the BOI and customs killed the plan .
Here is one of the newer Enfields that a friend

Here is one of the newer Enfields that Robert was referring to, that a friend of mine has just bought in the UK
monsterman said:
Enfield would be able to sell a shed load of bikes here ..the Thais love old retro and british iron there are over 2000 old BSA M20s running around in the vintage clubs alone and they love the old enfield.

But they do not make the old retro model any longer, so it is rather a moot point
KTMphil said:
I think I'm going to ask Tim to find me one over in India, I especially like the 500 bullet.

I think you are further ahead buying one in the US as the majority of 500's were exported and Indians want far too much money for them due to the rarity. They are common in the USA and UK and far more likely to be maintained, and less likely to have been touched by a spanner monkey. Cost will be about the same. Shipping from India is a logistics nightmare.

The downside it that it probably will be LH shift, and electric start, but can be changed back to the proper design easily enough. In any case the electric start will self destruct soon enough requiring a sprage-a-dectomy.
Love your build. That bike looks even nicer than a lot of old Triumphs i see people clamouring about. Nice to see you have the patience to sort out the downsides of an old Indian.

Is there space on the stock transmission mainshaft to put on five gears or do you need all new selectors and shafts?
The 5 speed box is the newer offering from RE used in the last of the old style engines. It simply bolts right is place with no mods whatsoever. I bought it in Delhi, new in the crate c/w clutch and fitted it here.

All these newish 5 speed boxes are LH shift however and it had to be modded for the classic RH shift. Pattern now is the Jap style 1 down 4 up, rather than the original 1 up, 3 down as it is confusing enough being on the right side
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