• Rare early James
• Highly original
• An older restoration
Like so many famous and not so famous motorcycle firms, that founded by Harry James in 1880 started out as a bicycle manufacturer. Based initially at Sparkbrook and then Greet in Birmingham, the James Cycle Company built its first motorcycle, a Minerva-powered machine, in 1902. The first model to be powered by James's own engine followed in 1908; this was the 'safety' James, a radical design featuring wheels carried on stub axles, scooter-fashion. More orthodox designs followed, with two-stroke, sidevalve, overhead-valve, single-cylinder and twin-cylinder models featuring in the range before the end of the 1920s.
In 1912 a conventional and well made 4¼hp machine with a 557cc engine appeared. It was on this model that the so-called 'pineapple' cylinder finning was first seen, where each successive fin was staggered at 90 degrees. According to the handbook, this arrangement provided more efficient cooling, with the extremities having more air available than with conventionally arranged fins. From 1912 a Villiers hub clutch was available (Model 2) or a three-speed Sturmey Archer hub (Model 3). James's connection with Villiers would become important in the future.
This early James was discovered in the UK by a local dealer around 1975; it was disassembled and some components had been sent away for repair. The owner had passed away and had not told anyone where the parts had gone. It arrived at the vendor's home in boxes, and was re-assembled with a new piston, sourced locally. The James remains very original, with Bowden controls, lamps, taps and even the original number plates intact. The James catalogue lists Senspray, AMAC or B&B carburettors, this machine's being a B&B with top fuel feed. Other noteworthy features include a Lucas 'King of the Road' headlamp, Clayrite bulb horn, Bonniksen 100mph speedometer, and a Brooks leather saddle. The machine is offered with a photocopied 1913 brochure.