Royal Enfield's Meteors and Super Meteors were primarily aimed at the American market; Vikram Thambuswamy's 700cc 1956 Super Meteor is proof that a few invaded the Indian biking firmament as well
In the 1950s, Royal Enfield's Redditch factory cranked out bikes with 700cc twin engines. For the British motorcycle major, it was a giant leap from the 500cc twin category. RE had made the move with its sights set on the American market, which witnessed a huge demand for big bikes.
Introduced in 1952, the 700cc ohv vertical twin Meteor (characterised by the ‘melding' of two 350cc single engines) gave RE a foothold on American soil. Indian, which tied up with RE, lapped up the Meteor. After having been imparted a superficial makeover, the bike was offered as Trailblazer. Besides the front mudguard that was adorned with the head of an Indian chief and the Stuart Warner speedometer that superseded the British original, there was little interference with the Meteor look and character.
In the mid-1950s, the 700cc Super Meteor burst into the scene. It was equipped with a wider frame and a stronger crank that could prove equal to the greater power generated by a tweaked engine. Barring the early batches which came with dynamos, Super Meteors had alternators. After stylistic changes that barely scratched the surface, Indian sold the improved Super Meteor as Apache.
While these classic British bikes can't be separated from American motorcycling history, they have also contributed to the biking culture in other regions. A clutch of Meteors and Super Meteors has ‘streaked' into the Indian biking firmament. Vikram Thambuswamy's 1956 Super Meteor, which comes with a dynamo, serves as an evidence.
Pawned to a financial operator by the previous owner, the Super Meteor lay neglected. It betrayed an attempt to modify it into a café racing bike. For about 20 years after picking it up, Vikram (in picture) made little headway in restoring the bike.
“As I spent a good part of the period away from the city, the restoration project moved in fits and starts,” says Vikram. “About one-and-a-half years ago, I asked Ayya (the late K.R. Sundaram of Madras Motors who set up Enfield India Limited at Madras in 1955 to make Royal Enfield bikes under licence) to suggest a restorer.”
K.R. Sundaram asked Rajagopal of Southern Motors to help Vikram out. The help came in the form of M. Sundar, who has a sound knowledge of vintage and classic bikes, thanks to his reading habits and his experience restoring such bikes. Keeping Super Meteor specifications in sight, he fabricated a laundry list of parts. He paid great attention to details such as the right shape of the tool box and the thick aluminium main stand.
To make it easy to ride, Vikram encouraged Sundar to go in for certain modern features. The approach is best reflected by the rear suspension. For better performance, a Mikuni, not an Amal, feeds the engine.
“The Amal carburettor is with me,” says Vikram, who intends to keep the bike busy.
Photos: R. Ravindran