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SNAPSHOT 126: 1925 James ‘Model 12’ 500cc V-Twin

We discovered this advertisement for a James motorcycle, not in a magazine but in the portfolio of a professional illustrator named Arthur Walker.  All the examples glued into the portfolio date from the 1920s – so we tried to identify the model of James shown here, and found it right in the middle of that decade: a 1925 (or thereabouts) James Model 12 500cc 4-stroke V-twin.

The James Cycle Co Ltd., Greet, Birmingham, England, was one of many British cycle and motorcycle makers centred in the Midlands.  Their light motorcycles, often with a characteristic maroon finish, used 2- and 4-stroke engines of their own manufacture and, later, from Villiers and AMC.

James were prolific bicycle and motorcycle manufacturers from 1897 to 1966. The company was taken over by Associated Motor Cycles in 1951 and combined with Francis-Barnett in 1957.

The illustrator Arthur Walker clearly had a contract with James for much of its advertising material, because his portfolio includes other colour publicity for motorcycles and children’s bicycles, including a charming 16-page “Brownie Booklet” from 1925 entitled “Jimmy & Joan in Cycleland” with various prize competitions offering bicycles for the children and, for grown-ups, a “James 2½ h.p. Motor Bicycle, value £44” as first prize.

“Jimmy” was not just used to promote children’s bicycles; the nickname for the Model 12 in our pictures was a “Jimmy”.

The James company was also proud of its motorcycle competition successes.  Another publication in Arthur Walker’s portfolio is a double-fold-out leaflet, also from around 1925, called “On Top!”  A Model 12 is illustrated, with several testimonials dated 1924, and the confident main text: “THIS IS THE MACHINE that gained the Highest Honours in the English, Scottish and International Six Days’ (1,000 miles) Trials.”

The Model 12 was an impressive machine, and to describe it in more detail we can do no better than to direct you to this excellent video:

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