Samson Royal Enfield Special

David’s fascination with weird and wonderful contraptions is no secret. We’ve peeked and pried into his incredible dimension of vehicles. One such creation caught our attention – and so here it is.

The story behind this machine begins with another. David was finishing up some work on his Rolls Royce Merlin Hydroplane Aggressor (as you do). The fact that David has a boat with a WWII Spitfire engine in it says a lot about the kind of stuff he’s into. An issue had arisen in running this wartime water-basher. “Getting the Avgas required to run it was a major issue. It simply guzzles the stuff, and buying it at $650 per drum is simply unaffordable.”

Fortunately for David, he’s remarkably resourceful. He began inquiring with a mate who was a pilot – pilots get charged less for Avgas. Avgas has a shelf life. Cheap “expired” Avgas is the ticket for his fuel guzzling Merlin. “So this was about 10 years ago. My mate found me some cheap Avgas so we went to this guys place to pick it up. It was in the corner of a shed amongst old motorbike parts – and this weird looking little racer.” David instantly gravitated to this mysterious little machine. The aircraft fuel would have to wait, some treasure has been found.

Not much could be told about the history of the bike from the owner, who had picked it up from a deceased estate sale. “He said it hadn’t raced in at least 50 years. I asked him if he was attached to it and he quickly replied “Not really”. We agreed on a price, and a few weeks later I brought it home. It sat at my place for several years. I spent a lot of time asking anyone who would listen if they recognised this little bike so that I could find out more of its history. Unfortunately life then got in the way and although I still very much loved this bike, I didn’t take much notice of it.”

What had attracted David to this little forgotten-about machine was the fact that it was someone else’s creation. It was a handmade machine that wasn’t born in a factory and mass-produced. “Every part on this bike was built obviously from trial and error over many years. It absolutely evolved. The frame is hand made. People who know a lot more than I do can’t even identify the several different bikes that complete it. The modified 1936 Royal Enfield 250 engine and the Sturmy Archer gearbox are the base of this machine. We think the front forks are Norton. The brakes are BSA (and hopeless).”

 

The Akront alloy rims and GP Dellorto Carb must have cost the original owner a fortune back in the day. “The open dry clutch with double primary chain and the home-made exhaust complete the picture. Every other metal part is hand made from scratch, complete with the mandatory “Swiss-cheese” lightening treatment. The final touches are the extra low clip-ons and the Yamaha trials tank with “SRES” painted crudely on the side – Something Royal Enfield Special. There is absolutely no known history on this racer but the general consensus, especially after riding it, is it probably was a time trials bike raced in a straight line on beach tracks. One day, I’ll be able to replace the Samson name I have given it with the name of the original builder, starting with an S. Gee, it would be nice to bring him back to life and give him the credit he deserves for an amazing backyard build!”

David is no stranger to bringing old machines back from the dead. He’s a bit of a Techno-Necromancer (that’s definitely a thing) and is always finding new skills to acquire – one such skill was how to shape sheet metal into a desired form. After a lot of dreaming, a Dustbin fairing was in the works and this little racer would be the guinea pig. “I hand-formed the alloy skin over a wire buck, oxy welding it all together. I was feeling pretty good with the results, so I went ahead and made the streamlined tail section and seat. My aim was to run a bike at the Sydney Café Racer ride day at Eastern Creek, as yet the bike had never run.”

This bike now had a goal, and it was fast approaching. Days crept closer to the SCR track day as David burned the midnight oil, pushing this little racer to be in riding condition. “I pushed the little bike out of the shed, primed the grand prix Dellorto carb, and in the pitch black night pushed it for all it was worth. I dropped the clutch and was surprised that the little fucker spluttered and fired! Needless to say it took off and I fell arse overhead. Luckily, and wisely, I executed this procedure with the fairing removed. One more go and I was doing a midnight run, the first one for this bike in almost 60 years.”

With a smile on his face, the long hours into the night had truly paid off. And the big day approached. At the SCR track day, Samson the little Royal Enfield Special garnered a tonne of admiration, adoration and attention. Unfortunately though, the fairy-tale ending was not to be. After a lap and a half, the little racer refused to proceed. “After a while I gave up trying to get it to run right, and spent the rest of the day riding my ’71 Ducati 450.” Despite the shortcoming, the bike still had a taste of its glory-days on the track, one that David knows the previous owner would be cheering about. “I’m so proud of what the two of us, 50 or 60 years apart, have created.

For now, the Samson Royal Enfield Special takes pride of place in my man cave.”

 

A few pieces from the archives