72nd Pioneer Run
Epsom to Brighton, Sunday 14th March 2010
The season begins! And with it some fine
spring weather for this year's entrants in the Sunbeam Motor Cycle Club's
72nd Pioneer Run from Epsom to Brighton. We arrived to see two of the first
motorcycles to appear along Madeira Drive on the seafront at Brighton
also caught the opening 'welcome' announcement over the tannoy, delivered as
usual from the London Routemaster bus used as the nerve-centre and finishing
line for the day's motorcycling event (below). We were amused by the droll comments
about the day's other significant event: 'something called Mothering
Sunday', that the announcer claimed to know little about!
The ancient internal combustion engined
machines arrived in a steady stream thereafter. Their state of mechanical
composure varying; everything from the plethora of 'trusty Triumphs' living up to their
name and generally maintaining a clockwork beat as they pass, to other
machines that barely achieved compression or a regular exhaust note.
One or two were eight-stroking and some left a tangible aroma of over-heated
engine. All this adding to the atmosphere and delighting our senses by way of
eyes, ears ... and nose!
A number of machines cut out as they
arrived, a few pushed the last few yards with their belt drives trailing
ignominiously. We winched as dainty forks 'crash' the steel kerb ramp. On the
whole the finishers were running well, as we spot the more well-known marques
of Douglas, Ariel, BSA, etc interspersed with a fantastic array of obscure early makes that
you'll probably not see on the roads anywhere else. Cameras are snapping,
the good Mrs Sidevalve's amongst them! She snaps a number of 'Beams on their
way in (below).
The Bonhams' tent added greatly to the
day's interest. The star of the show was undoubtedly the Hildebrand und
Wulfmuller 'barn find' of c.1896 (below). It is due for auction at the Stafford
International Classic Motorcycle Show in April. It seemed perfectly apt that
an example of the world's first production motorcycle (1894-97) was here
amongst the day's pioneer and veteran machines.
The spectators, a mix of motorcyclists
and curious promenaders, showed a special interest in the earliest machines
- not every day you see a Victorian motorcycle on the road. The 43 'Class 1'
(pre-1905) machines listed in the programme were a mix of tricycles,
fore-cars and jaunty, engine-propelled bicycles (below).
The sight and sound of the machines are
guaranteed to delight the crowd - especially when riders are dressed in
period costumes, which many were (below).
'Class 2' machines from the period
1905-09 are well represented too, with some 36 machines listed in the
programme to look out for.
But, it is 'Class 3' machines (1910-14)
that are most numerous with some 292 entrants listed. Amongst them were to be
found the Sunbeams we had come to see. And, we were not disappointed. There were examples of all three
Pioneer-eligible Marston Sunbeam models.
A pleasing sight was the pair of single
cylinder machines from the Isle of Man: a 2¾ horse power (350cc) and a 3½
horse power (500cc) model which were ridden in tandem along Madeira Drive
before being parked up together (below).
In all there were three examples of John Marston's
first production model listed in the programme; the pretty two-speed, 2¾
horse power (350cc) model with its Harry Stevens (of A.J.S.) designed
engine. All three are from 1913 - none of the first year's production from
1912 are known to survive. We only track down the one example, above.
Marston's second production model, the
big 6 horse power (660cc) J.A.P. engined v-twin was present in both its 1913
and 1914 guise. We caught up with both in the paddock. The 1913 model is, I
the former Verrall collection (above), whilst the latter was at one time owned by
vintage collector and enthusiast the late John Griffiths (below). This was the
actual machine used by toy-maker Matchbox as the model for its Sunbeam
motorcycle combination. Its German owner explained how he is hoping to track
down the original side-car which has been split from the cycle. He also
regaled us with tales from his ride that morning; an experience dogged by
very loose handlebar fittings that caused him to limp home with assistance
behind the others.
Finally, there was the John Greenwood
designed 3½ horse power (500cc) model to look out for. There is a single
example from 1913, the first year of production (OA 8709). However, it
is the remainder
of 1914 vintage that catch our eye - and the camera lens (below).
As usual, as we wander through the
paddock the camera lens of the good Mrs Sidevalve also tracked down Sunbeam's
Wolverhampton rivals. Ten of them were listed this year, including seven
A.J.S. machines - celebrating the marque's centenary year with its formation
in November 1909.
Amongst the A.J.S. machines was one of
the company's first production models introduced in late 1910. It is the
chain-driven, two-speed Model B - this machine dating from 1912 and one of
the earliest Ajays I have seen on the road (below). It was sold
along side a single-speed, belt-driven Model A that I have yet to catch
There were also a couple of v-twin Clynos from 1912 and
'14 (below), both pulling side-cars, and a solitary 296cc Wolf from 1914.
Sooner than we realised it was time to go
hunting a late lunch. As we left we came across three fine looking Sunbeams
amongst the spectators' machines (below). We enjoyed a chat with regular attendee Gez
Cater from Kent who travelled in to see the Run on his trusty 350cc
side-valve from the late 1920s. He looked the part too in his Brooklands-style
leathers, which we discovered he is making and selling. It is this celebration
of not just the motorcycles but the period of the pioneer, veteran and
vintage era that brings events such as today's Pioneer Run to life.
Heading back into town, the weather began
to look decidedly stormier. Darkening skies made for a dramatic last photo
of the Pier (photo).