The VMCC 62nd Banbury Run
Heritage Motor Centre Gaydon, Sunday 20th June 2010
The Vintage Motor Cycle Club's (VMCC)
annual Banbury Run is without doubt the largest event for pre-1931
motorcycles. Some 600 of them undertake the set routes of either 30, 50 or
60 miles for the three classes of machine based on age: machines up to 1914;
1915-1924 and 1925-1930. This year the weather is scorching!
Bonhams have their regular Banbury
auction at the event. The star attraction for Sunbeam fans is lot 165, a
'barn find' 3½
HP Sunbeam thought to be of 1916 origin - frame number 3880 and engine 302M
(below). It had been in single family ownership and clearly needed a good
deal of work. But, it appeared to be quite authentic and original. Estimated
at £4,000 - £6,000, it actually sold for much more at £12,075, a resounding
indication that machines in original, un-restored condition are highly
With roughly every twelfth machine a
Sunbeam, there's almost a non-stop camera action from the moment we arrive
at the venue and Sunbeams fly past us as entrants complete their runs and
head to the paddock. Which is precisely where we go with Mrs Sidevalve's
camera at the ready.
The earliest Sunbeam is a veritable 3½
HP (500cc) veteran from 1913. Marston introduced the 3½
model as their third production machine for the 1914 season, the earliest of
which were available from the end of 1913 (below). The veteran Sunbeams are
conspicuous by, amongst other things, the distinct circular magneto drive
case, containing a driven gear.
Marston's earliest '500' engine had the
established short-stroke bore and stroke dimensions of 85mm by 88mm which
date back to Bouton et De Dion's highly successful motorcycle engines from
the mid-1890s. It gained Marston the Manufacturer's Team Prize at its first
outing at the T.T. races in 1914, and then went on to see military duty
during World War I as a 'General Service' model. A great example of a
war-time Sunbeam, formerly part of Brian Verrall's collection, was here at
the Banbury Run (below).
The Banbury Run has a number of concours
awards, of which the Feridax Award is the most prestigious. It is
awarded by the VMCC's expert judges for the motorcycle in best condition
having regard to its original specification. It is a military model Sunbeam
from 1916 that catches the judges' eye. Although in black and gold, rather
than military 'olive drab', it has the 'GS' (General Service) initials
stamped on its crankcase. We catch the judges undertaking their
rigorouus inspection (below). After much deliberation, it is declared the
overall winner of the Feridax Award - the finest motorcycle of 600 present!
Post-war, the short-stroke 'Beam notched
up a Senior T.T. victory for Tommy de la Hay in 1920 before being
over-shadowed by the Longstroke model introduced in 1922, with its famous 77mm by
105.5mm dimensions - the fastest production single cylinder side-valve
motorcycle. However, the short-stroke continued in several guises until
1926. We spot a great example of the Model 5 which was a sporty-looking
combination of the
short-stroke engine with the lighter cycle parts of the Longstroke (below).
Not unsurprisingly, the Longstroke
side-valve Sunbeam, which was manufactured from 1922 - 1940, is
well-represented amongst the 47 'Beams included in the programme. It
is great to spot a couple of early examples, the first with its 'dummy rim'
front brake and another with an early, and tiny, front drum brake (below).
If the presence of motorcycles provides
any indication of Marston's manufacturing output, then the late 1920s must
have been the time of peak production. The T.T. Manufacturers' Team Prize in
1927 followed by a Senior T.T. victory in 1928 must have done wonders for
sales ... that is before the effect of the Great Depression of the 1930s
following October 1929's global stock market crash. The 1928 Longstrokes are
out in force (below).
A 'UK' Wolverhampton registration number
is great to see, especially on a machine which looks especially purposeful
with its tank rail steering damper (below). It always pleases me to see a
sporty looking side-valve from the late 1928s when over-head valve machines
were in the ascendancy but the side-valve rider could still cut a dash and
give them a run for their money! Especially if riding a Longstroke Sunbeam!
And, this is not the only example of
sporting improvements to Longstroke. We see an absolutely first rate
modification to a 1928 Sportman's Longstroke Model 6. A later oil pump, with
its circulating oil supply from a separate oil tank, has been installed to
replace the standard 'total loss' oil system (below). Fabulous!
With the introduction of a 'saddle tank'
frame for the 1929 season - a year later than most other major manufacturers
- we spy examples from both 1929 and 1930 of the Longstroke in its more
modern-looking guise (below).
The side-valve 'Beam was also renowned as
an up-market sidecar machine and, as we had hoped, there were a couple of
examples of Sunbeam combinations to cast our eyes - and camera lens - over ...
starting with a great 4½
HP (600cc) model
from 1922 with has a 'DA' Wolverhampton
The second combination we find is from
the other end of the decade - a saddle-tank Longstroke Model 6 from 1930
Although our predilections lie elsewhere,
we cannot ignore the overhead-valve Sunbeams, especially as we find an
early example when 'straight through' engine breathing meant a radical
re-working of the front down-tube design (below). Added height from the
overhead valves also required that the frame's lower tank rail be
removable for access to the engine. A large nut and bolt held it in place.
Not the most rigid of frames!
It is always a thrill to see one of the
most legendary Sunbeams - the 'bullnose' Model 90. Even better to see two
(below)! With its 'bullnose' rounded flat-tank, it was produced when Marston
were at the height of their T.T. success. Their advertising at the time of
its launch in 1927 spoke in bold superlatives - 'unquestionably the finest
road-racing motorcycle offered to the public' - and it went on to win
the Manufacturer's Team Prize at the T.T. in 1927 and 1928, along with the
Senior win in 1928 for Charlie Dodson. No idle boasts from Sunbeamland!
When Marston made the change from a
flat-tank to a saddle-tank design, the lessons learned from the bullnose
Model 90 were encapsulated in a machine that lived up to its predecessor's
sporting pedigree. The saddle-tank OHV Model 9 and sporting Model 90 are
exceptional motorcycles and the camera catches this fine example that we had
seen completing its run as we arrived (below).
... and it is great to see that the
Model 9 is as much admired today as it was 70 years ago!