First Encounters of a Sunbeam Kind

By Robert Beech

Based on the email list question 'When did you first see a Sunbeam?'


Written 17th January 2003


It was the late sixties, I was about 14 / 15 years old and bike mad, my regular comic was the Motor Cycle News. I was not so mad about British bikes; I desperately wanted a Japanese Bike. All my mates wanted one as well but their dads were saying ďOh you donít want no Jap scrap, you want a good British bikeĒ. so they were all destined for C15ís, Bantams, Cubs, or if their old man was really rich a brand new Royal Enfield Continental GT.

My dad, well he was happy if I was happy, so I knew I was going to get my own way, and I wanted a 125cc Honda CB92 Benley super sports. I would spend all my free time just leering through the window of Copes or Kings in Wolverhampton, You know how sad you are when youíre a kid itís either leering at a bike, or the lass down the road with the magnificent tits that occupies most of your time. To keep some pennies in my pocket, on Saturdays I used to help on a bread round in Brieley Hill. At lunchtime we would stop at a local pub for lunch. We would always meet another bread man and his kid at the pub. While they were inside, we would sup our illicit pints outside in one of the vans, and talk about bikes. Paul the other kid was older than me he had just gone 16. His dad had brought him a Ducati Mach 1. I must admit there was a bit of hero worship here, he had arrived, and I was just in the wings waiting for my moment.

At the same time each Saturday a guy would arrive at the pub on a piss green, shaft driven, inline twin, a Sunbeam. He was always as black as coal, I assume he had just finished his shift at the Round Oak Steel Works just up the road, but the bike always shone. We both used to look at this strange bike, and though nether of us ever said ďthatís great I would love one of thoseĒ, It was obvious that we were both strangely fascinated by this peculiar bike sitting there on is fat tyres.

I am afraid street credibility at 15 is all, so I kept my feelings to myself, but I thought it was fantastic. It was the strangest, weirdest, oddest, peculiar, yet beautiful bike I had ever seen.

I did not know that the encounter was with an S7, it was just a Sunbeam at that stage. Over the years, every now and then, I would spot an S7 or S8. I always had to stop and take a closer look, and the image of that old piss green Beam always comes floating back into my mine with the taste of that illicit pint of Bankís Bitter in my mouth (This is a Beer.. for the benefit of our overseas members!), I was hooked. When the time came for me again, post mortgage kids etc. What I wanted was a classic bike, and there was no question which classic, I wanted an S7 or S8. So here I am filling a boyhood passion, or having a midlife crisis as my wife puts it. BTW I did get the Benley, and my mates got what their dads wanted. I wish I still had it now, have you seen how much they are worth. I sold mine for £80 to a mate; I have just spent that much on restoring my distributor.

God I had better shut up now otherwise I will be reminiscing about a bag of chips for 6p and a pint of bitter for 10p. My kids are probably right, I am a sad old git.

Talking of the kids, My eldest ladís English teacher was Robert Cordon Champ (S7, S8, Super profile, and the Sunbeam History author). He obviously used to reminisce half way through the English class to the boys. He is a pretty charismatic character, and has left his mark on my lad he thought he was great. Which has been quite good, because he has paid more than just a passing interest in what the old man is doing. The lads a good little engineer as well, so it has been nice to have someone to bounce thoughts and ideas off. Thanks Mr Champ!


Where Did You First See A Sunbeam?