Some hints on Sunbeams

I think we can all benefit from some of the great advice given to my brother by Archie Beggs as an introduction to the joys of vintage Sunbeam ownership:

“To start from cold, flood carb fully, set ignition halfway advanced (some bikes need more). Do not kick it on the stand (these are a bit fragile).

Put bike in bottom gear and wind it back on compression. Then lift the clutch lever fully at the same time pulling back, whereupon you will feel the clutch plates “unstick”.

Select neutral give slight throttle and swing the kickstart smartly but not a vicious kick and if the bike is in good condition it should start.

When started, check the tell-tale is about 1/4″out showing the oil is getting there. This is vital if taps or anti wet-sumping valves have been fitted.

Before putting the bike in gear pause a moment with clutch fully lifted in order to allow the clutch stop (if one is fitted) to slow the clutch to stop and ensure a silent bottom gear engagement without scrunching the gears.

Refrain from being brutal with the gear lever as on the flat tank models the pivot is riveted and soldered to the tank bottom and may be forced loose and cause leaks. Re-soldering the bracket is very difficult as the deposit from the petrol cannot be accessed for cleaning and the solder will not take.

With the cork clutch the plates run oily and I find auto transmission fluid to be suitable, excess slipping causes overheating and severe clutch drag, so get neutral if you are waiting in traffic.

When adjusting clutch, first ensure the lever on the bridge comes right back (cable not tight) so full travel is attained. Then see that the pushrod is free not end loaded and holding the pressure off

When fitting new plates, particularly if Ferodo, be sure that they are wide enough and do not “bottom” on the end of the gearbox mainshaft.

Oil the valve stems before use and put a teaspoonsful of oil to each gallon of petrol to oil the stems

I use the old KLG M80 for normal running and M100 for “blinding” so source modern equivalent but not ones with internal gaps or resistors.

Check tappets when the engine is really hot and make sure there is a couple of thou’ play by feel not the gauge.

Check the three rear wheel bolts after each run and also the stand bolts.

Drain fuel if the bike is left for more than a week and filter before refilling. When drained put a bit of oil in the tank to deter rust,

Do not start the bike in the workshop but in the open and if you start indoors locate fire extinguisher first. Particularly this applies to vintage Rudges.

Use the soft black linings for front brake -this works.

Check gearbox sprocket occasionally

I have always preferred to drain my oil tank when the bike is in only occasional use using a 1/4″ bore plastic pipe and syphoning it out while hot into a large plastic bottle. While this is messy and a nuisance to do, a look at the bottom of the bottle after it has settled for days may convince you it was worth the trouble and as a result all my oil tanks are clean and do not have an 1/8″ of sludge in the bottom. And the engines last longer.

To adjust clutch stop, slack it off fully then lift clutch, then screw it in till you feel the handlebar lever begin to respond to the pressure and try to lift.

Spark plug gap 16 to 20 thou’ not greater

Sunbeam oil regulator orifice sizes

No 1 .046”, 3/64”, No. drill 56

No 2 .060”, 1/16”, No. drill 53

No 3 .077”, 5/64”, No. drill 47

These are the nearest sizes that I can give.”

 

Sunbeam Model 90 Works Replica Toolbox

The talented Martin Shelley has reproduced a new toolbox assembly to fit saddle tank Model 90 and 95 Sunbeam motorcycles 1929 – 34. This was made as an exact copy of the toolbox and mounts from the only known surviving 1930 works TT Model 90 and features a soldered box with leather front, correct lockable latch, and alloy feet cast in heat treated LM25 and supplied with 1/4” BSF fasteners as per original.

You can see the original box on the 1930 Model 90 that was discovered north of the border a few years ago. Whilst I have yet to fulfil my ambition to examine and scrutinise every inch of that bike I was happy to put my money where my mouth is and buy one of these lovely boxes myself.

Get them while they are hot direct from Martin for a very reasonable £250. Or you could buy the cast feet separately for £50 a pair. If you are interested, why not drop Martin a line on this email marticelli@gmail before they are all gone.

Look nice fitted to this delightful Model 90 so they do.

Sunbeam Model 6 Longstroke and Lion pistons now available

Due to a technical problem (I forgot!) the 77mm Model 6 longstroke pistons weren’t available in the shop. I only have a few in standard and +0.040″ oversize so please get in touch if you need a high quality forged piston in your 1925 to 1929 vintage Sunbeam sidevalve.

They can be modified by Chris Odling for use in later engines with the recirculating oil system.

I’m building a 1927 Model 6 motor at the moment that came with a 1928 Model 6 that I purchased recently and one of these should work very well in the new engine.

