Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Do you own the Royal Enfield James Dean rode? hor finds serial number once thought lost

Royal Enfield J2 as seen in Roy Bacon's book "Royal Enfield: The Postwar Models"
The true story of actor James Dean's wintery dash across the United States on his Royal Enfield motorcycle is told in author Lee Raskin's book James Dean: At Speed.

Now it turns out there is more to the story.

Raskin has discovered the serial number of the Royal Enfield motorcycle Dean rode from Indiana to Pennsylvania in the winter of 1953-'54.

Dean was on his way from a visit to his home in Indiana back to New York City, where he was appearing in a play. It was bitter cold. Raskin writes that Dean wore an aviator's leather helmet and a hood to cover his face, with just slits for the eyes.

Dean blew the engine near Harrisburg, Penn.

The motorcycle was not a Royal Enfield 500 twin, as Raskin originally thought, but a very rare bird: a 1951 Royal Enfield J2. That's a 500cc single-cylinder motorcycle with TWO exhaust ports and, thus, twin mufflers.

It's an unusual design. If you own one you own a rare and desirable motorcycle. If you own one and it's the one James Dean rode, it would be a rare and desirable and, now, very valuable motorcycle.

So, if you own a Royal Enfield J2 maybe you should sit down before you read the next paragraph.

Raskin says the serial number of the motorcycle Dean rode is J2/7484. He writes:

"I have a copy of original document that verifies the VIN as J2/7484, a 1951 Royal Enfield J2, 449cc. Purchased used on Nov. 30, 1953 from Marvin Carter of Carter Motors, Fairmount, Ind. for $395. Signed by James Dean.

"The RE might still be out there. If known, contact Lee Raskin, author and historian at

"It is possible that this original invoice may be going up for auction... If it is, the document will be highly publicized as it contains James Dean's signature."

Dean's love of motorcycles and cars is completely documented in James Dean: At Speed. Raskin meticulously details what happened to the vehicles Dean rode and drove during his life. The book is gorgeously illustrated, but there is no picture of Dean with his Royal Enfield.

Now, someday soon, we may at least get to see what the motorcycle looks like.

James Dean: At Speed is available on, eBay or directly through the author, Lee Raskin, who will sign and inscribe books on request. Contact the author at for price and shipping information.

1 comment:

  1. Lee, your passion for and knowledge of the life and history of James Dean continues to amaze me. You are THE voice of James Dean's life and legend around the world.

    Thanks for all you do and keep up the great work!



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