1926 Sunbeam 3.0-Litre Super Sports 'Twin Cam' Tourer Registration no. E 3511 Chassis no. 4231GF Engine no. 4153F
Founded by John Marston, a God-fearing Victorian industrialist who foresaw the growth in demand for private transport, Sunbeam was first associated with beautifully made, though expensive, bicycles. Although comparative latecomers to motor car manufacture, the Wolverhampton-based Sunbeam factory quickly established a fine reputation alongside Lanchester, Wolseley, Austin and Daimler at the heart of the expanding Midlands motor industry.
The company's first conventional car was largely conceived by T C Pullinger, who persuaded Marston to purchase a complete chassis from the French Berliet concern. Exhibited at the Crystal Palace in November 1902, it was marketed as the Sunbeam 10/12 but it was not until 1907, two years after the Sunbeam Motor Car Company had been formed, that the firm produced its first all-British model, the 16/20. The arrival from Hillman in 1909 of influential designer Louis Coatalen and the pursuit of an effective competitions programme enabled the marque to establish a formidable reputation prior to WWI, its superbly made products enjoying a reputation rivalling that of the best from Alvis and Bentley thereafter.
Coatalen's Sunbeams won countless races at Brooklands and set a number of speed records prior to WWI, and after The Great War the firm continued to be active in motor sport at the highest level, supplying racing cars to Henry Segrave. An ex-Royal Flying Corps pilot, Segrave made history in 1923 when he won the French Grand Prix at the wheel of a Sunbeam, thus becoming the first British driver to win a Grand Prix driving a British car. The Segrave/Sunbeam combination won two further Grands Prix in 1924, and in 1925 he was included in Sunbeam's team contesting the Le Mans 24-Hour race. Two of the new 3.0-litre Twin-Cam Super Sports road models were entered, and although that of Segrave/Duller retired with clutch trouble after 32 laps, the other, driven by Jean Chassagne and Sammy Davis, finished a magnificent 2nd, beaten only by the Lorraine-Dietrich of de Courcelles/Rossignol.
Drawing on Sunbeam's considerable experience of building double-overhead-camshaft engines for Grand Prix racing, which stretched back to 1914, the 3.0-Litre Super Sports was powered by a twin-cam 'six' featuring an eight-bearing crankshaft, twin Claudel carburettors and dry sump lubrication. The chassis specification included a four-speed in-unit gearbox, torque tube back axle, semi-elliptic front suspension, cantilever rear suspension and four-wheel brakes. Producing anywhere between 90 and 120bhp, the Super Sports was capable of 90mph, making it one of the fastest production sports cars of the day.
This 3-Litre Sunbeam Super Sports was exported when new to Argentina, its first owner there being unknown. It is fitted with a deep radiator and a speedometer calibrated in kilometres, and has a unique four-seater touring body with two doors on the nearside. One E P Dillon of Buenos Aires owned the car in 1963 and it was believed to have been stored for 32 years having covered only 19,000 kilometres. In 1972 the Sunbeam was bought from H A Romallo and brought back to the UK by Colin Crabbe, then sold to Roger Gates. It next went to D Marguilies Ltd and later that same year was bought by Frank Selwyn, who registered it as 'E 3511', this being the number of a 1921 16hp Sunbeam that had once belonged to the family. The car was sold at auction in December 1985 to one R Middleton, passing to John Zimbler of Northamptonshire the following year and to the present owner in 2008.
Works carried out over the years have included upgrading the brakes with a vacuum servo in 1978 and rebuilding the engine with a new cylinder block in 1993, the latter being undertaken by Keith Taylor of Tectus Engineering while the Sunbeam 3-Litre Super Sports was in the meticulous care of John Zimbler. At the same time the car was fitted with a Derby Bentley overdrive, which makes it an excellent fast touring car. New Arias forged pistons were fitted in January 2004 while in January 2008 the radiator was rebuilt and nickel plated. More recently, the timing gears were replaced so their usual whining noise, which is a characteristic of 3-litre Sunbeams, is barely audible. There is a 3" thick file of receipts covering John Zimbler's 20 years of ownership, including bills for the car's upkeep from Tectus, Holcombe Engineering and D H Day to name but a few. Clearly this is a car that has had no expense spared.
A perfectionist, present owner Professor Alan Richens has had the rear axle and transmission rebuilt, incorporating an STD Register 4:1 ratio crown wheel and pinion, and new hubs and brakes fitted all round, these works being carried out by marque specialists J C Engineering. Last year Richards Brothers Wheel Services fitted new wire-spoked road wheels and splines, etc. Also benefiting from new shock absorbers, the car is now in first class mechanical order while the body and interior are excellent. It has to be one of the best Twin Cams currently available, possessing a delightful patina resulting from years of careful ownership. The accompanying history file is massive, containing numerous restoration receipts and other documentation, and the car also comes with old-style buff logbook, current MoT/tax and Swansea V5C.
One of only 305 manufactured between 1925 and 1930, this superb Sunbeam Twin-Cam 3-Litre Super Sports represents the very pinnacle of engineering excellence in the Vintage era. A wonderful opportunity to acquire a fine example of this most prestigious British marque, it exudes period charm and is eminently suitable for a variety of VSCC and other historic events - the perfect addition to any motor house.
Please note that the most recent MoT for this vehicle expired in July 2013.