Sporting Model 9

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I have to apologise as I’ve been neglecting sunbeamland over the last 12 months whilst trying to forge a living as a photographer but promise to try and catch up a little over the next few weeks. I’ve been sitting on these photos kindly sent in by Andy Mac Dougall of Carmarthenshire for over a year now. Andy first got in touch for a new piston for his very smart twin-port Model 9. Looks to me like a 1930/1931? With open pipes displaying a clear sporting intent of course a 7.5:1 piston was the only sensible option. I’m not sure if the handlebars have been replaced by now as I know Andy wasn’t happy with them when we last communicated.  I seem to remember that Kenny Crawford had made a few sets.

Andy previously entered the bike for the WSW VMCC Saundersfoot 2014 Road Trial where there were 110 plus entries and came in a fine 5th overall. Winning Best Post Vintage Trial machine and coming Runner Up Post vintage in the concours was the icing on the cake.

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Brough Superior SS100 vs Sunbeam Beggs-Special

Amidst the deluge of PPI mis-selling calls that characterise life in the 2010s it’s a rare pleasure to pick up the phone and find Archie Beggs at the other end. Archie’s generosity of spirit knows no bounds and on this occasion the call would result in the fulfilment of one of this particular schoolboy’s dreams. The call started simply enough with the offer to have a canter on Archie’s 600cc Model 9/9A/90 based special. I already knew that this bike featured an engine from his racing days and so was obviously keen to try it for size. We arranged a mutually convenient time and I was just about to hang-up when Archie landed the sucker-punch : “and while we’re there, maybe we’ll get the Brough out for a spin too”

The day dawned cold and clear as I headed up the Wirral and I gradually became aware of an uneasy sensation in the pit of my stomach. I marked it down to the macro-consumption of the micro-brewed beer the night before. Ploughing onwards on the M53 I put the feeling to one side and instead concentrated on coaxing the last few mph from the little Honda Civic. On arrival we dispensed swiftly enough with conventional pleasantries and were quickly on with the business of the day. First out of the trap was the 600cc Sunbeam Model 9/9A/90 pictured below.

Sunbeam Model 9 9A 90

Nominally of 1932 vintage, the engine in this particular bike features a 600cc piston in conjunction with a Model 90 hairpin-spring head. The motor was put together in Archie’s sand-racing days and the pukka Amal 29/001 M90 carburettor demonstrates a clear sporting intent despite the valanced guards, pillion provision and lighting kit on the rest of the bike.

Also of interest is the fact that this is a single-port head design which some believe to offer better performance than the twin-port versions more usually found on the OHV Sunbeams. Something to do with exhaust gas velocity and back-pressures perhaps? Again Archie’s racing experience is demonstrated as the bike has been fitted with the later and larger Model 95-style front brake. Sunbeam’s Webb-type front forks have a dog-leg kink at the bottom which is required to make space for this improved performance brake.

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Having been stood for a while, the bike was a little reluctant to start despite teasing with a few pops and bangs and so a quick shove down the drive was used to bring it to life without problem. I just wasn’t prepared for the civilised exhaust note nor the gentlemanly tickover that the bike settled into after barely a few minutes warming, expecting perhaps a more recalcitrant or cantankerous beasty. Thinking about this on the journey home it was really no surprise that Archie’s bikes always seem to run so well as success on the sand would rarely be achieved with anything other than a perfectly setup motor.

What was it like to ride? Smooth, powerful and comfortable were the overwhelming feelings once the bike was underway. The gears selected as well as any Sunbeam I have ridden i.e. a small crunch into first which then accompanied only careless gear shifts. It really felt like the sort of bike you could spend the day on and easily cover large distances in comfort. The motor pulls strongly in all gears which would make lazy riding a pleasure but once the revs rise it certainly picks up it skirts and becomes an altogether more intense experience. You could feel the extra weight over my own Model 90 for sure but this added to the sure-footed and stable feeling that the bike exhibits.

The uneasy feeling returned when I got back to the garage where the Brough was now waiting its turn to be let out of the stable.

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I realised then that I’d never ridden or driven anything that was easily worth more than my house. It clearly wasn’t last night’s beer consumption but apprehension at the consequences of even a minor mishap on such a rare motorcycle. The 1927 Brough Superior SS100 is a true motorcycling icon with the powerful OHV JAP motor providing genuine 100mph performance at a time when few vehicles could manage half that. Little wonder that T.E. Lawrence used a string of SS100 Broughs to get his kicks. A bit of technique is required to start it so this was left to  Kenny Crawford who has ridden the bike at events such as the 1000 Bikes and even competed with it in a few hill climbs. Long and low, the bike barks through the twin Brooklands cans as I gingerly sling a leg over and familiarise myself with the controls. Although Kenny can use the side mounted gear lever with his leg I chose to make do using it as a conventional hand-shift. The bike lunges forward as I release the clutch and takes me up the drive and onto the lane.

