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Restoration 3 - 1943 James ML


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After being inspired by the ongoing posts on this forum I have decided it’s time to pull my finger out and restore my 1943 James ML.

I have owned the bike for close to 8 years now, several projects have overtaken it but it’s time to get this done!

when purchased it was very much a barn find machine stored for many years, the great thing about it being untouched for such a long time is the fact it remained so original. With the 8 years I have had to think about this project I have been fortunate to fine some of the few missing parts.

I am extremely keen to ensure this is resorted as faithfully as possible, the bike very much deserves it!

Edited by flyingfleasteve
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Each part which I have touch to date clearly has a base coat of red oxide with its military livery over top. The frame number unfortunately falls just outside of 10,000 but the original military paint is still seen in several places, maybe a spare frame used post war in civilian production?

By a massive stuck of luck I recently stumbled across an early 1943 frame, which will now form the base of my build!

A little pitted but I can remedy some of that!


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Thanks Ron!

With this ‘new’ frame it will allow me the advantage of added the WD Serial number to the tank and some further identification.

I have taken the time to hand prepare each part ready for primer as I am itching to start. Although time consuming it’s great to reveal the original paint and ML part numbers......






Edited by flyingfleasteve
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Steve the 'A' after a part number stands for "amended" so maybe that fork link is a later replacement part. Although I can't think what there is to amend about a fork link. Is it thicker or perhaps a different grade of steel??  Ron

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Ah OK. I thought they looked like fork links from where I'm sitting.

The top yoke (bottom right in your picture of parts) Is it stamped ML3A? They changed the shape of this part at some point and Introduced the 'A'. You can see the old shape in your illustrated parts list.  Ron

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Hi Ron. 

For some reason I cannot seem to see a part number stamped on the top yoke? Strange

As with all the other fork components the top yoke also has lots of original WD paint on it.

I noticed from the early WD parts book the original earlier top yoke just had one grease nipple, not the two which my amended yoke has.

We’re there may other amendments made to the ML during its military production?

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ML parts with the "A" suffix weren't an amended part ! It was simply James's way of identifying similar component parts, such as fork links, headlamp brackets, etc......

It must be remembered that the ML was an entirely new model developed for the military, vaguely based on a pre-war civilian "K" model......the parts list for the first contract WD version (S. 1972) includes these "A" suffixed numbers from the start of production so they certainly weren't amended parts.....

Few modifications occurred to the ML during production between 1943 and 1945.......The steering head top-lug as mentioned above changed early in production to a simplified type using less metal and improved lubrication. My early ML (frame ML 27) has the early lug fitted but my later one (ML 3401) still within the first contract has the modified version. The only other modification noted at the very end of WD production was the fitting of a clip for the centre stand, the frame incorporating two drilled and threaded holes for attachment.......

It's also worth noting that whilst the carburetter and filter assembly appear to be identical to the item fitted to the WD/RE they are not really meant to be interchangeable.....the ML carb is marked "3/1" on top whereas the Flea is marked "3/2".......the primary difference is the needle and the needle block which are a different measurement. The ML uses a "standard" needle and jet block whereas the Flea uses  "non standard" items. Fortunately, Villiers also marked the needle at the top and the jet block on the top with either a "2" or a "1" to identify components........saying all that, you can swap needles and jet blocks around and both types are available from Villiers Services. There is also a difference between the ML and WD/RE choke assemblies but what this is I have yet to establish.....it may be the positioning of the threaded portion to attach the choke as both carb assemblies sit at different angles when fitted.........

The bulk of ML models produced between 1943 and late 1944 were finished in SCC No.2 brown......thereafter machines were factory finished in (British) olive drab. Later contracts, most of which remained in storage, were generally green......

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Thanks Steve!

That's really insightful!

I will check my carb just to ensure it's correct. My suspicion is that both the carb and the choke are original to my ML engine, but I will keep you posted.

I had no idea that there was a difference between the ML and WD/RE choke!

Its been a real dilemma in choosing which colour to paint this bike. Although my frame Is early, and originally service brown, the NOS part I wish to use are all olive drab.

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Spot on Ron ! Both the Flea and the ML's rear wheel is easily removed with everything in place, although the former can be a bit more fiddly due to the longer rear mudguard......

It's always surprised me that the ML wasn't specified/fitted with a rear carrier whereas the Flea was.........looking at various period images of ML's in service, notably following the D-day landings, it seems that some were certainly fitted with improvised bags on the rear.......

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Thank you gents, much appreciated! I thought this was the case.

Steve, great photos, especially with showing the improvised bag! 

I have just purchased Peter Millers book in reference to the James which I am slowly reading through. Hoping I can fill some gaps in my knowledge.

So assembly has now started with the emphasis on the forks and frame firstly.



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Steve, good work so far !

With the forks, they're easy enough to assemble into the frame whilst on the workbench....in fact, you can build them up once the headstock is in position. Things to bear in mind: make sure all threads are clean and working as it makes the job so much easier; don't bother finely adjusting the steering head/head-stock until the bike is sitting on it's wheels, same with the fork links; also, you may find progress easier if you assemble the two frame portions and then fit the stand/footrest/rear brake assemblies as this provides a decent platform to work from !

Peter Miller's book on the ML is a very good reference. Like Ron, I know Peter well and his son Richard. I see you have the ML workshop manual - if you haven't already, obtain the WD parts list as well as it details every last washer !

Edited by wdbikemad
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