1947 Sunbeam S7 Motorcycle Feature
Jim Kelsall came across an auction site that listed a barn-find 1947 Sunbeam S7 coming up for sale on the Isle of Wight. He phoned the auctioneer and placed a proxy bid – and won.
Story by Greg Williams, Photos by Amee Reehal
Sunbeam S7 — The Gentleman’s Machine
Catching a glimpse of a Sunbeam motorcycle moving down the asphalt is a rare experience, especially in Canada.
A product of the British manufacturing industry, there are two distinct periods of Sunbeam motorcycle production. The first was from 1912 to 1939, and the second from 1946 to 1957. John Marston of Wolverhampton, England first produced fine quality bicycles in the late 1800s, and these pedal-powered conveyances bore the Sunbeam badge. Mechanized transport caught Marston’s attention at the turn of the last century, but rather than pursuing motorcycle construction he developed automobiles, and set up the Sunbeam Motor Car Co. Ltd.
Robert Gordon Champ wrote in his Sunbeam S7 and S8 Super Profile book (Haynes Publishing, 1983): “Although the motorcycle should have been the logical step from the cycle, Marston disliked the frantic antics inseparable from the primitive, clutchless single-speeders of the day, refusing to make a motorcycle at all unless it could be ridden in a gentlemanly fashion.”
In 1912 Marston produced a motorcycle of which he could be proud, this one fitted with a 2 3/4 horsepower single cylinder side valve engine and fully enclosed chain drive. Sunbeam machines were generally lightweight, and a range of side valve and overhead valve singles were the company’s mainstay. The motorcycles were worthy competitors and Sunbeam-mounted riders took many wins in a variety of events, not the least of which was the Isle of Man TT races in 1920, 1922, 1928 and 1929.
Sunbeam sold the rights to the Sunbeam name in 1937 to Associated Motor Cycles, and the last machine built prior to the Second World War rolled out of the factory in 1939. Motorcycling giant B.S.A. purchased the Sunbeam name in 1943 and began to look at their post-war horizons. They studied war-era BMW flat twin motorcycles, thinking they might build something similar, but rather than wholesale copying of the German machine B.S.A. decided a brand new engine was in order.
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