ROYAL EN­FIELD FURY!

At the end of the 1950s, Royal En­field cre­ated a com­pe­ti­tion-spec, big sin­gle, dirt-track desert scram­bler. Very few furies ever made it back to Blighty, but for­tu­nately Paul Hen­shaw has plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence with big-head Bul­let race­bikes.

Real Classic - - What Lies Within -

At the end of the 1950s, Royal En­field cre­ated a com­pe­ti­tion-spec, big sin­gle, dirt­track desert scram­bler. Very few Furies ever made it back to Blighty, but for­tu­nately Paul Hen­shaw has plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence with big-head Bul­let race­bikes..

Pho­tos by Paul Hen­shaw, David Sow­den, RC RChive

The Royal En­field Fury was the scram­bles ver­sion of the fi­nal, big-head model of the Red­ditch 500 Bul­let. Aimed at BSA’s DBD34 com­pe­ti­tion mod­els, it was prob­a­bly a case of ‘too lit­tle, too late’ and not very many were made; around 190 is the num­ber usu­ally quoted. The Gold Star cer­tainly had much more time to evolve and gain ac­cep­tance, while the RE scram­bler ap­peared to be much more of an af­ter­thought – not much more than a few trick parts stuck onto the stan­dard Bul­let 500.

The hottest of these go-faster ad­di­tions was the cylin­der head, also seen on the last road­go­ing ver­sions of the 500 Bul­let. In Fury spec it boasted a mas­sive 1½” in­let port to go with the equally large Amal GP

car­bu­ret­tor. Me­chan­i­cally, the Fury dif­fered from the last Bul­lets only with this larger in­let port, a lighter fly­wheel assem­bly, higher com­pres­sion ra­tio (sev­eral op­tions were avail­able) and the hot­ter ‘R’ cams.

They still used the same old al­loy con­rod, though, and this just wasn’t re­ally up to the sort of en­gine speeds and stresses the high state of tune im­posed upon it. In­deed, I have wit­nessed con­rod fail­ures my­self. Not pretty. If RE had fit­ted a forged steel con­rod, per­haps things might have been dif­fer­ent. If con­rods hadn’t bro­ken dur­ing US dirt track events, per­haps more Furies might have fin­ished more races, scored more suc­cesses and so more might have sold. Who knows? Cer­tainly, these days, a Fury-spec en­gine tuned for rac­ing can take many more ex­otic and ex­pen­sive ma­chines (and spec­ta­tors) by sur­prise on the race­track. Fit­ted to a short­stroke 350cc race en­gine, that cylin­der head can cope with 9500rpm, well out of the com­fort zone of an al­loy con­rod! What might have been...

The ma­chine fea­tured here first came to my at­ten­tion quite a few years back, at the Telford Show, on an auc­tion­eer’s dis­play stand. It looked to have been fully re­stored. I took a pic­ture or two and thought no more about it. A lit­tle while later, I was ap­proached by Llandow Clas­sics, who had a cus­tomer with a Royal En­field Fury. They had got it run­ning and MoT’d for an owner who had bought it in an auc­tion, and they rec­om­mended me for the other work the new owner wanted done. As it turned out, this work be­came a top end and gear­box re­build, fol­lowed by what we might call ‘in­ter­mit­tent development’.

Ini­tial find­ings were, in spite of the bike’s show­room ap­pear­ance, a very worn out top end with valves wag­gling around in their guides like a stick in a bucket, and a cracked cylin­der liner. Also, more alarm­ing, was the lack of an oil feed quill bolt seal in the worm nut on the end of the crank! Luck­ily, the ma­chine had only been run for a few hun­dred yards, if that, and no dam­age was ap­par­ent. The top end was re­built with new parts and the lu­bri­ca­tion sys­tem re­ceived at­ten­tion, in­clud­ing a seal for that worm nut…

I re­called that a 389 Amal Monobloc carb had been fit­ted when I saw the Fury at Telford, as you might ex­pect to find on the or­di­nary, road­go­ing big-head Bul­lets. By the time the ma­chine ar­rived at my

work­shop this had al­ready been re­placed by a more suit­able (but not pe­riod) 38mm Mk2 Amal Con­cen­tric. This made start­ing very easy and all-round run­ning gen­er­ally pretty good. How­ever, early test rides proved the Lu­cas N1 mag­neto to be sus­pect, so this went for a short visit to Tony Cooper for an over­haul and a job well done.

An­other prob­lem show­ing sim­i­lar symp­toms to the tired mag­neto turned out to be a blocked vent in the fuel cap. Af­ter about five miles, the en­gine would fal­ter and die. I pulled into a layby with the en­gine splut­ter­ing. Think­ing it was run­ning out of fuel, I re­moved the filler cap to take a look, where the en­gine im­me­di­ately picked up and ran nor­mally. I con­tin­ued to­wards home, with the fuel cap loose…

We ex­per­i­mented with many as­pects of the e Fury’s set-up to make it suit­able for its owner to ride. Most of these were en­gine re­lated, such as sev­eral com­bi­na­tions of main, pi­lot and en­rich­ener jets; dif­fer­ent slide cut­aways, and re­tard­ing the in­let cam – all to try and make start­ing as easy as pos­si­ble. I didn’t find d it too dif­fi­cult to start my­self but he seemed to strug­gle. We have to bear in mind that this s state of tune was RE’s an­swer to the BSA Gold d Star. It’s easy to un­der­stand that the Fury, like e the Goldie, wasn’t a ma­chine for everyone. I even mod­i­fied the de­com­pres­sor, so it could be set just cracked open, to re­duce the com­pres­sion a lit­tle to make start­ing eas­ier. Then once the ma­chine was run­ning, it was just a mat­ter of flick­ing a latch to re­store full com­pres­sion.

