Sunbeam at the Reichelsdorfer Keller

Earlier this year, our good friend Carsten Conrads mentioned that he has been enjoying his 1927 Model 90 on track again.

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This time he was riding at the Reichelsdorfer Keller, a track that was built in 1903. I am pleased to report that his fine Sunbeam was one of the fastest bikes on the day. It is always good to hear when these bikes are being used properly.


Sunbeams at the TT on British Pathe newsreels

A great find by Martin Shelley with this British Pathe newsreel where “Tourist Trophy Thrills – C.J.P. Hodson, riding a Sunbeam, wins… covering 226 miles… made doubly perilous owing to rain soaked roads… in 250 minutes.” I’m sure Dodson was thrilled to have had his name spelt incorrectly!

Also from the same era we have the 1930 Senior TT when I believe my own bike took part with H.J. “Bertie” Bacon on board.





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.


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.


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.





Les Newman Memorial Run 2014

Marston Sunbeams at the Les Newman Run 2014

A great day out in the sun was had by all at this year’s Les Newman Memorial Run. The day was organised by ace restorer John Phizacklea and hosted by Rob and Joe Selbourne at Prebendal Farm, Bishopstone. Next year the event may well be opened to other marques but this year at least it was well supported with 13 of Marston’s finest taking a spin around the 40 mile track route.


The event is a tribute to local hero Les Newman who raced his Sunbeams throughout the ’30s and famously used the lanes around the area as “practice” for his races on the Isle Of Man. My own ’30 Model 90 was raced by Newman at the 1934 Manx Grand Prix where he was given a special award following his 69.28mph lap “in recognition of a fine ride on a 4 year old”. After missing last year’s run it was great to finally bring the bike back home and to enjoy the lanes it must have known so well. I’m not sure that Les found time to stop for a pint on the way round his course but if he ever did, I’m sure that he wouldn’t have found this gentleman guarding the entrance to the hostelry where we stopped for a quick one.


With John taking his own 95 for a spin there were indeed some fine bikes enjoying the superb roads and scenery including a JAP twin and Parallel 9 amongst the Model 9s, 90s and side-valves.


As I habitually use a van to transport the bikes I was shamed by the distances that had been ridden to the event by some of the participants. Jez Cator, who had ridden up from Portsmouth and camped over-night at the farm, was rightly presented the furthest distance travelled award by Vic Youel. The day was rounded off back at the world’s tidiest farm with a fine spread of sandwiches and cake. More photos from the day can be viewed here.


However, I was particularly excited to see the ex-Smedley 95 that John has recently acquired and that young Chris let off the leash for a canter around the lanes.


The amazing story and history of the Smedley bikes surely deserves recording and telling in much more detail than I can even begin to attempt here. However, being built for race, sprints and hill-climbing by the Rolls-Royce engineer the bikes represent the absolute pinnacle of engineering excellence. They weigh next-to-nothing but with over 50hp at the rear wheel I am sure you can imagine the result.


Having had Chris blast pass me earlier in a blur of speed, noise and Castrol R, I was keen to take the bike for a short spin. I have to say that it really was a staggering, eye-opening experience. The low gearing obviously helps but the bike just pulls, revs and accelerates like a mad thing and it is easy to believe the 3 sec 0-60mph times are quite possible. Despite the performance on hand, it was surprisingly easy to ride at sensible speeds too with just the occasional pop and bang to let you know it was getting impatient for the taps to be opened. This amazing bike could take on and shock even modern sports bike riders, at least with the right rider on board it could….



Stafford Classic Motorcycle Show 2014

Another year, another great Stafford show and the ’28 Model 90 makes her first appearance in polite society.

Stafford Classic Motorcycle Show 2014

It went to the wire but John Phizacklea pulled out all the stops to get the bike ready in time for the 2014 Stafford Classic Motorcycle show. After abandoning the grid-locked M6, John faced a tortuous 3 hour cross-country journey that coincidentally took him right past the Wolverhampton Sunbeamland factory. Perhaps fitting that the first journey of the newly rebuilt bike should include the place where it was first constructed. Finally arriving at 6pm we quickly unloaded the bike and set it up in the private entries area from where, after a final polish, we were shortly ejected.

1928 Sunbeam Model 90

We are incredibly pleased with the final result and hope that the bike is a fitting testament to the skills of the “holy trinity” who made this possible.

