My name is Ralph Walker. I created this little website for two purposes - to describe my Sunbeam motorcycle and facilitate the sale of it, and to provide some information on this model for other enthusiasts, including those in the Marston Sunbeam Register and the Vintage Motor Cycle Club, both of which I am a member of. I shall leave this site up for several years after the sale of the bike. I did indeed sell this bike to an experienced veteran/vintage enthusiast in New Jersey, on January 17, 2004. Watch for the the restored bike in shows in a few years.
The Sunbeam (well, part of it) with its new owner.
The subject bike was a major project, and I realized I was not going to be able to complete it, since most of my free time is taken up with Marusho and Lilac motorcycles and managing the Marusho/Lilac Register. If you like quirky motorcycles, please visit my site at WWW.MarushoLilac.com to learn about these classy, shaft-driven bikes produced in Japan in the 50s and 60s.
This is a large bike (996cc JAP V-twin), with a Sunbeam sidecar, and as far as I know it is complete. Much of it is still in 'original, unrestored' condition. While the bike was on the road for 38 years, it has not been patched together. Almost everything on the bike is present for restoration or duplication I guaranteed the new owner many hundreds of hours of pleasure bringing it back to life, and when it is completed it will be fully as magnificent as any Brough Superior.
If you want to skip right to the photos without reading my ramblings, CLICK HERE!
I am updating this site January 18, 2004. I never advertized the bike. I found a buyer simply by putting the info out on the WWW and providing a few links to it from my other websites about the Marusho/Lilac motorcycles and Swiss Photos. When I get the chance I will make up a similar web page for my 1955 Victoria Bergmeister 350cc V-twin shaft-driven project bike, which I will be selling for $4000.
Who am I? My name is Ralph Walker and I have lived in northern Virginia, USA all my life (59 years). Both my wife Jan and I are retired federal government workers (Smithsonian Institution (US National Museum)). We live at 1542 N. Jefferson St., Arlington Virginia 22205. I have been at this address since 1981. My telephone is (703) 237-0859 and you may call anytime. Or you can send me e-mail.
History of the Sunbeam in the U.S.: A nearby Harley-Davidson dealer, Vernon Lower of Leesburg, Virginia, was on vacation in London in 1971 when he bought the bike from the well-known firm of Verrall's. It was meant to be part of his personal collection. When he closed his shop in 1984 he decided to part with it and advertized it in the Washington Post newspaper in October 1984 for $4000, too much for me. In January 1985 it was unsold and he advertised it again, so I bought it for $1800. Unfortunately he had discarded the log book, so I had little information about its previous life.
I obtained a proper Virginia title.
M.J. Roden of England recovered the leather saddle beautifully and reproduced the toolboxes using the original brass hardware. My cost for this service in 1985 was $135.
The wheels were in unrestorable condition. I disassembled them, repainted the hubs (black) and ordered rims and spokes from Reg Mills Wire Wheels, Dorset GB in 1990, for £477. For this I got the two cycle wheels professionally rebuilt with (2) new nickel-plated rims and stainless steel spokes (40 per wheel). In addition, Mr. Mills supplied (2) matching 28" nickel-plated rims and the (80) stainless spokes needed for the sidecar. I re-painted (black) the (2) sidecar hubs and the new owner will have the pleasure of lacing these wheels. The rear cycle wheel and the two matching, interchangeable sidecar wheels utilise extremely heavy 8 gauge spokes, as fitted originally. The front cycle wheel utilises 10 gauge spokes of two sizes, the wheel having been outfitted with an optional brake (see photo). This heavy-duty construction, which was not usual on the solo model, was presumably necessary for the stress of the sidecar. I did not retain the rims, as they were too far gone. The new owner plans to mount white tires.
My total cost in US$ for replacing the rims and spokes, including shipping, was $934.
I purchased two Commander brand black tires (see photo) and four tubes from Coker tire for $199 in 1990. The two new tires are meant for the sidecar and have not been mounted.
Since the majority of this model was used in WWI by the British, French and Russian military, I originally decided to restore it in olive drab trim. I painted some parts, such as the tank, this color, but then changed my mind and decided the bike should be the traditional elegant black. The tank was in beautiful condition, with no dents and no rust-through or filler. Inside was a different story. I spent many evenings removing sixty years of crud from it and never really got it all. I used acid, boiling water, ball bearings, solvents and compressed air. See the photos. There was an instruction decal on the tank. I photographed it in case the decal is not available. It would be a simple job to faithfully reproduce it using a competent layout program such as PageMaker. The 'The Sunbeam' decals should be available from the VMCC Transfer Scheme.
If you wish to have higher resolution (1200x800) images of the above photos I will e-mail them to you. They are about 200kb each.
The image below shows all 4 pages of an original Sunbeam brochure which went to the new owner, but you can make your own copy of the brochure. I have created a LARGE pdf (Adobe Acrobat) file which you can view and print by clicking here. Be patient. It's worth the wait.
This website was last updated February 24, 2009.