Other changes in­cluded re­moval of the knob­bly Avon tyres and the fit­ment of a pair of mod­ern Avon AM types, as well as rais­ing the gear­ing from scram­bles spec to some­thing a lit­tle less fran­tic for today’s roads. The Fury came and went quite a few times over the next few years, with small de­tail changes and work car­ried out as the owner wished. Even­tu­ally, he gave up and sold it. I prob­a­bly en­joyed this ma­chine far more than he ever did, but all good things must come to an end ... or must they?

A few months later I re­ceived a call from David, who had just bought a Royal En­field Fury. It was the one I had worked on and what could I tell him about it? Well, I could tell him rather a lot, as it hap­pened! I men­tioned that still used what might have been the orig­i­nal al­loy con­rod. David paused briefly, then said ‘Well, I think I would like a forged steel one. Can you fit one if I bring the bike over?’ Yes, I could. I even had a Red­ditch crank al­ready fit­ted with one, which was now sur­plus to my own race bike’s re­quire­ments. That re­dun­dant crank would do fine for the new owner, then.

In­ter­est­ingly, the re­place­ment stan­dard Red­ditch crank, which I’d al­ready light­ened for rac­ing pur­poses, turned out to be ex­actly the same weight as the spe­cial light­weight Red­ditch Fury crank which came out of the Fury en­gine. Spooky.

An­other im­por­tant thing be­came ap­par­ent with the en­gine stripped. The outer race of the tim­ing side main bear­ing fell out of the crank­case with­out any ac­tion on my part. This did not look good at first but, amaz­ingly, it turned out some­one had fit­ted a met­ric bear­ing. This was al­most the right size, but not quite. I bought a Hitch­cocks tim­ing side nee­dle roller con­ver­sion and fit­ted it. The en­gine was much qui­eter and smoother af­ter the re­build. It was still harsher and more clat­tery than a stan­dard Red­ditch 500 Bul­let, but also much live­lier to boot.

Af­ter that full en­gine re­build, it was time for yet an­other ride on this ma­chine, prob­a­bly in its best form in many years. Start­ing was as easy as you could wish for on such a ma­chine, al­though it was best done with the mag­neto lever about half­way re­tarded and the Mk2 Amal’s en­rich­ener on for nearly all ex­cept hot starts – there is no tick­ler on these carbs. Once run­ning, the mag­neto lever could be moved to full ad­vance and left there, un­less a slow idle was re­quired to im­press by­standers or what­ever else lights your can­dle.

The clutch was smooth, but heavy – a bit too heavy per­haps, but it worked with­out slip or drag and was ac­tu­ally one of the very few things I’d not im­proved in any way. (No one ever asked me to look at. So I didn’t!) In with the clutch and hook the gear lever up to en­gage first gear. Ap­ply some revs and let the clutch out steadily. First gear is pretty tall, es­pe­cially with a 22T / 46T sprocket com­bi­na­tion, so some slip­ping of the clutch was needed to pull away smoothly.

The lighter than stan­dard crank (but stan­dard weight for a Fury) makes its pres­ence felt straight away. You no­tice it even when just blip­ping the throt­tle in neu­tral, never mind when open­ing up in gear. The Fury gains speed much more rapidly than a stan­dard ma­chine, thanks also to the es­ti­mated 9:1 com­pres­sion ra­tio and orig­i­nal fac­tory ‘R’ cams. As I men­tioned be­fore, I’d re­tarded the in­let cam by a tooth to get the in­let valve shut­ting later to make kick­start­ing a lit­tle eas­ier. This also boosts top end power and revs in some higher com­pres­sion big sin­gles, while sac­ri­fic­ing a small amount of bot­tom end grunt. On the Fury it is still pos­si­ble to pot­ter through the vil­lage at 30mph in top gear. Pos­si­ble, but not ideal.

Back to rid­ing: open up in first gear, pull in the heavy clutch, change up and open up again and re­peat. Twice – there are four gears. This is an­other of those ma­chines that can go up through the gears as fast as it will al­low you to move your hands and right foot. How­ever, you won’t be mov­ing your ap­pendages as fast as you might on some other ma­chines, due to the na­ture of the clutch and se­lec­tor mech­a­nisms. These can be a night­mareg and to­tally spoil the En­field

ex­pe­ri­ence if poorly set up. Once cor­rectly ad­justed, they will be­have de­cently enough.