Of course Peter Woodward must take massive credit for the bike and he is responsible for the detail, accuracy and authenticity of the majority of the components and engineering on the bike. Not withstanding the quality of the major elements of the bike Peter’s touches are everywhere that you look from the ’28 only angular profile of the silencers to the double-curvature mudguard washers to the English Lever toolbox lock.

The crank and cases in particular needed serious attention and without Chris Odling’s vast engineering skills and experience we would have been in some serious trouble. Chris must have the patience of a saint to put up with my constant badgering but despite this, he found the time to put together an engine and gearbox package that should last another 80 years.

And finally, John Phizacklea despite suffering my interminable phone calls, perhaps even more than Chris, has pulled it all together. The wheel building alone was a mammoth exercise as the spoke nipples are individually hand turned to match the profile of the original Sunbeam items. Not only does John have the engineering background, experience and capability to do the 1001 jobs needed on a project such as this but the bike is topped off with a coat of John’s trademark, deep black liquid gloss paintwork.

1928 Sunbeam Model 90

Thanks guys.

Sunbeams at the National Motorcycle Museum

Many thanks to Rob from Racing Lines Derby for a grand day out at the TT riders Association luncheon yesterday. This annual celebration of TT riders past and present  was held at the National Motorcycle Museum. Whilst Nick Jeffries acted as MC, we shared a table with the legendary and apposite John Cooper. Others present included 5-times in a week TT winner Ian Hutchinson and Triumph factory rider Percy Tait. Publisher and TT rider Malcolm Wheeler rode into dinner on a Ducati to take over presidency of the association.


Beforehand, we squeaked a couple of hours to check-out one or two of the many wonderful exhibits.


It is of course impossible to do justice to such a collection so I didn’t bother. Instead, I took a lot of photos of the Sunbeams on display which included a number that were restored by our good friend Peter Woodward. These included a Model 80, Model 9 and two Model 90s and they can be seen in the gallery together with many other detail shots.

Debates about provenance may continue in certain circles but the 1925 Sunbeam Sprint must be one of the most beautiful bikes in the museum.

Ex-Dance racer, unbeatable in its day

Ex-Dance racer, unbeatable in its day

Art-deco masterpiece

Art-deco masterpiece

Revill’s of Hathersage

I just had to post this lovely old photo that Richard Jones showed me at the autumn Stafford Show. Anyone here remember Revill’s of Main Road, Hathersage?


I wonder how much business was brought in by “wringing machine” repairs? Later wandering around the show I spotted this 1935 Sunbeam 350 twin-port was up for grabs amongst the auto-jumblers paradise.


It’s the same kind of ingenuity and inspiration that put men on the moon that gave rise to these next two creations.

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And of course John Phizacklea made sure of a couple of stunning Sunbeams on the Wilts club stand. The recently finished Model 3 sits well alongside John’s own trials spec. Model 9.


One of the best machines at the show to my eye was this beautiful Rudge TT replica, tucked away in the corner of the VMCC stand. As far as I could tell it looks to be in a fantastic “as raced” condition complete with twin-floats, twin-fillers and cable operated damper. Just awesome.

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And finally, there were of course some two-smokes too….  One of my favourites was this beautifully prepared, late model RS250 Honda. Nice touches include the radial front brakes fitted to the custom-made fork bottoms. The equally gorgeous Joey Dunlop that features the single-sided swinger of the earlier model bikes can just be seen.


VMCC Festival of 1000 Bikes


Brough Superior SS100

A fine sight indeed. And the Brough looks good too. Kenny had a fine time on the SS100, taking no prisoners on track and making the most of the fabulous weather. The Brooklands cans were made especially for the day and gave the bike a magnificent bark to match its bite. Of course Archie couldn’t be kept off track completing all the sessions on his 1928 Sunbeam Model 90.


One or two other ‘beams were spotted around the paddock, for example this tidy Model 8 saddle tank looked purposeful and is presumably an easy starter without its decompressor. Not sure of the year but druid forks and saddle tank would could mean 1930 or so.


I also spotted this gentleman seemed once or twice having fun on his twin-port Model 9 but didn’t manage to get any on-track photos.


With lots to see both on and off track, this really is an event for all the family.


But for me, the day really belonged to Nottingham’s finest. The Brough just never fails to impress and it is a credit to Archie and Kenny who use it in the way that they do.