1929-1930 Sunbeam Model 90 foot-change gearbox

A very interesting picture here of the footchange arrangement used by the works Sunbeams in the Senior TT for their 3-speed gearbox. This was perhaps not Sunbeam’s greatest technical achievement and likely one of the reasons that after their victory in 1929 the Rudge factory was so dominant in 1930. The crash box from the hand change models is retained with the exception of a shorter main shaft that moved the clutch inwards and necessitated a dished engine sprocket. As can be seen, the lack of a positive stop mechanism meant that the lever is simply moved up and down to different positions in order to select a gear. A V-shaped spring does the job of the hand-change gate by engaging in a notched plate to hold it in particular gear with a spring-loaded catch that makes it harder to shift from middle gear. This is to avoid overshooting 2nd when changing up or down.

My own M90 has the same setup and it works well enough but Sunbeam soon moved on to their own 4-speed constant mesh type gearbox and later adopting 3rd party units supplied by Burman.

List of classic and vintage motorcycle vendor websites

Thanks to Mark Grant for researching this list of the purveyors of fine and perhaps not so fine classic and vintage motorcycles:

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.”


Lucas SS49 MDB /MDB 1 Magdyno

Lucas MDB Magdyno

I have been thinking about lighting kit for the ’28 Model 90 and came across this original Lucas document on the usual auction site. The title is : Running Instructions For The Lucas “MDB” Magdyno Lighting And Ignition Set for Motor-Cycles 1929 Equipment. So, I scanned it and posted it here in case anyone else is interested.

Lucas MDB 1 MDB1 Magdyno Running Instructions 1929

I think I need a Lucas SS49 headlight or headlamp to be correct for the year, there are some very nice replicas available from Vintage Replica if I fail to turn a genuine one up at sensible money.

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.


1930 Rudge Ulster or Special chainstays

Browsing the web one evening I came across an advert for, as it were, “replica” Rudge TT replica chainstays. Wondering whether these items could replace those on my own 1930 Ulster I duly contacted Wayne at Classic Components. The stays on my bike are actually from a later model and being necessarily fitted upside down have caused certain problems with chain adjustment and wheel alignment. I have been looking for a replacement set for quite some time with no success and was delighted when Wayne said he could produce some for me. The originals should look something like items 6007 and 6010 in this picture from the Rudge spares book…

Frame group 1930

Frame group 1930

With the help of Alistair from the Rudge club, a set of drawings for the correct stays was obtained and Wayne manufactured a set in record time. Fitting the new stays will be a job for the winter as it means re-engineering the rear wheel spacers and adjusters but the end result should mean a much improved rear-end on the bike. Have a look at the photo below to see the high quality of the work.

Ulster Chainstays

Ulster Chainstays

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.

Stafford Spring Show

Along with many others, a fascinating day was spent at this year’s Stafford Show. A biting cold wind and hail storms on the Saturday made scouring the auto jumble a hard-core experience. Richard Jones had an interesting Royal Enfield project on sale that caught my eye.

The Bonham’s auction had collection of treasures for the well-heeled but one of the nicest had to be this Indian board racer.

But as my childhood hero, I would dearly have loved to bid on one of Barry Sheene’s helmets.

However, for me the most poignant moment was seeing Mike Farrell’s 1934 Rudge “Syndicate” bike that has been repatriated from a glass case in an Australian museum. I had been trying to “acquire” this very bike myself for many years and am of course hugely envious of this very special motorcycle. Mike’s efforts have been well rewarded as he has since discovered the bike has a fascinating history and was raced by the great Tyrell Smith himself.

No visit to Stafford would be complete without a visit to the Sunbeam club stand and it was another chance to see one of my favourite bikes, the Dodson 1928 TT winning Model 90. A real piece of motorcycling history that goes as well as it looks.