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Autocycle A B C

No.13 - James

The James Cycle Company Ltd of Greet, Birmingham was founded in 1880 by Harry James and was, therefore, a well-established manufacturer of both pedal cycles and motor cycles when it introduced its model J18 autocycle for the 1938 season.  The early version had a small fuel tank, no springing and no engine covers; inverted levers were used for the brakes.  Like all of James's machines at the time, a Villiers engine powered it.

1939 James brochure
Brochure for the 1939 James autocycle

The autocycle continued for 1939 as model K18 and at a price of 18 gns [£18.90].  A tradesman's version was also available.  For 1940 it became the L18 and was joined by a deluxe version: the L20.  This used the new Villiers Junior de Luxe engine instead of the Junior and also had the luxury of engine covers.

The James factory was very busy during World War II.  Although this production was mainly armaments and aircraft fittings, motor cycles were still being produced.  Over 6,000 lightweight motor cycles were supplied to the armed forces.  The autocycle too was still being made in limited numbers; these machines were probably supplied to civians undertaking essential war work.  The factory was bombed and very badly damaged in December 1940.  It was completely rebuilt within three months; however, nearly all of the company's archive material was lost in the bombing.

1947 James autocycle
1947 James autocycle

After the war the autocycle was re-introduced and given the name “Superlux” - at a price of £53 6s 10d [£53.34] for 1948.  It continued until 1949 when it was replaced by a new, Villiers 2F powered model.  Both models were exhibited at the 1948 Earls Court Show, the new one being given the “Superlux” name and the older model becoming the “Standard”.  The Standard model was soon dropped from the range.  The new Superlux continued until 1953.

The next article in this series will describe the Jones autocycle.

First published - January 1999

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