1916 Sunbeam 3½hp
Registration no. BM 5036
Frame no. 4116
Engine no. 105/4169GS
The first Sunbeam motorcycle - a 350cc side-valve single - left the Wolverhampton premises of John Marston, hitherto a manufacturer of finest quality enamelled goods, bicycles and - latterly - cars, in 1912. Designed by Harry Stevens (later to found AJS) the 2¾hp Sunbeam was equipped with a two-speed countershaft gearbox and fully enclosed all-chain drive, proving an instant success in an era when the norm was hub gears and belt-drive. Like Marston's other products, his motorcycles soon established a reputation for sound construction and exemplary finish. Their racetrack performances did nothing to discourage sales either. Howard Davies (later to found the HRD marque) finished second in the 1914 Senior TT on his and Sunbeams first visit to the Island, and Tommy De La Hay inherited victory in the 1920 Senior after George Dance, also Sunbeam-mounted, retired while leading. Sunbeams second model was the John Greenwood-designed 3½hp of 1913. A sidevalve single like its predecessor, the 3½hp came with a three-speed hand-change gearbox and fully enclosed oil-bath chaincases, the latter first seen on the companys bicycles.
After the outbreak of The Great War, most of the Sunbeams produced for military purposes were supplied to Britains allies, most notably Russia, France and Italy. Although some civilian-style 3½hp models were used by the British Army, it was the Royal Navy and its flying arm, the Royal Naval Air Service, that were the biggest customers at home. In 1915 the RNAS ordered the 3½hp Sunbeam as their machine. The RNAS 3½hp differed from the civilian version in being painted drab green - over the nickel plating - with black tank lining and green handlebar grips. It was fitted with a fuel tank divided into three compartments: one for petrol, one for oil and one for paraffin. Machines supplied under War Department contracts were stamped with a GS engine number suffix, which stood for General Service.
This military Sunbeams accompanying old-style logbook (issued in December 1924) records the owner at that time as A Davey, Esq, of Manor House, Beckford, Gloucestershire, who held the rank of Captain and had served with the Herefordshire, Hertfordshire and Cheshire Regiments in WWI. BM 5036 was licensed intermittently throughout the 1920s but appears to have been off the road for some considerable time thereafter. The only other recorded keeper is the well-known motorcycle dealer and Norton tuner, Sid Mularney of Leighton Buzzard, who acquired the machine in May 1956. Also contained within the extensive history file, close inspection of which is highly recommended, is an undated press cutting reporting that Sid Mularney had ridden his 1916 Sunbeam, referred to as a despatch riders mount, to the VMCCs rally in Douglas, Isle of Man during TT week.
Damaged in a fire at Mularneys shop, the Sunbeam was sold to Mr R Merivale, of Milton Keynes in September 1986 (see bill of sale on file) and subsequently restored. Photographs on file show the Sunbeam before and after the fire. BM 5036 was acquired by Bill in 1994 and last used in June 2008, there being a 60th Anniversary Banbury Run competitors armband on file. The machine comes complete with WD headlamp and generator and a Stewart Warning Signal, model 115-A.
Representing an exciting opportunity to acquire a rare military Sunbeam from WWI possessing well-documented history, BM 5036 is offered with the aforementioned documentation; VMCC dating certificate; assorted correspondence; an almost complete run of MoTs dating from 1987 to the present day; a quantity of old tax discs (earliest 1929); current road fund licence; Swansea V5C registration document and MoT to 15th June 2009. In addition, various magazine articles/press cuttings and a (copy) spare parts list and instruction manual come with the machine.