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Thread: Famous James

  1. #1
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    Feb 2017
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    Default Famous James

    Hello,

    I inherited a Famous James bike from my uncle in Mississippi. I don't know anything about Famous James and can find little information online about them. I also need some parts. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Famous James maroon in color ML100 is on the side canister. I don't even now where to look for a serial number?

    Thanks,

    Les

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Quote Originally Posted by LBH View Post
    I inherited a Famous James bike
    James (the 'famous' was an advertising addition) was a serious bike manufacturer prior to the Depression, making bikes up to 750cc with most of the components (e.g. engine, gearbox and frame) made in-house. However, they survived by devoting themselves entirely to small bikes and continued to do so with until their parent company went bankrupt in 1966 and production ceased. Their bikes were built around engines supplied by other manufacturers (primarily Villiers, but also AMC) and were priced to attract people who couldn't afford other machines.

    Coincidentally, two days ago I was flipping through the latest issue of 'Classic Bike Guide' I bought at the airport and about the post-WWII range of James bikes their Buying Guide say such things as:

    which were very dull indeed
    some machines were built with the Villiers 4T unit which is a little less slow.
    The James Scooter... is the one to avoid -- unless you are truly a collector of lost causes.
    However... they can't depreciate much.


    As you can see, James doesn't get a lot of respect. A quick look through my material didn't turn up an ML100 model, but based on other model numbers I'd guess it might be a 100 or 125 cc machine. Once you do find the serial numbers on yours -- they are there somewhere, you just have to look hard -- I should be able to give you a few more details on the bike you have.

  3. #3
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    Aug 2004
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    Found this in about 10 seconds..
    http://simplywizard.co.uk/
    Robbie Knight Amca #2736

  4. #4
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    Feb 2017
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    Robbie,

    I found that site but my Famous James doesn't match any of the descriptions like they should. Maybe I am looking at it wrong.

    L644 on is on the neck of the bike. It has a Terry Saddle seat on it.

  5. #5
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    Feb 2017
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    Default Picture of the Famous James Bike

    Famous James 1.JPG

    It has a Villers engine in it.

  6. #6
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    The tank on mine Famous James is plain with a logo. Reading the websites they talk about a gas tank that has a two different colors with the James logo in the second color.

  7. #7
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    on the side of the canister on the bike says ML 100 painted on it. I assume the canister is like a saddle bag of today but then it was a small tube with a cap on it.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
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    Central Illinois, USA
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    Les!

    Yours is in a lot better condition than mine (attached).
    Somewhere in the shrubbery I have a service manual for it.

    It appears you have most of the 'vanity' items; I have been led to believe a tailight is most difficult to find.

    The only tales I have heard about them is that one sailor used to ride his on submarine decks.
    Mine has been in my front window as a plant stand for eighteen years since it was "consigned". Last year or so, the owner's widow showed up with a ballistic boyfriend who had been watching too much "pickers".

    If he wants to pay eighteen years of storage, its all his!

    ....Cotten
    Attached Images Attached Images
    AMCA #776
    Dumpster Diver's Motto: Seek,... and Ye Shall Find!

  9. #9
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    Robbie Knight Amca #2736

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
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    Quote Originally Posted by LBH View Post
    Hello,

    I inherited a Famous James bike from my uncle in Mississippi. I don't know anything about Famous James and can find little information online about them. I also need some parts. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Famous James maroon in color ML100 is on the side canister. I don't even now where to look for a serial number?

    Thanks,

    Les
    The engine is a Villiers 9D 122cc 2 stroke with 3 speed hand shift gearbox. On the front of the crankcase where it bolts to the frame is the engine #, probably beginning with the numbers 539 with others following which give the actual engine # - 539 is the "build #.
    Frame number (not sure where it will be, possibly on the steering head or the frame under the saddle) stamped in (not a casting #) for 1946 model began ML12841, for 1947 began ML19881, for 1948 began ML26921. Production was 1946 to 1948.
    The "cannister" you refer to is the tool box.

    Wartime production 1943-45, of the "ML" Military Lightweight was substantial, about 6,500, with serial numbers from ML2 to ML8500. These were all olive drab painted. Our Canadian D-Day units had a number of these James MLs and they were very useful in establishing the Juno Beach sector landings and directing the move inland in the early days of the Normandy invasion. The wartime ones used by the British units at D-Day acquired the nickname, "The Clockwork Mouse".

    Your ML, being maroon, is probably a 1946-48 model as about 13,000 of them were imported into the USA in the 1946-48 period. Your paint on the tank & front mudguard is not the original finish which would have had the lining and second colour but it looks like the bike has been looked after and cherished. Certainly a worthwhile bike to have inherited and treasure. A later version of a motorcycle with an important history.

    AFJ
    Last edited by AFJ; 02-17-2017 at 10:14 AM. Reason: added info

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