Rickman Enfield Interceptor

By 1971, the Rickman brothers of Rickman Engineering in the U.K. had already established a reputation for constructing motorcycle chassis of incredible rigidity, enabling the highest performance engines of the day to be matched up with a chassis that allowed their full potential.

Rickman never built engines and transmissions of its own. Rather, its chassis was wrapped around a variety of powerplants over the years. Consequently, the configuration of nearly every Rickman ever built is just a bit original. Indeed, the term “metisse” attached to the Rickman products is from the French term “metis” roughly translated as “of mixed heritage.”

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One of Rickman’s special short production runs was for a group of bikes equipped with the Royal Enfield Mk II 750 cc Interceptor engine; the bike was known as the Rickman Enfield Interceptor. But the Rickmans didn’t plan things that way; rather the beautiful combination of the nickel-plated Rickman chrome-moly, double-cradle frames with the powerful Royal Enfield vertical twin was the result of an unusual opportunity—and sad circumstances.

The engines that wound up in these now extremely rare Rickmans were originally going to Italy to be built into one of Floyd Clymer’s bikes to be badged as an Indian. In the late 1960s, Floyd Clymer had acquired the rights to the Indian Motorcycles name and he was in the midst of his effort to resurrect the brand when he died in 1970.

In 1971, Royal Enfield went into bankruptcy leaving a shipment of about 140 MK II 750cc Interceptor engines sitting on a wharf; bound for Italy, but not going anywhere as part of Royal Enfield’s assets.

Eventually, the Rickmans acquired the engines from Mitchell’s, the importer/exporter handling the engines and fitted them to their famous purpose-built triangulated frames. The lean and low Rickman Enfield Interceptor came equipped with just what was necessary for corner-carving high performance and nothing extra—not even turn signals. That kept the bike’s weight down to a minimalist dry weight of about 365 pounds and gave it a seat height of only 30 inches.

The package included Borrani rims, Ceriani forks, dual Girling shocks at the rear, the sleek fiberglass tank/seat/tail section unit, and both clip-on and standard-rise handlebars. Lockheed disc brakes on drilled discs front and rear provided serious stopping power compared to most other bikes of its day.
The Royal-Enfield engine was and remains an impressive piece of engineering.

It has a dry sump pressurized oil system, yet does not require an external oil tank. Instead there is a separate, but integral oil tank built into the engine case. Fueled by dual 30mm Amal concentric carburetors, the engine puts out about 60 hp at 6,500 rpm.

Another unique feature of the powertrain is a separate lever next to the kick start lever that is a neutral-finder—a nice feature given that the bike instrumentation doesn’t include a neutral light and finding neutral in the four-speed transmission can be tricky.

In most serious motorcycle enthusiast’s book, just the extreme rarity of the Rickman Enfield 750 Interceptor by itself would be enough to make the bike a history-making motorcycle.

It’s unique origins in the end (albeit temporary) of one of Britain’s most iconic brands and in one of the more notable efforts to revive one of North America’s most iconic brands certainly gives each Interceptor a very special place in motorcycle history.