The Fury’s ac­cel­er­a­tion is strong and once in top gear you can, by and large, con­trol your speed just on the throt­tle alone and give your left hand a rest. Yes, the clutch on this ma­chine could pos­si­bly be lighter and still work, but there are many out there with worse. Set­ting up an RE clutch could make an en­tire ar­ti­cle on its own…

The over­all feel­ing the Fury gave me was that of a slightly big­ger, heav­ier ver­sion of (not sur­pris­ingly) a BSA B50MX. It may be more like a Gold Star Catalina but as I’ve not rid­den one I can’t say for sure. The En­field’s han­dling and brakes are good. The bike is quick and flick­able, but I think you might get into trou­ble be­fore those rather evil-look­ing fold­ing footrests touched down. The rider of a mod­ern, multi-cylin­der ma­chine was clearly get­ting ag­i­tated through the twisty stuff, when he re­alised I was gain­ing on him with the Fury!

The En­field is quite a tall ma­chine with an up­right rid­ing po­si­tion, and wide and quite low han­dle­bars. It’s rea­son­ably com­fort­able and def­i­nitely fun. I never needed to fid­dle with the steer­ing damper, leav­ing it ‘off’ ev­ery time I rode the bike. With the gear­ing set to its later, higher form, keep­ing up with A-road traf­fic was a breeze. The odd stretch of dual car­riage­way or even mo­tor­way would be un­likely to faze the bike, al­though I doubt it would be much fun com­pared with blast­ing around more mi­nor, ru­ral routes. Town and city rid­ing could quickly be­come a bit of a pain on such a ma­chine, too.

Would I want to go far on a Fury? Prob­a­bly not. The small fuel tank, which holds no more than a cou­ple of gal­lons, com­bined with about 50mpg at ‘fun’ speeds, would be enough for me. By the time a re­fill would be re­quired, I would want to get off and stretch my legs (and rest my left hand!) Short dis­tance fun is where a bike like this scores best – and don’t for­get to be home be­fore dark!

Above: Royal En­field un­der­stood as well as many man­u­fac­tur­ers that a key to pro­mo­tion was suc­cess in com­pe­ti­tion. Strip­ping back their road bikes and ra acing them proved the breed to be st trong and re­li­ableL eft: The Fury. First spot­ted at the Telford d ShowS in 2010Right: The leg­endary Big Bear Run in n Cal­i­for­nia started in 1921, when a co ou­ple of guys in a bar on New year’s Eve e de­cided to race the hun­dred miles fromA to Big Bear Lake. By the 1950s it had be­come a full-blown or­gan­ised event, so o su uc­cess­ful that it was too large to han­dle e. The T fi­nal Big Bear was run in 1960 when a Fury took top hon­ours, ahead of 764 other o mo­tor­cy­cles

Right: Al­though the Fury car­ries no light­ing, the pri­mary chain­case still has room for an al­ter­na­tor. Sparks are from a Lu­cas N1 mag­netoBe­low: At the heart of the Fury is a ‘big head’ Bul­let en­gine. Its nick­name is well-founded. Ob­serve the se­ri­ous carb and the neu­tral finder on the gear­box

It is one hand­some ma­chine, al­though we won­der whether a sports solo sad­dle might suit it bet­ter Left: The Fury’s 500 en­gine in­cor­po­rated an en­larged in­let port, raised com­pres­sion ra­tio and lighter fly­wheels, giv­ing around 40bhp when paired to an Amal GP carb. Top speed was touted as be­ing close to 100mph Be­low: Fold­ing footrests are of­ten a sign of com­pe­ti­tion in­tent, and can be hard to find today. In­ter­est­ing con­cen­tric kick­start and gearchange shafts on the tim­ing side, while the pri­mary case shows signs of con­tact be­tween the footrest hanger and the chain­case

What lies within. As well as the big head, there’s a pretty big pis­ton, too The Fury’s frame de­sign uses the en­gine as part of its struc­ture, which has the ad­van­tage that it’s easy enough to re­move

On any en­gine in­tended for ac­tual use, the cor­rect size and qual­ity of bear­ings are al­ways a good idea Ob­serve an im­prove­ment: a Hitch­cocks nee­dle roller main bear­ing Paul reck­ons that the Fury’s en­gine should have re­placed the stock al­loy con­rod with a steel item. The owner agreed, and it just so hap­pens that Paul had one handy… RE pri­mary chain­cases may look fa­mil­iar to Nor­ton Com­mando pi­lots, with their sin­gle cen­tral bolt fixing and rub­ber band oil seal. Hap­pily, Nor­ton did not steal the oc­ca­sion­ally ec­cen­tric RE clutch

All to­gether now… Putting it all back to­gether. If you look closely you can see both the nee­dle tim­ing side main bear­ing con­ver­sion and the steel con­rod. Both are good ideas

To join Paul on his test ride of the Fury 500, hop over to this video on YouTube: https:// youtu.be/M_-IGyTV7Os Af­ter his road tests, Paul reck­ons the Fury is per­fectly fine for shorter jaunts of up to a tank­ful of fuel. Oddly enough, that’s al­most ex­actly the same dis­tance as the Big Bear Race… Hand­some…

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