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Bike Review - Posted 27th March 2015
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1938 Royal Enfield Model KX

After WW2, and in common with most British bike manufacturers, Royal Enfield built some extremely interesting parallel twins. But before the war their top of the range machine was a V-twin...

Enfield’s sidevalve V-twin had been a stalwart of the company’s range for many years when it received a substantial overhaul for the home market in 1937. The earlier edition Model K was impressive enough at 976cc but the capacity of the revised KX was bumped up to 1140cc, making it one of the largest production motorcycles on the market. Today we tend to think of high-capacity machines as supersports motorcycles but, as Bob Currie once commented, the KX was ‘a slogger… intended principally for commercial sidecar haulage’. However, the Enfield V-twin was almost £100 less expensive than the Brough 1150; an attractive proposition perhaps for an impoverished gentleman just recovering from the economic crunch of the early 1930s.

1938 Royal Enfield Model KX

The 1140 version of the Enfield sidevalve had previously been used overseas where, as Cyril Ayton explained it was; ‘harnessed to enormous sidecars and receiving the minimum of attention, it performed prodigies of uncomplaining service.’

The enlarged engine, 88.5mm by 99.25mm, benefitted from a bottom-end redesign to incorporate dry sump lubrication, with separate conrods supported by their own pairs of roller bearings inside the massive aluminium crankcase, and no fewer than four oscillating-plunger oil pumps. To keep all that oil under control the valve gear was enclosed, and the cylinders topped with detachable iron heads.

1938 Royal Enfield Model KX

Unlike all the other Enfields in the range (and there were 17 of them by the late 1930s), the standard-fitment Lucas six-volt magdyno which provided the lighting was driven by chain. The clutch could be operated by hand or foot; the four-speed Albion gearbox was hand operated with a set of standard ratios that were intended to suit sidecar use; solo gearing could be supplied upon special order. The primary drive chain lived in an oil bath, separate from the multi-plate dry clutch which lived in its own compartment. A single Amal carb responded to a twist-grip throttle.

1938 Royal Enfield Model KX

This chunky motor was housed in a full duplex cradle frame which used QD interchangeable wheels fitted with 4.00 by 19-inch Dunlop tyres. The forks incorporated pressed steel blades with a central compression spring and adjustable shock absorbers and steering damper. Brakes were six inch sls drums. The standard finish was black enamel with gold pinstriping as seen here, but posh purchasers could opt for a chrome-plated fuel tank instead. An electric horn was included in the standard spec but a Smith’s illuminated speedo with trip function cost £2.10s extra.

1938 Royal Enfield Model KX
Enticing Enfields on Now...

List price for a standard KX was £77.10 in 1937; the earlier / smaller Model K cost £65.17/6 two years before. At the same time as Enfield continued to cater to the traditional heavyweight market with a top-of-the-range V-twin of this type, they were also looking to the future and soon introduced the all-aluminium 350 Bullet single, aimed at a very different kind of customer.

1938 Royal Enfield Model KX

The KX could reach 80mph as a solo machine but more importantly could cruise at 60mph fully laden and in a relaxed manner, returning around 70mpg. It was ‘an effortless performer’ according to Cyril Ayton, and Enfield’s 1938 brochure heralded the KX as ‘the last word in luxury motorcycling.’ Events certainly conspired to ensure that most bikes built over the following decade were rather more basic.

1938 Royal Enfield Model KX

The example seen here started life with an owner in Surrey, where it was registered in June 1938. By 1985 it had relocated to Aylesbury, where it was given some refurbishment during that 13 year period of ownership. Then it changed hands a couple of times, coming to rest in a private collection some nine years ago. The current owner has ridden the KX just the once since he bought it. When it last came up for sale at auction back in 2006, the KX sold for just under £10k. This time around it’s estimated to fetch in the region of £25,000. It’ll go under the hammer at the Cheffins sale on 25th April 2015 at Ely in Cambridgeshire.

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Words by Rowena Hoseason
Images: Archive and Cheffins auctioneers


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