In the late 1960s , James became part of Associated Motor Cycles (AMC) that incorporated Francis Barnett, Matchless, James, AJS. James were forced to stop using the Villiers engines known for there reliability in favour of the group produced AMC engines. The AMC engines were not well received and were not reliable suffering from oil leaks and loss of compression. Stories abound of machines straight from the factory failing in the first 500 miles. The engines gained a bad reputation which impacted on the sales. With the scooter that the company saw as a rival to the popular Vespa , the forward facing sparkplug caused the engine to cut out in the rain . The solution was a piece of plastic to reflect the water. This kind of solution highlighted the poor engineering and design.
It a twist of fate before the end of the AMC period , AMC were to ask Villiers to build and improve the engines to improve reliability. The last James model was the Italian styled “Superswift” but to late to stop the financial disasters that would finally see AMC go into receivership and a number of famous names cease trading. James were financially viable but also disappeared.
Because of the engines, the AMC James Motorcycle disappeared quickly for the emerging reliable new Japanese imports. Comet Restorations purchased a complete AMC James Captain in 1998 with a view to preserving it and the engine was removed for work. Sadly the engine was stolen in 2005 robbing us of the chance to preserve one. We were left with a complete motorcycle and despite searching for an engine we had no joy. In our search we found a Villiers 200cc engine and wondered if we could build a hybrid or maybe a café racer. We don’t want to alter the original parts in case an engine appears. But the possibility of seeing what the result of an AMC James may have been like with a Villiers engine is an interesting prospect. We have never taken on a café racer or custom bike but I’m sure we have the engineering capability. At present no plan is finally formulated but despite the theft we now have an opportunity to explore.