Founded by John Marston, a 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 manufacturer. Exhibited at 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 in 1909 of influential Hillman 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.
By the outbreak of WWI, the Sunbeam range consisted of four-cylinder 12/16hp and 16/20hp models plus the 25/30hp. Civilian production recommenced in 1919 with 16hp and 24hp models, the former – also produced by Rover during the hostilities – being little changed from pre-war days. Thus it continued to be powered by a 3.0-litre sidevalve engine driving the separate four-speed gearbox via a cone clutch, while other chassis details included a rear-wheels-only handbrake and transmission foot brake. Standard equipment now included electric starting and lighting, but the price had risen dramatically by some £200 over 1915 levels, the five-seater tourer (as offered here) now costing £790.
Manufactured in 1919, this highly desirable and original 16hp tourer is believed to be the earliest known post-war Sunbeam and first registered on 25th January 1921. Although made some years before its first registration, the introduction of the Roads Act of 1920 ensured all existing un-registered vehicles were registered for the first time.
Registered new to a British Army officer, later serving on India’s Northwest frontier, the car was abandoned and ended up in a garage clearance in 1957 in Herefordshire, whence it was acquired by the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu. It was not until the 1960s that the car was on display as the officer had disappeared was eventually presumed dead. Correspondence included in the file from the National Motor Museum’s Michael Sedgewick to the cars then owner, Albert Ward of Turvey, states “It had certainly been off the road since 1928, and no modifications had been carried out at Beaulieu.”
After its residency at Beaulieu, in December 1968 the car passed onto Roger Gates of Harrow-on-the-Hill, Middlesex, and subsequently by the aforementioned Mr Ward in June 1970, where the Sunbeam was restored by him to a very high standard. It remained in his ownership until 2006 where it was purchased by its third owner since 1968. Significant work was carried out on the car to bring the car up to its fine condition that it is in today. Various work included regrinding the valves, checking valve timing and overhauling and tuning the carburettor.
In addition, a new set of wheels has been made and shod with new rubber. Running beautifully and ready for a wealth of motoring events, this wonderful early Sunbeam is offered with a significant history file including photographs of the Sunbeam at REME barracks in Colchester, believed to have taken in the 1950s; old style log book; photocopied literature, instruction manuals and spare parts lists; current V5 documents; and a plethora of old MoTs and various bills and invoices. With a powerful 3-litre engine, this car can keep up with modern traffic; we are informed by the vendor that it drives superbly.
The many sought after period features such as Auster screen, period Esso spare fuel can, fire extinguisher and charming original brass fittings along with a new mohair hood and tonneau cover, as well as the beautiful interior boasting deep buttoned beige hide seats, combine to make this a hugely desirable and rare motor car.
For further information or to arrange a viewing, please contact our sales department.