In the period before the First World War and in the 1920s and 30s too, James made a number of varying machines, including some quality two-stroke lightweights and a range of four-strokes, a single cylinder side valve and overhead valve versions of mainly 350 and 500cc.
But James’s biggest, longest running contribution to the veteran, vintage and post-vintage scene was its range of V-twins; and unusual they were too, as few other (if any) firms listed a 500cc side valve V-twin, while an ohv version of the same size was a rarity too.
From Titch Allen’s Fifth Vintage Road Test Journal, writing about the side valve vintage version: “Drone is the word to describe a twin Jimmy. The fact that vintage owners and others referred to them fondly as Jimmy illustrates the affection generated… it could be cruised endlessly at 60 to 65mph, very near its maximum but a gait at which everything came right. A speed at which the engine balance conspired to lure you to that cruising speed.”
1914 James TT Model
Announced in 1913, the 50º V-twin was of 495cc and drove through a three-speed gearbox – both were of James’s own design and manufacture. On the pre First World War examples, the chain driven magneto was situated behind the engine. It was targeted at a sporting audience.
1921 James Model 10
It wasn’t just restricted to 500s – there was a 750cc version too, again with the firm’s own engine. It appeared in 1921, two years after a 662cc side valve had appeared. The ‘big twin’ was aimed at the sidecar man, with James able to supply a suitable chariot, and electric lighting too.
1928 James Model 12
By now featuring a fashionable saddle tank, the 500cc V-twin had rejoined the range in 1922, no longer with its earlier ‘pineapple’ cylinder barrels and now featuring detachable heads. Webb forks had also taken over from the Druid-type arrangements found on earlier machines.
1929 James A1 Super Sports
The overhead valve V-twin was heavily based on the side valve job, but boasted an increased performance and added sophistication. The frame was based on that used by the side valve too, though stiffened by adding ‘cradle’ tubes from under the engine to (strangely) two-thirds along the rear frame stay.
1930 James B6 Speedway
Like so many makers – it’s reckoned about a dozen in total – James tried to ‘get in’ on the speedway boom, but its V-twin didn’t excel, though it was arguably the best looking of all the speedway models produced. It was listed from 1928-31, though apparently it was somewhat liable to breaking its crankpin.
1933 James E2 Flying Ghost
By the mid-1930s, the end was nigh for the ‘own built’ James V-twin, it finally disappearing for the 1935 model season. By then, James was using proprietary engines, including Pythons from Rudge, but more and more models were Villiers powered. Indeed, in 1936, all James motorcycles had Villiers power.
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