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T h e   S U N B E A M   s i de - v a l v e

PHOTOS - Sunbeam side-valve engines spanning the decades:-

▲ Above: 1914 (Brighton, March 2008)

► Top right: 1927 (Black Country Vehicle Rally, July 2003)

► Bottom right: 1933/34 (Black Country Vehicle Rally, July 2003)


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What's New on the web-site?

19 February 2012
Up-dated Events page for 2012

4 February 2012
Revised 'Know Your Sunbeams' with images added for 1921 and 1926!

22 May 2011
Report from last year's Banbury Run in the Events section - taster for this year!

13 April 2011
Report from this year's Pioneer Run in the Events section

10 March 2011
Up-dated Events page

20 February 2011
Up-dated Sunbeamland pages

20 October 2010
Report from the archives of the 2nd Marston Sunbeam Register Annual Rally in 1984

26 September 2010
Details of Marston Sunbeam Club & Register's first Annual General Meeting

Stolen Sunbeam sidecar outfit

22 August 2010
Marston Sunbeam Club & Register page up-dated

15 July 2010
Report on April's Spring Motorcycle Gathering at Brooklands

News about an exciting Sunbeam exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery

13 June 2010
George Peck, former Sunbeamland  employee, celebrates his 100th birthday

Tales from 1931 of Jan and Cora Gordon's travels in France on a Sunbeam

14 May 2010
Report on this year's Pioneer Run in the Events section

4 May 2010
A forum for members of the Marston Sunbeam Club & Register is added to the website

26 April 2010
Stafford Classic Motorcycle Show report in Events section

1 February 2010
Info on T.T. rider Tom Sheard added (at last!) to Sunbeamland section

31 January 2010
Up-dated 'Events' section for 2010

15 January 2010
A new 'sales & wants' section added to the website

Link to Petrolbug's Japanese blog detailing the restoration of a Model 8

1931 'Know your Sunbeams' up-dated and photos added

6 January 2010
Illustration of 1916 MAG-engined v-twin to 'Know your Sunbeams'.

1916 General Service model and 1936 Lion photos / requests for info from owners in 'Running 'n' Riding section.


Site launched: 11 May 2008

Site last up-dated: 19 February 2012



Sunbeam Side-valve Motorcycles

Sunbeam motorcycles are delights of mechanical engineering; their side-valves no exception. The sporting side-valve was rivalled for speed only by the equivalent Norton of the 1920s, although the 'Beam had the edge! Throughout the 1920s Sunbeam justifiably advertised it as the fastest 3˝ h.p. side-valve motorcycle supplied as standard to the public. In 1922 Sunbeam gave us the last side-valve machine to win the Senior T.T. Sunbeams are arguably the finest side-valve engines ever produced. Some of us think so.

The most notable amongst the Sunbeam side-valves is the legendary race winning ‘Longstroke’ of the 1920s. On its introduction it won the Senior T.T. and French Grand Prix. It continued in production right the way through the 1920s and '30s. With a stroke of 105.5mm it really is a grand old thumper.

The Sunbeam side-valve in its 600cc Model 7 guise also has a certain notoriety. It was the last flat-tank motorcycle to remain in production, still available in 1932 when most major manufacturers had changed to 'saddle tank' models before the end of the 1920s.

John Marston Ltd

Sunbeam motorcycles were produced by John Marston Ltd, based at the world famous 'Sunbeamland' Works in Wolverhampton, England - which still survives!

Production spanned the years 1912 to 1940. For the last few years, following the take-over of the company in September 1937 by Associated Motor Cycles (AMC) of London,  machines were assembled from Wolverhampton-made parts in Plumstead, London. For two years until 1940 AMC also produced their own, new, Sunbeam-badged OHV models based on Wolverhampton precedents. But, war brought civilian production to a halt. 

AMC's sale of the Sunbeam trademarks to BSA of Birmingham in 1943 effectively ended the lineage of the Marston motorcycle.

A Lasting Legacy

Production may have ceased in 1940 but  Sunbeam side-valves have been running since then, championed by those drawn to these fine machines from motorcycling's Golden Age.

The earliest are light, bicycle-like machines propelled by exceedingly sporty engines. A revelation in the present era when motorcycle design has evolved to provide us with far weightier machines requiring all the complexity of a two-wheeled motor car!

The later models, to quote a 1931 reviewer in 'Motor Cycling', are, ' a thoroughly sound and a particularly attractive machine ... with an engine which gives an excellent turn of speed coupled with extraordinary docility and tractability, it is a splendid steering model which can be thoroughly recommended to riders - of no matter what class - who are looking for a machine which will accomplish arduous work pleasantly, easily and nigh on indefinitely.'


Use the 'links' at the head of the page to find your way around the site to view the following:-

* An evolving catalogue of contemporary photos and illustrations of all the motorcycles produced

* The fate of the original Sunbeamland factory, lying vacant on the outskirts of Wolverhampton city centre, and how its wider heritage legacy lives on

* The running and riding of old Sunbeam motorcycles

* Hints and tips from the workshop

* A little about the Marston Sunbeam Club & Register - the marque club for Wolverhampton-made 'Beams

* A listing for events where Sunbeams are likely to be featured should you want to go out to meet like-minded enthusiasts




Use of photos on the web site

All photos on this site are my own with certain exceptions - notably historic photos from Marston catalogues which I have taken to be 'public domain'. In the small number of cases where other photos appear on the site, I have tried to credit the source.

I am happy for my own photographs to be used on other non-commercial web sites. Just drop me a line first and acknowledge the source as www.sunbeamsidevalve.com.

I photograph motorcycles at events open to the public. However, if you or your motorcycle feature on the web site and you would prefer that the photograph did not appear, let me know and I will remove it. On a brighter note, if you are happy to find yourself or your machine on the site it would be great to hear from you.