Pumping oil

Original Sunbeam pistons are thin on the ground and it seems that the rings to go with them are scarce too. The 1930 Model 90 was fitted with a 7.5 : 1 piston of Australian manufacture. This works well enough but is around 80g heavier than an original. We suspect that this accounts for the increased vibration that is apparent when compared with the Dodson bike or any of Archie’s for that matter. It’s really not a big deal but as we had a spare 7:1 Sunbeam piston and cylinder left over from the 1928 rebuild we thought we’d try it out for the summer – should we have one this year.

The bore of our spare cylinder although worn was deemed serviceable and after a light hone we sourced a set of three plain NOS compression rings. A stepped oil scraper would often have been used in the lower position but none were available. The top ring height was 2.35mm whilst the other pair were 2mm but the ring gaps were huge running from 0.015″ to over 0.020″.

Ever helpful FW Thornton located a brand new set of 80mm rings which were supplied un-gapped and with a stepped scraper to boot! Happy days, until I tried to slip the piston into the bore. Just as I reached for the mallet to help things along I realised that the radial depth of the new rings was too large for the piston. Sure we could increase the ring depth of the piston but there’s not a lot to play with and we really don’t want the top to come off.

Peter Woodward came to the rescue with a stepped scraper of the correct radial depth and height which I duly collected along with a handy selection of other rings with which to experiment. This ring also gapped massively and, ever the perfectionist, I ploughed on and fitted it together with the best of the compression rings that could be mustered.

Hey, what do you know, we made a super-efficient oil pump! And although the smoke was horrendous at least it was dense enough to cover my shame when stopped at traffic lights. After 20 or so miles the situation hadn’t improved, the plug quickly oiled up and after a £10 taxi home I collected the bike in the van.

The bike felt good with the lighter piston and the loss of 0.5 : 1 compression from the Australian item was not immediately noticeable. In an ideal world we would use a 7.5 : 1 as per the one in the photo at the top of this post. If anyone has a good ‘un available, please let me know. These are a little heavier than the 7 : 1 but should work well on today’s fuel. Interestingly, the Sunbeam pistons are stamped with a “7” or “7 5” on the inside of the crown to identify the type.

Failing that, we may have to get some new pistons manufactured if we can find a cost-effective supplier. So, watch this space or contact me to place your order….

1930 Rudge Ulster to the back of the queue

After being picked up at auction a few years back, this pretty 1930 Rudge Ulster has probably been neglected for too long now in favour of other projects. A brief outing yesterday confirms that it does go as well as it looks being fast, light, comfortable and with excellent handling. It’s easy to see how these bikes could be purchased from the factory with a 100mph guarantee.

Over the winter, oil leaks have been fixed with a new timing cover and the slipping clutch relined by Saftek. But more work is needed.

The chainstays are from a later model which don’t really work well and the front brake drum is oval. Although a common problem the braking does make riding the bike a problem and will need to be addressed before the bike can be used regularly. The most practical fix is to shrink a strengthening “muff” onto the drum before rebuilding the wheel and skimming to suit. And, if anyone has a pair of the correct chainstays for sale, I would be extremely grateful if they would get in touch.

I had thought about selling the bike to someone with more time as, with the Sunbeam 90, this makes for two 1930 saddle tank sports bikes. But yesterday’s ride showed what a lovely bike this could be with some work. So, after a clean and polish for now it is under cover at the back of the garage until the time comes for its place in the sun once more.

Sunbeamland shop now open for business

A variety of items are for sale on the new Sunbeamland shop. I will be adding new items over coming months as I get around to photographing them should the shop prove effective. Other bits and pieces will go via the eBay route. The parts are a mixture of vintage Sunbeam spares and assorted vintage motorcycle spares for bikes from other manufacturers.

The first items up for grabs are not actually vintage spares but were, until the arrival of sparkly new ones, my spare pair of Honda RS250 NX5 cylinders.

Back on track with vintage parts we are also, selling on behalf of a good friend, a rather lovely Amal T10TT. Not sure what this would be from, maybe Norton or Velocette? Any information would be appreciated.

We are always interested in acquiring vintage spare parts, particularly for Sunbeam and Rudge motorcycles.