This was a morning I was looking forward to for the last three days or so. Actually for a long long time. This was the morning I was to enter the pearly gates behind which the machines I ride were first born – whether three months ago or 35 years ago.
After a lot of gut wrenching minutes spent in the saturday morning traffic of Chennai (made heavier by some sort of rally going on), I was finally on the State Highway leading to Thiruvottiyur. Dirty, messy and completely overtaken by massive container trucks, this was hardly the sort of image I had of the RE birthplace. But then, it wasn’t like I had a choice. So I entered the hallowed ramparts of the factory and checked in at the reception. Along with me, there was one person from around town (I think) and a Brit to see the factory. About half an hour of official scribbling and waiting later, Mr Saravan arrived to escort us through. And so it began.
We hit the factory floor straight away where the finished models were kept for display. Despite his best efforts to keep the tour streamlined, we were always jumping the gun and asking him all the questions buzzing in our head. As we passed by the displays, the only thing that caught my eye was the bike on the other side. The newly launched Bullet Classic (www.bulletclassic.com). I kept pestering him about it and he very gently kept brushing them aside for the right time.
After the preview, we went into the fabrication section where the engine casing and other die casted products were made. There is a no photography in this section as this is the best kept secret of Enfield 😉 It was a sight to watch. Some of the things that go into the engine of the Enfields are still done by hand. It makes every engine unique in that sense. While there are giant automatic machines as well, every engine WILL have a human touch to it. Makes it special if you ask me.
Then came the paint job section where hundreds of tanks, side panels, headlamp casings and frames were hanging by a common overhead assembly chain taking it through to multiple sections for multiple rounds of coatings. The gleaming pieces look like this.
The chrome plating is completely automated with zero human involvement. This was the first time when I saw the real colour of chrome. Its not sparkling white / silver. It is actually golden. And the shine comes from a triple nickel coating.
The turn of the final assembly line came. The assembly line of RE is common for all models and the technicians working on them know all the models equally well. The line at any one point of time can have 14 different models running (ES / KS, Disc / Drum, all models). We waited as a machine came off the line and was sent to the zone for testing.
Testing goes on for multiple parameters including aesthetics and obviously, performance. The hot check for all parts functioning correctly at 90 kmph is done on the rotor wheels (don’t know what’s the technical term for it). It was lovely to watch the bike do 90kmph without moving an inch from its place. Something I would love to do someday.
The test track was the next thing. Unfortunately, for authorised personnel only. No test ride of the Bullet Classic for me. 🙁
The final juncture was the most special place in the factory. The golden ribbons painted on Standard and Machismo tanks are actually done by hand. And no matter how many people tell you this, seeing the man go about his job is an absolute joy. Its amazing how each piece is so very similar looking and yet unique. This work is done only by two people. They are brothers. Their father used to do it before them. Dynasty building up, eh? Point to note, production in the RE factory for Machismos and Standards are limited by how many tanks are painted by these two amazing brothers.
As we said final goodbyes and took our t-shirts and memorabilia, I guess what was left unsaid is a goodbye to those shining metal machines in the delivery area. So here it is, “See you around guys.”