James ML

The 172cc ML (Military Lightweight) was a development of a pre-war design adapted for military use with the intention that it be airdropped during WW II in the period after the D-Day landings to allow airborne troops greater mobility.  The ML  was nicknamed the ‘Clockwork Mouse’. It came hand geared with fold-able footrest and a quick unlock/lock handle to loosen the handlebars so that the handlebars could be turned in line with the motorcycle, for easier storage and transportation.

James ML in 1944

Military ML’s were made with numbers running from “ML2″ through to “ML 8500″ (with some rather odd gaps in the sequence) it is thought that somewhere between 6-7000 Military ML’s were actually built between 1943 and late-1944/early ’45.The last WD contract for ML’s was originally for some 3000 machines, with frame numbers running from “ML 7001″ to “ML 10000″……but the last 1,500 machines from this contract were canceled after frame “ML 8500″ due to the requirement for such machines having reduced with the end of the war in sight.

James ML in olive drab with 'C' number on tank.

It is thought that these canceled WD models were simply built and finished as civilian models for sale from 1945 onwards. They were, it is thought, virtually identical to the standard WD model ML, with the addition of civvy paint, a speedometer, and a longer rear mudguard to accommodate a numberplate.Following construction and delivery of these canceled WD models, James simply carried on with ML production thereafter, continuing the frame number sequence  from the WD models. Some of these early civvy versions were little different from the WD and WD/Civvy versions, some still retaining the military folding footrests, cylindrical toolbox, etc, doubtless to use up stocks of parts at the works.By 1947-48, the civvy ML had a few more differences/improvements over the WD model, including a different toolbox, lighting, handlebar mounting, etc, but was otherwise essentially the same bike.

It is quite easy to convert a post-war civvy James ML into the WD version. Long civvy mudguards can be shortened to the correct WD length, the lighting is standard Lucas (except for the headlight switch and panel), the fuel tank vented filler cap, handlebar clamping lever and folding footrests are all available as repro parts (the latter made by converting the rigid civvy ones), and spares for the Villiers 9D engine unit and carburetor are all available from Villiers Services.

Villiers Mark 9D engine

The prefix used on the Mark 9D was ‘AAA’ with a the suffix ‘A’.The engine had a 6 pole 18 watt flywheel magneto, fitted with a flat aluminium dust cover it had a dome in the middle. A 3 speed gearbox was built in unit with the engine.  It had a flat topped piston, 4 transfer ports, a single plate cork clutch and an endless roller chain primary drive enclosed in an oil-bath chaincase.

Engine number

James ML-Clutch side view

Gear box. Flywheel with aluminium dust cover.

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One Response to James ML

  1. Brent says:

    Hi, I am fixin and old ’45 james and am having some carb issues. i notice you have an aftermarket carb on the bike shown in your article, what carb did you use and how was it’s adaptation?

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