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Kenny has told me that they have lowered the gearing  but first gear still feels as tall as the bike is long taking it easily towards 30mph before I reach down and shift into second. There is some weight to the bike of course  but it is carried so low that it is surprisingly easy to flick around as I navigate the estate towards the open lanes. Pedestrians stand, stare and gape as I thunder past clearly recognising that this is no ordinary motorcycle that shatters their suburban idyll. But once the road clears my apprehension evaporates as I realise this is it, the ride of a lifetime. I just have to open the taps and the bike drives forward, hard too. It picks up revs so fast I have to snatch into top way sooner than I expected. We’re now charging along towards a series of bends so I throttle off and let the bike slow to a sensible speed for the first corner. I’ve been warned about the front brake and wasn’t taking any chances late braking.

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I can see no obstacles through a short series of left-right flicks and let the bike off its leash for a few more seconds drunk on the sound, smell, speed and sheer nostalgia of the experience. I probably don’t go any faster than 60mph on this short run but the bike clearly has so much in reserve I don’t doubt GB’s performance claims for the model for a second. I take it steady doing a U-turn on a mini roundabout conscious of the length of the bike and not wanting to stall as I’d need Kenny for sure to get started again. A second run at the series of bends with more confidence this time and we’re really flying by the time I reach suburbia and the 30mph limit. As I slow I realise I can barely feel my fingers with the cold but relish the last few minutes simply posing on this monument to engineering and marketing. After all, GB not only knew how to build a fine motorcycle but understood very well what was needed to sell them too with a multitude of high-profile sporting successes and clients. It is said that Lawrence would pick up a bike from the works on a Friday and return it after the weekend with the tyre worn through to the canvas. And thanks to Archie, I can quite understand why.

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New Sunbeam CT gears arrive from Chris Odling

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On return from a weeks holidays in Marrakech last week I was delighted to find a box from Chris Odling containing two lovely new sets of minty-fresh CT wide case gears. These particular cogs are the close-ratio type and are suitable for many of the later Model 9 and Model 90 bikes. I needed two sets as the set in my own ’30 bike are on loan from Archie Beggs and need to be replaced. Being suitable for both the 1928 and 1930 bikes, the second set will sit on the shelf in case I have any more problems.

These gears were made to order by Chris in a small batch of different ratios and widths, so get in touch fast if you think you might be in need of a set now or in the near future as they won’t be around for long.

Marston Sunbeam Northern Run, Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria

I only just arrived in time for the Sunday run-out organised by Geoff Brazendale as part of the Marston Sunbeam Northern Run at Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria. And I do hope you enjoy the rather eloquent comment on proceedings provided by this pair of ‘beams from either side of the Scottish border.

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The run kicked off at 10am from the Fat Lamb at Ravenstonedale and took in 25-30 miles of the excellent local roads. Nobody in our group seemed to know where we were going and so we just found our own way round until coming across some bright spark with a map of the route. The earlier rain had long since past leaving wet roads but the autumn colours along the way were a delight.

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Archie Beggs and Kenny Crawford were in fine form on the Model 9 and 90 respectively having also made the run up to the lakes that morning. And it was great to have a fine collection of flat tank models as well as a variety of the later saddle tank.

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Sunbeam gears to be re-manufactured

CT gears

Always a hot topic whenever owners meet, the Sunbeam 3-speed crash box gearbox is not perhaps the bike’s crowning glory. Whilst the original Marston gears did last surprisingly well, most are now “long in the tooth” with wear causing all manner of engagement and selection issues.

Stepping up to the plate once more, the redoubtable Chris Odling is planning to produce a small batch of new gears and I, for one, will certainly be purchasing a couple of much needed sets for my own bikes.

Here follows the note received from Chris…

“I have commissioned  new gear sets for Sunbeams. These are for the narrow and wide sliding pinion gearboxes. There will be BT and CT ratios manufactured. All those interested in a set please contact me to place an order. Delivery dates will be announced shortly. It is envisaged that a deposit will be required near the point of completion and following receipt of the gear sets I will ask for the remainder and deliver them. Final cost of a gear set is not written in stone as yet, but expect around £490.00

The number of gear sets presently ordered is 20, of which a few are already allocated. This number can be increased according to interest.

After the sets have been made I envisage a few spares i.e. sliding pinions and lay shafts.”

Contact: Chris Odling

Tel: 01852 300191

e-mail:  chris@odshed.co.uk

Sunbeam Model 9 pistons now in stock in the Sunbeamland shop

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I’m pleased to report that a rather pretty box containing a small batch of low-compression Sunbeam pistons arrived this morning. Like the 7.5 :1 CR Model 90 versions produced earlier, these are a lightweight forged item but will give around 6.5 : 1 CR depending on the head and barrel combination in use. Targeted at the Model 9 it is suitable for late 20’s early 30’s 500cc OHV bikes and we have limited availability of both +0.020″ and +0.040″ over-sizes.

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Our research showed that the weight of Model 9 pistons varies surprisingly depending on both year and manufacture. After collecting and checking pistons from Marston, Heplex and Specialloid a target weight of 400g was achieved for the new item – including rings, pin and clips.

Once we have given the new arrivals a good look-over we’ll be making contact with those who have already reserved their pistons. So be quick if you don’t want to miss out!