Wednesday, January 02, 2008

1920 TT Replica Sunbeam

These photos were sent to me by Rob Colenbrander in Holland; he says it's an original paint machine, with no kickstart, 'just push and go'.
"The bike is [originally] from Ireland. I bought it approx 15 years ago...The bike is unrestored and incredible fast; I went with it on the motorway, easy 75mph on 1/2 throttle, I was afraid to go faster due to old tyres, bad brakes, and especially the front end starting a speed wobble [!]. It hardly makes noises, typical Longstroke. Not oily at all, very easy to handle. Due to a leaking petrol cap I am not riding it also because I find it too dangerous [!]. But still it is a wonderful bike."

I know that Sunbeams can be particularly easy to push start - my 1928 model 90 ALWAYS starts with me sitting in the saddle, after paddling off for two or three strides. I was taught this technique by Chris Odling, who now lives in Scotland. His model 90, which is one engine number away from mine (also an ex-works experimental engine - EX103), would start after only one stride, basically a slow walking pace, but Chris is extraordinarily meticulous in his work, whereas I'm content to take two more strides if it means more riding time and less time fiddling with the idle circuit on the carb. Chris, by the way, is restoring my '29 Scott ex-works TT machine...although I wish he'd hurry up about it!
Back to Rob's bike - it's identical, barring number plates and lights, to Frank Mace's TT Sunbeam, which I rode a few years ago. I had never been especially interested in sidevalve machines before riding Frank's bike, but I was impressed with the 'feel' of the old racer, and its turn of speed; a lovely combination of light weight and nimble handling. I imagine that Rob's bike must be a pleasure to ride, and note that it has friction damping stabilizers on the forks (visible in the top photo), but no steering damper. I presumed none was necessary, until I read Rob's account of a speed wobble!

I'm definitely going to copy that exhaust pipe for my Longstroke! So simple; side-valve engines sound remarkably mellow with open pipes, although at higher revs they begin to crackle like ohv machines, and are no longer quiet.

Please note the red clogs in the corner of the top photo! I guess that means the photos were taken in Holland - I'm sure those clogs were just sitting there anyway, ready for some yard work, but I love the sense of locale they evoke.

A little history; in 1920 Tommy de la Haye won the Isle of Man TT on his Sunbeam, at an average speed of 51.79 mph. The machine in the photos is a replica, the '3 1/2 hp Sporting Solo TT Model' according to the catalogue. 85x88mm, 499cc, with a 'specially balanced and tuned, high-compression engine', all for 148 Guineas.


Vintage said...

Wonderful bike!! I also have a 1922 Sunbeam 3 1/2 hp that I try to ride each weekend in summer.

Paul Iacono said...

Hi Paul,

I'm a vintage bike virgin and when I came across your site the Picture of the 1920 TT Replica Sunbeam, does it sport Disc Brakes? I'm absolutely amazed as I thought they weren't invented until later...But what do I know..LOL

Love your bikes, reading about them has made me want one, here comes a divorce.

Paul Iacono

vintagent said...

Paul Iacono, don't get a divorce, but get an old bike! Tell her it's a great investment, something you can't say often these days.
Regarding disc brakes - Douglas were the first to use them in 1923, then the concept lay dormant until the 1960's on motorcycles. The brakes on this Sunbeam are called 'dummy rim' brakes, as a brake shoe is pressed on an extra steel hoop, which is held in place by the spokes. If this hoop were 'squeezed' by the brake shoe/s, it would be a form of disc, but as it is, it's just a bad drum brake.

Anonymous said...

Can you please help me source a complete engine and Stirrup wheels for SUNBEAM model 7.Please reply to