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23rd March 2006

Royal Enfield Racers

Paul Henshaw from Performance Classics hit the track last week with his tuned and tweaked Royal Enfield machines, hoping for success in the 2006 VMCC race series...

It's always a great moment when a project fires up for the first time; even when you build bikes for a living! Paul Henshaw's Performance Classics business specialises in uprating machines to 'fast road' or full-race spec. Paul's a keen Tiger Cub and Royal Enfield fan - and to make sure that a gearbox set-up or engine tune is going be just what the customer asked for, he tries out the mods and improvements on his own bikes first. Since the end of the last racing season he's been beavering away in the workshop on several Enfield racing projects, ready for the 2006 VMCC classic championship to begin.

There are probably some great photos here...

So last week, the racer project successfully fired up for the first time - and then it was shipped off to Mallory Park race circuit for a full day's testing, alongside Paul's 350 Bullet. Tell us a bit about the bikes, Paul!

'The first Big Head was bought as an incomplete bike frame with two odd wheels, an engine and gearbox. This was rebuilt into a road-going café racer with 12v electrics. It looked good but only did about 85 mph flat out!

...but they are so small it's impossible to tell.

'We fitted some of Allan Hitchcock's tuning parts and we got the performance up on the original 85mph. The first time we raced it at Pembrey in 2004 it was still taxed as a roadgoing bike, with lights removed for the race. Unfortunately Ian -- my brother who rides the bikes -- came off and this is when we decided on the wisdom of fitting race tyres… What a difference! The hospital put his dislocated shoulder back in place on Saturday and after some pain killers he was ready to race again on the Sunday, albeit a bit slower!

'This bike has been developed since the start of the 2004 season to the present and now is fitted with twin spark self generating ignition by Rex Caunt, and an 11.1:1 compression piston. It puts out approximately 45bhp and had a win at Pembrey in the novice's race last year. It also started 23rd on the grid at Cadwell full circuit and after three laps Ian had moved up into ninth place. He was going really well when he grounded a footrest and was unseated!

'The 350cc was built entirely from scratch from bits we had, this was finished ready for the 2005 season. It is a 350 Clipper engine in a Clipper unit frame which, like the 500 frame, has had additional stiffening added by Ian above the gearbox like the pre-56 bikes and overall the package is an interesting combination.

'The handling has been improved by inserting two-way damping into the Enfield fork legs. The bike handles and corners extremely well but was always low on power, despite reving to 8000rpm. Mind you, at Anglesey -- which is a short circuit with plenty of corners and only a downhill straight -- it finished in the top ten in four races. For this season I designed my own camshafts and had them made by Dave Newman Camshafts so we are hopeful this will do the trick!

Random Vintage Stuff on

'The new 500 Big Head is in a Manx frame which has been shortened by three inches. It uses a five-speed gearbox, a Newby clutch with belt drive, and a 38mm MKll carb -- the engine spec is similar to the first bike. The compression 11.1:1 the piston was made by Accralite Pistons to my own modified design. Both 500s have this type of piston and are fitted with titanium valve spring caps and strengthened pushrods.

We don't acutally know which bike is which...

'All three bikes have forged steel conrods supplied by Hitchcocks. These have been fitted to replace the alloy ones that can suddenly decide to let go with disastrous results. On this latest bike we have removed the original Enfield oil filter and housing from the bottom of the timing cover, to allow the engine to sit lower in the featherbed frame. It now has a remote filter fitted above the gearbox and an oil cooler mounted at the front of the engine between the frame downtubes.

'Ian designed and made the exhaust system which looks out of this world!'

...and it's not easy to tell from these pictures.

Actually, all the bikes look pretty out of this world. Let's hope they go just as well as they look!

After testing at Mallory, Paul will have another month to get the Enfields ready for the start of the VMCC season, back at Mallory again on Sunday 16th April. The VMCC are always looking for more people who'd like to race, sponsor, marshall or just spectate throughout the season - see

So if you're sending photos to us, make sure they're big enough to be useful. Aye Thang Queue. RM

If you'd be interested in letting Paul loose on your classic (he's very happy to do routine maintenance, servicing and restoration to most marques on top of turning placid wee beasts into fire-breathing monsters!) then he's based in South Wales. Call 01550 777608 or email

Good luck with prepping for the season, Paul - and let us know how Ian gets on…


More Enfields on


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