Interstellar Overdrive: 1959 Royal Enfield Constellation

Restoring a 1959 Royal Enfield Constellation from a box of bits is not an easy task, but a lifelong British-bike enthusiast finally has his dream bike.

| November/December 2018

  • Royal Enfield Constellation
    1959 Royal Enfield Constellation
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
    1959 Royal Enfield Constellation
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
    1959 Royal Enfield Constellation
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Royal Enfiend Constellation
    1959 Royal Enfield Constellation
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
    1959 Royal Enfield Constellation
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
    1959 Royal Enfield Constellation
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
    Bought as a basket case, Tony Cording is proud to have his Connie back on the road.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
    1959 Royal Enfield Constellation
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
    1959 Royal Enfield Constellation
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
    1959 Royal Enfield Constellation
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
    1959 Royal Enfield Constellation
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Royal Enfield vintage motorcycles

    Motorcycle Classics archives
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
    1959 Royal Enfield Constellation
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
    Tony Cording and his restored one-of-a-kind Royal Enfield Constellation.
    Photo by Robert Smith

  • Royal Enfield Constellation
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
  • Royal Enfiend Constellation
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
  • Royal Enfield vintage motorcycles
  • Royal Enfield Constellation
  • Royal Enfield Constellation

1959 Royal Enfield Constellation

  • Engine: 693cc air-cooled OHV parallel twin, 70mm x 90mm bore and stroke, 8.5:1 compression ratio, 51hp @ 6,250rpm (claimed)
  • Top speed: 115mph (period test)
  • Carburetion: Single 1-3/16in Amal 10TT9
  • Transmission: 4-speed w/neutral finder, chain final drive
  • Electrics: 6v, magneto ignition
  • Frame/wheelbase: Single downtube cradle frame/54in (1,372mm)
  • Suspension: Telescopic fork front, dual shocks w/adjustable preload rear
  • Brakes: 6in (152mm) double-sided SLS drum front, 7in (178mm) SLS drum rear
  • Tires: 3.25 x 19in front, 3.50 x 19in rear
  • Weight (dry): 403lb (183kg)
  • Seat height: 31in (787mm)
  • Fuel capacity/MPG: 5gal (18.9ltr)/51mpg (period test)
  • Price then/now: $828 (1958/U.K.)/$4,500-$7,500

Long before space became the final frontier, it inspired some of the most powerful imagery of the mid-20th century. The V-2 rockets of World War II ushered in the space age. Then, in 1951, the Soviet Union launched two dogs, Dezik and Tsygan, into space and returned them to Earth unharmed, suggesting that space travel for humans was also possible. It seemed like the universe and everything in it would soon be within reach.

Suddenly, space jargon and images were everywhere, reflected in the shape of everything from appliances to auto tail fins. Oldsmobile built the Rocket 88; the world's first jetliner was the Comet; The Jetsons were on TV; newsstands were crammed with space comics; and It Came from Outer Space was just one of hundreds of Hollywood sci-fi epics.

Cycle makers caught the fever too: BSA made the Star Twin and Road Rocket; Vincent built the Comet and Meteor; and Royal Enfield's performance twin of 1958 was named for patterns of stars in the celestial sphere: Constellation.

Space race

It seems to be a little-known fact that for 10 years, Royal Enfield made Britain's biggest capacity parallel twins. The 693cc Super Meteor and Constellation held the title from 1953 to 1962, when Norton launched its 750 Atlas. (Enfield came back with the 750 Interceptor.) And like most of the other British twins (BSA being the exception), Enfield's bigger banger started out as a half-liter. The prosaically named 500 Twin first appeared from RE's Redditch, England, factory in 1948. And while it aped many of the characteristics of the other British parallel twins, it had some exclusive Enfield features.



The vertically split engine cases included a separate compartment holding four Imperial pints of engine oil, creating a dry sump engine with an internal oil tank. The oil was circulated by Enfield's unique reciprocating, double-acting piston pump with a replaceable felt filter. The two separate (and interchangeable) iron cylinder barrels of 64mm bore had extended sleeves that were spigoted deep into the crankcase. Each was topped with a light alloy cylinder head, fed from a single Amal 276 carburetor.

The iron crankshaft ran on a roller bearing/ball bearing combination with two plain big end journals giving a stroke of 77mm. Light alloy connecting rods with split big ends ran directly on the crank, thus making the rods "disposable" when worn — a practice shared with Triumph. Like Triumph's twins, the Enfield used two camshafts, but driven by a single chain instead of gears. The cams were removable through the primary side without splitting the cases via a pair of circular access plates. The pushrods, one at each corner of the engine, operated the four valves via rockers, each accessed by an alloy cover.

MARKJ
11/15/2018 7:08:57 AM

1951!!! I thought surely the author got his decades mixed up but he is correct. Wish I could see and touch examples of all these pieces of history. Thanks too for all the detail of how these mechanicals were different from what Triumph and BSA did. A great read.




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