Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,443 pages of information and 245,911 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Sunbeam: Motorcycles

From Graces Guide
1914. 2.75hp. Exhibit at Grampian Transport Museum.
Standard Model 3. Exhibit at the National Motor Museum.
1918. 550 cc. 4 hp. French Army Model. Exhibit at the Black Country Living Museum.
December 1919
1921. Sunbeam. 2.75 hp side-valve engine. 3-speed. Exhibit at the Franschhoek Motor Museum.
1925. Sunbeam Model 7. Reg No: YB 2609.
1925. Sunbeam Model 3 500cc.
1926. Sunbeam Model 90. 495cc. Exhibit at Myreton Motor Museum.
1926. Sunbeam Model 5. Exhibit at Lakeland Motor Museum.
December 1929.
Exhibit at Powerhouse Museum.
June 1930.
July 1931.
1927. Sunbeam Long-stroke.
October 1933.
1937. Sunbeam Model 14. Reg No: FPB 512.
1937. Sunbeam Model 14. Reg No: FPB 512.
Reg No: LLM 349.
November 1955.
1958. Sunbeam 8.


November 1956.


November 1956.
Reg No: YB 2609.
Reg No: GY 9893.
Reg No: FPB 512.
Reg No: OKB 731.
Reg No: OKB 731.
Reg No: VSK 771.

Note: This is a sub-section of John Marston Ltd.

John Marston Ltd had built up a fine reputation for high standards of workmanship and finish in the world of bicycles and, as a marque, it commanded the highest respect. In 1905 it had separated the nascent motorcar business into a separate company Sunbeam Motor Car Company. John Marston was seventy-six years old when he ventured into the field of motorcycles with his 'Gentleman's motor bicycle'.

1912 The first modern-but-conventional Sunbeam model appeared. It had been designed by Harry Stevens of the AJS Stevens family with a 2.75 hp engine. The chain transmission was enclosed by the Sunbeam 'Little Oil Bath Chain Case'. Finished to the usual Sunbeam high standards, it was prepared for production by John Greenwood, who was the Engineering Director at Sunbeamland until the 1930s.

1913-1917 For a list of the models and prices of motorcycles see the 1917 Red Book

1913 A second model, with a 6-hp JAP V-twin engine was added. This was for sidecar work and had a three-speed gearbox. A 3.5hp single model, with a three-speed gearbox and cast-alloy primary chain-case, joined the range later that year.

1914 A TT version of the 3.5 hp model was listed that year and George Dance joined the team. He was later to become famous for success in sprints during the 1920s. They did well at the TT and the firm took the team prize.

World War I. The 2.75 hp model was dropped and 3.5hp model was produced in limited numbers.

1916 An 8 hp MAG was built, with the sidecars often fitted out with an ambulance body.

1917 A 4 hp model was built for the French Army - these had belt final-drive.

1918 This was a very tragic year for the Marston family. Firstly, the eldest son died, followed by his father the day after the funeral and his mother a few days later. It was to affect the firm deeply and the company entered the following decade in the control of others, being purchased in 1920 by Kynoch, part of Nobel Industries.

1919 Only two models were produced that year - a 3.5 hp single and an 8 hp V-twin.

1919 George Dance competed successfully in many sprints and hill-climbs on a light machine that had his own ohv conversion.

1920 Dance was determined to improve his performance at the TT, and was in the lead when engine trouble stopped him.

1922 Two new models were produced - one of which was to remain on the lists into the next decade. Alec Bennett, riding a Sunbeam, won the Senior TT easily - the first of five wins.

1923 Realising that they had to make major changes to remain competitive, the company revised its range. At the same time they began the practice of numbering each Model.

1924 The 346cc became Model 1, and by the end of the year Model 11 was listed.

1925 Brought the arrival of drum brakes. The company built some ohc racing engines, but these were not successful.

1926 Public road sprints were banned, so the sprint machines were no longer listed

1927 Nobel Industries became part of ICI and the range was reduced for two years.

1928-1929 At last there came success in the TT for both Charlie Dodson and Alec Bennett, but it was to be the last Sunbeam TT success. In 1929 saddle tanks were introduced for most of the models except the old Model 7, which continued with its flat tank. Other models also had new frames and fitments. The company also had European racing successes that year.

The Depression was looming and would take its toll on many firms - especially those that produced high-class products of excellent finish - Sunbeam was no exception.

1931 The range was reduced to four models and the new Model 10 was produced to offer Sunbeam at a lower price.

1932-1933 The list was extended and three new models were added. Sunbeam was now in financial difficulty as sales had slowed down, but they were still committed to building their machines to the highest possible standards.

1934 The last year Sunbeam participated in the T.T. races; both machines retired.

1937 The firm struggled on for several years until it was sold to the AJS and Matchless companies to form AMC, who kept some of their range going until the end of the decade.

1939 New engines were introduced for most of the models.

1940 Rear suspension became an option for the larger models.

1943 AMC sold Sunbeam to BSA.

1943 A brand new model, designed by Erling Poppe, was announced, using the old name. It was very advanced, but had many problems in the early days of production. It was also very heavy which resulted in poor acceleration. As a grand tourer it was very expensive, but it didn't live up to expectations.

1947 The GT model went on sale as the S7, but its unconventional lines, slow speed and high cost did it no favours.

1949 A more streamlined version, the S8, appeared and the S7 continued as the de luxe model. The two twins continued to be built in small numbers until the mid-1950s.

1950 As Sunbeam Cycles Ltd of 11 Armoury Road, Birmingham. Advert on this page. [1]

1956 Construction of the S7 and S8 models stopped, but it took a further two years to sell them all, and the Sunbeam name all but disappeared.

1959 The Sunbeam name appeared on a scooter that was a duplicate of the Triumph Tigress. For the next few years various versions were built, carrying the Sunbeam badge, but the firm had failed to keep up with changing times.

1965 Scooters were dropped and thus came the end of the Sunbeam name on motorised two-wheelers.

List of Models

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] History World