Original Paint 1951 Sunbeam S7 Deluxe 500cc

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Sunbeam has a bit of a complicated history, at least as far as motorcycles go. We aren’t talking about your iron, hair dryer, or other appliances, but the BMW-derived motorcycles that were built under the auspices of Birmingham Small Arms (BSA). Confused? This 1951 Sunbeam S7 DeLuxe is listed here on eBay in beautiful Fountain Hills, Arizona, there is no reserve, and the current bid is $4,250.

The name of Sunbeam was sold to BSA in 1943, yes, right in the middle of WWII, and both companies were British manufacturers of bicycles and motorcycles, among other things. Sunbeam’s founder made high-end bicycles and started making motorcycles at age 76. So when you say that you’re too old to start over, you’re not. The BMW R75 was the basis for the Sunbeam S7 and S8, the rights of which were acquired by BSA as a part of post-war reparations with German-based BMW. It’s confusing, but the first Sunbeam S7 came out in 1949 and they offered them until 1956.

The design was a bit clunky with big fat American-looking (as in American motorcycle companies) tires, big fenders for those balloon tires, a springer seat, and other features, along with a two-cylinder engine. And not an opposed-twin as BMW’s were known for, this was an inline-twin, which vibrated enough that it required rubber mounts. Designers wanted to distance this model from looking like a BMW with an opposed-twin engine so an inline twin was used. All in all, it wasn’t a very successful design, but looking at it now, I think it looks pretty good.

The S7 came in black only, as John Marston, the founder of Sunbeam, was an expert in “japanning”, the art of hardening and creating shiny black lacquer. The S7 DeLuxe, as with this example, came in both black and Mist Green as seen here. The seller says that this bike is 100% original right down to the petcock valves. But then they go on to say that it has new tires, ha. Of course, they mean original other than regular maintenance parts. All of the lights and everything else works other than the speedometer and odometer, so the true miles are unknown.

This isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile. I mean, BMW. The engine is a 487-cc OHC inline-twin-cylinder, which had 24 horsepower. It runs like a watch (my words, not the seller’s), starts on the first kick every time (the seller’s words, not mine), and this motorcycle has a great look to it, despite the unusual history of this model.

Power is sent to the rear wheel via a driveshaft. With such a tall OHC engine, using BMW’s reliable bevel-gear drive was out, so a bronze underslung model was devised. It proved to be the Achilles heel of this model, in the early years at least, and power was inhibited to 24 horsepower to limit stripping that somewhat fragile system. Have any of you owned a Sunbeam motorcycle?

 

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Comments

  1. Alexander

    I had a girlfriend who fell in love with a nearly identical S8 in green with whitewall tyres back ion the early 1990s when she was getting her motorcycle licence. She even found a bolt of thick leather in matching green to make a jacket with. We agreed that, especially with whitewall tyres, it looked exactly as if “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” had drawn a motorcycle to go with its other animated features!

    Fortunately for her (and me), my vintage motorcycle/car friends, all also versed in British cars/bikes, managed to talk some sense into her, and she later ended up with a Honda CB350 instead–in Honda’s variation of that green!

    We’d always threatened to someday get her a ride on one, just to let her see what she missed, but she relocated to far southwestern Virginia, and we never found one close enough before breast cancer claimed her too young. <:-(

    Like 12
    • Dave

      Sorry for your loss. Some of our memories are bittersweet, God Bless.

      Like 9
    • Alexander

      One of those friends who thought he knew British cars said when we were discussing this S8 acquisition, “Wait, wow, Sunbeam made motorcycles, too?”

      I replied “Not the same Sunbeam, mate!”

      Jaguar E-type Owner said, “And, actually, the Alpine Sunbeam you’re thinking of was a rebadged marque of the earlier Sunbeam car company–which STILL isn’t the motorcycle and bicycle maker……………. are you confused yet??”

      Like 1
  2. HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

    Owned a Sunbeam motorcycle? For a Yank, not bloody likely. To most, the word Sunbeam, as mentioned, conjured up images of tasty treats mom would make and you got to lick the beaters( after taking them off the mixer) but had nothing to do with the cars. This bike, to me, is the coolest thing on 2 wheels I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a LOT of 2 wheelers. Everything gushes with British charm.( British charm could be an oil leak, too) It appears to have an automotive style clutch, like Guzzi, and an in-line twin, I bet that has even Geomechs flustered. While I have no idea how the thing maneuvers, it looks modern compared to US bikes of the time and the, ( gritting teeth) patina looks okay, but have a little “pride in your ride” for heavens sake, doesn’t anyone care what their ride looks like anymore? For shame,, great find.

    Like 7
    • JLHudson

      Yes! Mom had a Sunbeam mixmaster & we fought over licking the beaters! Curious that BSA would make their own motorcycle and a BMW based machine.

      Like 2
  3. Darwin Tansey

    If only I had more garage space.

    Like 2
    • Dion

      That’s a reason I see frequently. It is a non-reason.
      If you REALLY want that bike, buy it and make some room. Sell a lesser machine or throw out the washing machine (that should not belong in the garage anyway). It is not as if it is another big pickup truck.

      Like 5
  4. Jim Simpson

    I’ll bet that the winning bid exceeds 20 grand. Why bother bidding? TOO exotic. Somebody will just anti-up.

    Like 0
    • Jimbosidecar

      Maybe not. I had a friend sell his meticulously restored S7 at the Las Vegas Vintage motorcycle auction maybe 6-7 years ago. He got around $7000 for it.
      He also restored a 1929 Sunbeam, which his widow still has. During his restoration of that bike he inquired about a gasket kit for the motor on a British site. He was laughed off the site. Turns out Sunbeams were so well made the motors didn’t have gaskets from the manufacturer.

      Like 1
  5. david croydon

    my firet bicycle was a sunbeam (about 1960, purple) Had that bike for years, loved it. If it wasn’t for stupid transport prices to get it across the border I’d snap this one up in an instant.

    Like 1
  6. Solosolo UK Solosolo UKMember

    I once had a rush of blood to my brain and traded my ’56 Triumph Tiger 110 in on a Sunbeam S8. I road it home 7 miles away, decided it was a POS in comparison to the Triumph, so road it back to the dealer and did a bit of pleading until I got my Triumph back.

    Like 4
  7. Murdock

    Oh you crazy Brits!
    Yes, we colonists know all about Sunbeam and not just because of an electric razor……
    I’ve got both a Sunbeam Tiger and an Alpine. The Tiger is a full blown rush of adrenalin without adequate brakes and the Alpine is “Cute”.
    Like all things British in my garage, they mark their territory too.
    Too much fun.

    Like 2
  8. Peter

    Sometime during the manufacturing run the HP was decreased to alleviate stripping of the worm drive gear. Another great British fix.

    Like 1
  9. Chris

    A chap and his cat rode one extensively around New Zealand. Cat was called Rastas and sat on the tank and wore goggles. Ended in tears.

    Like 1
    • Solosolo UK Solosolo UKMember

      We had a guy in South Africa that rode a Gold Wing and he had a little dog that sat on the tank also dressed in a leather jacket, goggles and a crash helmet. Together they rode many thousands of miles around SA fund raising for various charities but within a week or so after his dog died of old age, so did his owner. They said it was due to a broken heart.

      Like 3
  10. geomechs geomechsMember

    Wow! Where did this bike come from? I always wanted a Sunbeam. I never saw one in the flesh but I saw a few in pictures. They were just a cool design. The name, like Howard says, just doesn’t fit a motorcycle; it’s like having a big mean dog and naming it, Fifi. If only…

    Like 3

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