1956 James Comet Roadster Model J11
After 30 years of motorcycling (and motorcycle dealing) I’ve had more than my fair share of James machines. I’ve always had a soft spot for them. So when I bought a Cyclemaster recently and the seller told me he also had an old James bicycle for restoration that he never quite got round to fixing, I expressed some interest. As soon as he confirmed that it still retained its transfers in good readable condition, I promptly added it to my shopping trolley.
Coincidentally, when Simon the delivery man picked it up for me, he already had on board a James Comet motorcycle that I’d bought for a customer. The two arrived together and, before the motorcycle was re-delivered to its purchaser, I took the opportunity to photograph them together.
I’m not sure if anyone has got round to photographing a James Comet bicycle and motorcycle before but, if not, I hope you enjoy this very minor footnote in James history.
It’s only a 98cc motorcycle, but it looks big next to a bicycle.
Normally, having splashed out 50 quid for another old banger such as this James, I put it into the shed, and get on with work, which involves restoring more expensive bicycles and motorcycles for re-sale. However, I have also acquired another Comet recently (reminds me of that old saying ‘trouble always comes in threes’). The other Comet is not a James, but is a cycle attachment engine, and I was thinking of marrying it to this James Comet just for fun. It’s a very rare Belgian affair, and it’s called a Hanrez Comet. Here it is:
The Hanrez fits into the rear wheel hub, as you can see below. Unfortunately this one is missing its special hub, so I’ll have to machine a hub to fit the spindle.
The Societe des Ateliers Hanrez was a small company in Brussells that manufactured these 63cc Comet engines between 1949 and 1951. Not many were made. I got this unusual engine from a friend in Belgium: he wanted an interesting British auxiliary engine, so I found him a good Cyclaid engine and received this in exchange. I spend a lot of time doing such things: as we often comment, what’s common in our own backyard is exotic somewhere else.
This Comet engine has never been used! It is ‘new-old-stock.’ His Dad worked for Hanrez; when the company closed down, the workers helped themselves to the engines that had been thrown out.
The bicycle will definitely require beefing up a bit. This 63cc engine has a reputation for speediness. I’ll have to nick some bigger trade bike wheels from one of my redundant delivery cycles, and examine the braking system. Though British auxiliary engines were somewhat pedestrian, and ordinary bicycles were suitable enough for mounting them, the more powerful of the continental models soon outlived their basic bicycle frames …which is why French machines started to develop as early as 1950 into what were subsequently known as ‘mo-peds.’
I’ll update this page as I progress with installing the Comet engine into the Comet Roadster.