Rupert’s Enfield frame mods
THE STORY SO FAR...
Royal Enfield Meteor Minor resto is six years in. Its 496cc twin has been rebuilt and a new front end fitted. Now the aim is to finish the bike for a trip to this year’s Classic TT.
One of the problems of having the Enfield’s engine built by an expert (Jim Hodges) is it made the rest of the bike look shabby. I’ve studied and ridden Jim’s bikes, and after that it’s hard to maintain a ‘that’ll do’ attitude on your own project. I got the same feeling from two other Brit bike maestros, Jim and Bill Gysin, when they popped in earlier this year. Like Jim, they have had their bikes in CB and produce work to the same impeccable standards.
My big problem is Enfield’s odd rear frame design, which slopes downwards like a dog dragging its arse and gives the bikes a staid, stodgy look. On the Meteor Minor it also makes the seat far too low for good comfort and control. My Heath Robinson solution had been to raise the seat, but this left a yawning gap underneath and looked terrible. So I found myself strapping the bike into the van and heading to see Ian Davis at ETTO Motorcycles in Sibthorpe, Nottinghamshire, for a rethink.
Ian is an ex-racer who understands function as well as form, and his newly-established custom shop would have pleased the Enfield’s original owner, John Robinson. I’m trying to restore the bike in the way John would have done, to improve its comfort, controllability and practicality. By the time I’d arrived and had a cuppa, I remembered I didn’t like the petrol tank. Enfield made some tasty tanks (on some Bullets and the MKII Interceptor) but the Meteor Minor’s bulky, utilitarian item didn’t fit with the agile concept I was after.
Ian reminded me that until the seat and tank were nailed down, we couldn’t sort the tubes underneath. “Get me the tank and seat you want and we’ll take it from there,” he advised. That night, I found an original Redditch Meteor tank, with the right shape, in decent nick, for £85 on the internet. Thrilled, I spent a further £15 on a Japanese fuel tap, because all Brit fuel taps are rubbish (another tip I’ve picked up from Jim Hodges).
The bike was still at Ian’s, but I traced a side-on photo, modified the tank to suit the new shape, and sketched/rubbed out different seat options until one felt right. Wow! Suddenly the bike looked compact and pretty (see below). I tried looking for off-the-peg seats, but couldn’t find any. Instead, I planned to ask Ian to make a seat base from scratch. To my delight, when I brought him the new tank and showed him my styling plan, he agreed enthusiastically that it was do-able. Making a curved main tube is going to be tricky, but he gets the idea of the project – and that’s worth a lot.
ABOVE: Ian Davis is the man tasked with turning Rupe’s ideas into metal
BELOW: Raising the seat left a big gap beneath. Back to the drawing board... Rupert’s sketch of his revised concept for the frame, seat and tank