Advocate M.T. Arunan had his 1982 and 1986 Enfield bikes fitted with Greaves Cotton diesel engines so that he was not at the mercy of batteries to start them (a diesel motorcycle requires a battery for lights and horn, but its engine can be started without one).
The older motorcycle was permanently kept at Arunan's ancestral house in Mangavilai, a village in Kanyakumari district, and the other — bought for his use in Chennai — was frequently ridden to the village and brought back only after a long period of time. It, therefore, required someone to constantly start the bikes. Arunan was not comfortable with the thought of his machines being handled by others.
In 1999,he procured Greaves Cotton (Lombardini) engines — primarily meant for industrial use and used by Enfield for its diesel Taurus bikes — and commissioned the conversion work to Rajesh, a mechanic from Nagercoil who Bullet owners swear by. Ever since, nobody — except for his son M.A. Aruneshe — has been allowed to take out any of these bikes.
Once in 30 days, Arunan makes the trip to Mangavilai to give the older bike a bit of running time; the 1986 diesel Enfield is now permanently in Chennai. “These diesel engines are sturdy; changing engine oil every 5,000 km is all it takes to keep them humming happily,” explains Arunan. “And when you factor in the low fuel bills, there is absolutely nothing to complain about.”
Back in those days, when diesel was much cheaper, such diesel conversions of Bullet bikes were common. Noticing their popularity, Royal Enfield brought out Taurus, fitted with the 6.5hp diesel Lombardini engine. Diesel conversions are not the only major expenditure Arunan incurred for these bikes: he had alloy wheels installed in both and also had them painted in flamboyant colours — sky-blue for the 1982 model and fern-green for the 1986 model — through ‘Nagercoil'David. “There is a long list of people waiting to have their vehicles painted by David,” says Arunan.
When a friend of his is baffled by his unusual attachment to these machines, Arunan tells him how they are an intrinsic part of his life. Says he, “The 1982 Enfield, a gift from my father, is the first Bullet to be ridden around Mangavilai. And, the 1986 Bullet marks the time he shifted his practice from Nagercoil to Chennai.”