Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Sunbeam Racer 90 man at work!

Don't disturb...A Sunbeam Racer 90 man at work!

The Start of the Sunbeam Motorycle...

John Marston, the man who started it all, was born in 1836 was apprenticed from the age of 15 to the Wolverhampton japanware manufacturer, Edward Perry. At the age of 23 he left and set up his own japanning business, making any and every sort of domestic article. He did so well that when Perry died in 1871, Marston took over his company and incorporated it in his own. The origins of the business in japanning meant there was always an emphasis on the quality of the finish on Sunbeam products and the company was always famous for its painting and enamelling.
He moved into making Sunbeam bicycles, with great success and on the suggestion of his wife Ellen, adopted the brand name "Sunbeam", naming the works Sunbeamland.

Though there were early experiments (in 1903/04) in adding engines to bicycles these were unsuccessful, one man being killed. John Marston's aversion to motorcycles meant that the first motorcycle did not appear until 1912, when Marston was 76.
The Early Years
John Greenwood, formerly of Rover and JAP and Harry Stevens (later of A.J.S.) designed the first commercial offering, a single side-valve, 349c.c., 2.75h.p. engine, with two speed transmission and forward mounted magneto. The machine was finished in the usual Sunbeam black, and the early petrol tanks were finished in green with a silver panel bearing the Sunbeam name.
The first machines appeared in 1912 and initially sales were only conducted at existing bicycle sales depots. The machines were hand built and the selling price was 60 guineas.
Almost immediately the machines featured in competitions and were very successful. Two Sunbeam machines gained gold medals in the London-Exeter-London trial, in December 1912, and the Sunbeam name became well-known to enthusiasts throughout the country.
Between the launch of the motorcycle range and the outbreak of the war, a number of models were released and power output was increased, whilst technological innovations were included. Sporting achievements increased the popularity of the marque.
John Marston also caused the foundation of Villiers in order to provide parts for their own machines, putting his eldest son in charge of the new subsidiary.

The Great War

At the outbreak of war, Sunbeam started to develop machines for use in the armed services. A number of models were developed for war use abroad but the company did not achieve large sale at home.
However, the company continued to achieve sporting success through the war years.
Sadly, in 1918, John Marston’s 3rd son, Roland, died at the early age of 45. He had been expected to succeed his father at Sunbeam. The shock was too much for John, who died the day after Roland’s funeral, and sadly Ellen also died six weeks later.

The Golden Years

John Marston’s Eldest son, Charles, was in charge at Villiers and rapidly expanding the highly profitable Villiers works. To pay death duties, he sold John Marston Limited to a consortium of wartime munitions manufacturers who had done well out of the war. In 1919 the consortium was taken over and became part of Nobel Industries Limited.
Sunbeam quickly produced a new catalogue, which listed what were basically models from the 1916 range, and new versions of the W.D. machines. The press reckoned they were amongst the most handsome machines on the road and the 3.5h.p. single was described as the Rolls Royce of singles.
Motorcycle sporting events restarted in 1919 and Sunbeam continued to have a high profile and be very successful at many events. Competitions were dominated by Sunbeam riders such as George Dance, Tommy De La Hay and John Greenwood.
The company achieved its first T.T. victory when Tommy De La Hay came first in the Senior Race at an average speed of 51.79m.p.h.
In 1921, George Dance made a series of superb runs at Brooklands. In the 350c.c. class he set a new record at 82.25m.p.h. in the Flying Kilometre, and achieved 82.19m.p.h. in the Flying Mile. In the 500c.c. class he achieved 93.99m.p.h. in the Flying Kilometre, 87.35m.p.h. in the Flying 5 Miles and 82.69m.p.h. in the Standing 10 miles.
Sunbeam achieved its second T.T. win in the Senior Race when Alec Bennett came in first, at an average speed of 58.33m.p.h – this was the last ever win on a side valve machine.

Decline and Fall

In 1927, Nobel Industries became part of ICI, a conglomerate of which John Marston Ltd. was only a small part.
As a result of the Great Depression, motorbike sales slumped and the company contracted. The machines were still good ones but they had undergone a great change, no longer being considered the Rolls Royce of motorbikes as the company failed to introduce new styles and technologies and old craft traditions were abandoned.
Few factory machines appeared in competitions, but in 1928 the Sunbeam racing team gained its third T.T. win, when Charlie Dodson came first in the Senior Race at an average speed of 62.98m.p.h.
In 1929 Sunbeam finally adopted the saddle tank, which had been invented by Howard Davies in 1924, and Charlie Dodson won the Senior T.T. for the second year running at an average speed of 72.05m.p.h. He also made the fastest lap in 30min.47seconds at a record speed of 73.55m.p.h. Sunbeam also won the team prize for the third year in succession. Sadly this was the company’s last successful T.T.
By 1935 it was obvious that the Sunbeam bikes and motorbikes were in the doldrums. ICI started to look to sell their two wheeled subsidiaries, although ICI wished to keep Sunbeamland, the Wolverhampton factory, for the manufacture of radiators for cars and airplanes.
In 1936, AMC bought the bicycle and motorcycle business. They moved production to London and radically altered the range, as much of the tooling was worn out and there was little or no spares support. Post war, the name would be sold again to BSA who would resurrect the brand with a range of innovative in-line twins, once gain becoming the Gentleman’s motorcycle.

The "Big Smile" proud Owner Rob Colenbrander &

his Sunbeam Racer model 90 500cc 1933/34

special dawndraft cilinderhead...


Weer een fraaie aanwinst binnen de D.V.M.A.



Don't ride faster than your Guardian Angel can fly!

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