LONDON: India's Royal Enfield today launched a new limited-edition model of a classic motorcycle inspired by a World War II bike used by British paratroopers behind enemy lines.
The Classic 500 'Pegasus' is inspired by the legendary RE/WD Flying Flea 125 motorcycle, which was manufactured at Royal Enfield's underground facility in Westwood, UK, during the war.
It has been conceived as a chance to own a piece of motorcycle history, with only 1,000 units to be made available globally, of which 190 will be available in Britain. The Pegasus will be open for bookings online from July at a price tag of 4,999 pounds.
"The story of the Flying Flea is both remarkable and inspiring, and it has a history like no other motorcycle," said Royal Enfield CEO Siddhartha Lal after a grand launch ceremony in Duxford, Cambridgeshire, today.
Describing the Classic 500 Pegasus as a homage to the legendary war stories and to the resilience and pedigree of Royal Enfield, he added: "Rugged military motorcycles have been an integral part of Royal Enfield's heritage and continues to be till date, as we endeavour to build classic, simple, enduring motorcycles.
"Our machines have played important role in both World Wars, earning a reputation for endurance in the toughest conditions."
Royal Enfield, which pitches itself as the oldest motorcycle brand in continuous production, produced munitions, artillery equipment and motorcycles during both World Wars. It continues to supply the Indian armed forces with motorcycles today.
"Royal Enfield was called upon during World War I to supply motorcycles to the British armed forces and also for the Imperial Russian Government, and continues to make simple, authentic, classic motorcycles till today.
But by far its most storied wartime creation was the airborne troops' 'Flying Flea', a compact and capable, two-stroke 125cc motorcycle that saw action in some of greatest battles of World War II, including D-Day and Arnhem," a company statement said.
As the Allies fought to establish a beachhead in Normandy, Northern France?, in preparation for the invasion of German-occupied Western Europe, hundreds of Flying Fleas and James ML motorcycles streamed from landing craft on to the beaches.
Speaking about the Flying Flea's role during the D-Day operation, Gordon May, Royal Enfield historian?, said: "The ramp would touch down and out would come the motorcycles. They were used as a means of rounding up troops and getting them forward and also accompanying troops much as a convoy escort rider would have done."
During World War II, tens of thousands of Royal Enfield motorcycles were shipped to almost every theatre of conflict. But the Flying Flea was the only "proper" motorcycle to be dropped successfully behind enemy lines with paratroopers, with the UK War Department ordering more than 4,000.
Mark Wells, Royal Enfield's Head of Global Product Strategy and Industrial Design, explains: "It was really important to work closely with the Ministry of Defence, so we approached the Parachute Regiment about 18 months ago and said we'd like work together on a project and the collaboration has been great.
"These new Classic 500 Pegasus motorcycles encapsulate a lot of the history and legacy of Royal Enfield. This is something only Royal Enfield could have done. Many brands have military motorcycles in their past but only Royal Enfield has the Flying Flea."
Each of the 1000 new Classic 500 Pegasus ?motorcycles wears a maroon and blue Pegasus emblem the official Parachute Regiment insignia on the fuel tank along with an individual stencilled serial number. The famous Royal Enfield "Made Like a Gun" decal on the battery box is another reminder of the machine's heritage.
The Pegasus motorcycles' markings are based on a genuine World War II Flying Flea used by the 250th (Airborne) Light Company, now in Royal Enfield's official collection at the company's UK Technology Centre. The new motorcycles will be painted in the wartime colours of Service Brown and Olive Drab Green, except in India, where only Service Brown will be available.
An array of Gear, inspired by this decorated motorcycling legacy, will also be made available. Ranging from shirts, t-shirts, caps, lapel pins, bags and helmets, the limited-production and accessories of this collection are also adorned by the official military insignia and the Pegasus emblem, the company said.
Each of limited-edition motorcycles will come with a bespoke set of military-style canvas panniers bearing the Pegasus logo. Each motorcycle will have authentic markings of military motorcycles, including brown handlebar grips, a leather strap with brass buckles across the air filter, blacked out silencers, rims, kickstart, pedals and headlight bezel to complete the period look.
Royal Enfield, a division of Eicher Motors Limited, made its first motorcycle in 1901.