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A Long Winter’s Project: 1948 Royal Enfield Model J2

Even though summer still has us in its red-hot clutches, the inevitability of time assures us that winter is just around the corner.  It is during that time that folks north of the snow belt migrate into their garages and begin work on project vehicles.  If you are planning on being garage-bound yet again this winter and have a credit card with a high limit, then reader “Iowa Farmer” has located the perfect project for you.  This 1948 Royal Enfield Model J motorcycle is for sale on Facebook Marketplace in Fisher, Illinois for a $1,800 asking price.  While it is missing a few minor items like its single piston and the front fender, is this a golden opportunity for you to show off both your restoration and parts ordering skills?

A lot of automobile historians like to talk about how World War II was the event that opened the eyes of Americans to the joys of sports cars.  Specifically, GIs in England were exposed to the motoring pleasure craft produced by MG, Triumph, and a smattering of other producers.  What these historians neglect to mention is that GIs were also exposed to European motorcycles.  By the time World War II started, the domestic motorcycle market had shaken down to just Indian and Harley Davidson.  While they offered smaller displacement motorcycles, they weren’t very sporty by European standards.

To be fair, Harley and Indian were producing some amazingly fast racing motorcycles at the time.  It was just that the European motorcycles were built more for fun, spirited rides in the countryside between towns and villages.  Lighter weight, and usually with a smaller displacement, these were just different machines than what America was offering.  So it is no wonder that British bike imports secured an incrementally larger share of the American market in the years after the war.  Competitive prices on many models didn’t hurt either.

The motorcycle you see here is a perfect example of an immediate postwar British motorcycle.  Well, almost perfect.  OK.  Pretty rough to be honest.  What you see is an immediate descendent of the Royal Enfield Model G.  The G was a rigid-framed motorcycle with telescopic front forks and a 500 cc single-cylinder engine.  It was designed to be an inexpensive transportation alternative and displaced just 350 ccs.  The engine was enlarged to become the model J, and dual exhausts were added to get us to the J2  in the ad.  This interesting motorcycle was produced in this configuration from 1947 through 1954.

The seller tells us that this motorcycle is missing a few pieces.  Those include the front fender, position, rockers, front seat, and various other bits and pieces.  It has the look of a vehicle that stopped running for whatever reason and was treated to a partial disassembly by a wanna-be mechanic who was short on British motorcycle repair skills.  We are also told that it does not run in its current condition and that there is no title to be had.

While I am hoping that more educated readers will be able to point out other items that are missing on the motorcycle and advise any prospective buyers on the chances of finding the needed spare parts, it is hard to be optimistic about this motorcycle’s long-term future.  There will be a lot of hours and costs in the future if it is to be restored to factory correct condition.  If it is not restored, then would it be worth more than the asking price if parted out?  Is there even a market for bare-bones single-cylinder Royal Enfields when you can pick up a new model with all the retro styling required for a very reasonable price at one of the resurrected brand’s dealerships in the United States?

The seller does say that the bike would make a great winter project.  While restoration may not be financially rewarding, the entertainment value of the process is a reward all its own.  We rarely expect to recoup our financial investment with such a project.  However, when winter is knocking at the door, wouldn’t it be nice to have something rewarding to occupy your time with?

Would you like a motorcycle like this as a winter project?  Do you think this one is restorable?  Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.


  1. geomechs geomechs Member

    The legendary British Thumpers. I had a BSA, and I remember seeing a Royal Enfield 500 in Sturgis 50+ years ago. I always liked the blast of the exhaust of those big singles; they made the bikes sound mean. I could be tempted but it’s too much money for me. I sure hope a good thumper guru latches onto this one…

    Like 4
    • Howard A Member

      Hey, how you been, my friend. I was thinking it may take a vintage “Limey”( it’s okay, Limey is slang similar to us being called Yanks) to get a word from you. In Harleytown, we rarely saw any British singles. Most all were twins, probably to be able to keep up with the HDs. Yes, it was okay for a Limey to ride with HDs. A Cimatti 150, not so much. Fact is, the 1st time I saw’r a British single, a BSA Gold Star, I believe, something just looked wrong. I mean, it had classic British styling, but missing a cylinder. They sure kicked butt in Hare Scrambles however, until the Japs kicked in. I had a very powerful Asian thumper, a TS400, one of the many Asian thumper offerings. The only other one of any credibility, was the Maico 501. While the media has portrayed these vintage bikes as hotter than Nancy Sinatra in white boots in 1966, I just don’t see these as a viable means of transportation today. If the media, one show in particular, has any merit, which I doubt, heck, the toolbox alone should be worth the price. This would be an ambitious restoration, and then what?
      Nice to hear from you again, pal, still in Colorado, but coming to an end soon. Yep, it’s back to the UP before the world goes totally bacocked.

      Like 3
  2. TomP

    Without a position this bike is not going anywhere.

    Like 4

    Good morning,
    A friend of mine paid $50.00 for a complete running model in the early fifties and before he knew it, he had over $200.00 in it and then it was off to a new home and we never saw it again. And my BSA just kept on running. Later I graduated to a Knuckle Head Harley. To have a bike and a car both I was in hog heave in High School.

    Like 3
  4. Derek

    Looks to be lacking an oil tank, any clocks, probably the wiring loom, rear mudguard (that’s the front that’s there the now), seat/saddle/whatever, silencer. Points housing and contents missing off the end of the magdyno, too.

    If it were about half the ask, I’d have a look if I lived anywhere near it.

    I had an Indian-made Enfield for about a week in the 90s (until badgering and increased offers prompted me to sell it again); was a decent bike. The current company is an evolution of the Indian company, I think; they were originally an overseas operation of Royal Enfield and when the parent company closed, they continued as Enfield India – they weren’t allowed to use “Royal Enfield” for some reason or other.

    Like 0
  5. Cyclefarmer

    Parts are still available, but India and Great Britain will be your sources. At half the asking price it might be doable, but the cost vs value would be a ratio only true love could justify! I’m

    Like 1
  6. Dan M

    For the price, it could easily wing up being a display piece at some dive bar.

    Like 2
  7. Phipps

    Worth it as man cave art. But I love an old british bike

    Like 1

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