Thanks to Nick Smith for this copy of the manual for 1927 and earlier Sunbeam motorcycles. Well worth a read if you have one!
The ever helpful Vic Youel provided me with this copy of the Sunbeam page from the Hepolite Sunbeam catalogue some time ago. I thought I’d share it as it has proven useful on many occasions.
A friend just let me know that his rather nice 1931 Sunbeam Model 9 is now for sale. Obviously in lovely condition and fitted with a highly desirable 1929 single port engine. A great bike for someone? Send an email if you would like contact details.
People are often asking about the correct carburettor model and settings for their pre-war Marston Sunbeam motorcycles. Well, those helpful people over at Amal have long produced free catalogues that offer just such information. The “Amal Pre War Supplement” being of particular interest.
Here is a scan of the relevant page for the Sunbeam models covered by the catalogue.
Well I’m pleased to say that I’ve just completed an upload of the “final” version of the Sunbeam parts list data base to this website. Nisha and her team of ladies in India who are responsible for a large portion of the data entry have been brilliant working with some very poor copies of the original books. There will be mistakes and omissions in the data so please let me know if any come to your attention and I will make corrections where necessary.
The data base contains nearly 20,000 entries of parts and information from all the original Marston Spare Parts Lists that I could locate over the last 2 years. The parts lists cover most models and variants from 1914 through to 1939 and the web page can be found at this link Marston Sunbeam Spare Parts Lists
I hope it will be well received and of use to owners and also to assist the club and others with planning the production of spares. I appreciate that use of the web page is not necessarily intuitive or stylish but it does seem to at least function and provides the basic set of facilities that I originally intended. Over coming months I’ll make a plan to address this once feedback arrives from users regarding facilities and so on. This work has detracted somewhat from my own bike projects and riding having taken the bulk of any free time over the last 12 months especially and I’m very much looking forward to a break from sitting at this PC in the New Year.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.