Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 136,349 pages of information and 219,135 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Sunbeam: Cars

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Im2011PVR-Sunbeam.jpg
1901. Mabley Voiturette, Single-cylinder, 2.75 hp. Reg No: AR 39. Photo at the 2009 LBVCR.
1901. Mabley Voiturette, Single-cylinder, 2.75 hp. Reg No: AR 39. Photo at the 2010 LBVCR.
May 1903. Sunbeam 10-12 h.p. with T. C. Pullinger.
1903.
February 1905.
March 1906. 16-20 h.p.
1906 Q4.
1906 Q4.
December 1906. 16-20 h.p.
November 1907. 35 h.p.
November 1908. 20 h.p.
November 1908. Detail.
November 1908. Detail.
November 1908. 14-18 h.p. Tourer.
November 1908. 20 h.p. Detail.
November 1909.
November 1909.
November 1909.
1909. Chassis of Sunbeam live axle car.
July 1910.
1912.
March 1912. Grand Prix Sunbeam.
August 1912. Grand Prix Sunbeam.
1913. Sunbeam 3-Litre tourer. Exhibit at Myreton Motor Museum.
May 1913.
1913. Sunbeam Sporting Tourer. Reg No: AY 3080.
1913. Sunbeam Sporting Tourer. Reg No: AY 3080.
February 1914. 12-16hp for Dario Resta.
1914. Sunbeam 16/20. Reg No: B 6264.
1914.
February 1915. Touring car.
April 1916.
July 1917.
January 1919.
March 1919. 16-hp and 24-hp.
January 1920.
January 1920.
February 1921.
March 1922. 24-60 hp Saloon.
March 1922.
1922.
November 1922.
November 1922. Sunbeam 14.
1923.
June 1923. 16-40 hp.
1923.
April 1928. 25 hp.
1928. 20 hp six cylinder limousine.
1928. Sunbeam 20.9 pick-up formerly a saloon. Reg No: UU 3461.
1928. Sunbeam 20.9 pick-up formerly a saloon. Reg No: UU 3461.
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Im120421B-Sunb1.jpg
1930.
October 1931. 20 hp with body by Vincents.
October 1931.
1932. 18.2-hp. Six Light D Back Salon. Reg No: JH 3276.
1932. 16-hp. Exhibit at the Black Country Living Museum.
1935. Sunbeam Twenty. 20-hp. 2,916cc 6-cyl. Reg No: JW 7090.
May 1935.
October 1936. Body by Sedanca de Ville
November 1937.
December 1938.
January 1939.
July 1939. Ten.
1948. Sunbeam Talbot 101. Reg No: KCV 547.
1948. Sunbeam Talbot 101. Reg No: KCV 547.
1948. Sunbeam Talbot 101. Reg No: KCV 547.
1955. Series 3. Reg No: NSP 333.
1955. Series 3. Reg No: NSP 333.

Note: This is a sub-section of Sunbeam.

1899 Autumn. Messrs John Marston made a 5 h.p. single-cylinder dogcart. [1] Marston was encouraged in this by Thomas Cureton his right-hand man

Between 1899 and 1901 the company produced a number of experimental cars but none of these were offered to the market.

1901 The first production car called a Sunbeam was introduced after a partnership with Maxwell Maberly-Smith. The Sunbeam-Mabley design was an odd one, with seats on either side of a belt-drive powered by a single-cylinder engine of less than 3hp. The design was a limited success, with 420 sold at £130 when production ended in 1904.

1901 February. Details of their 4-hp autocar.[2]

1902 the remaining metalware and japanning part of the business was sold to enable Sunbeam to concentrate solely on vehicle production.

1902 Thomas Charles Willis Pullinger joined the business as Works Manager

1902 Introduced a four-cylinder 12-hp car

1903 Selling Sunbeam and Mabley cars.

1903 Introduced a six-cylinder car. [3]

1903 Entered a 'cylinder Sunbeam car' in the Glasgow to London motor trial. [4]

1904 Production began of a Pullinger-designed car, based on the Berliet mechanicals.

1904 December. Details of the 12-hp car.[5]

1905 The cars sold quite well and, rather than expand the existing business, the decision was taken to turn set up a separate company to handle the demand by focussing on cars. In March 1905 the Sunbeam Motor Car Company Ltd was formed with a starting capital of £40,000; John Marston was Chairman. Cars were made at Moorfield Works, off Villiers Street, with satellite factories at Owen Road, Temple Street, and Ablow Street, where components including radiators were made. 1905, the Sunbeam Motorcar Company Ltd was formed separately from the rest of the John Marston business, which retained the Sunbeam motorcycles and bicycles.

1905 The Sunbeam Motor Car Co was registered on 16 January, to take over the motor-car business of John Marston. [6]

1905 November. Details of the new 16-hp car designed by Angus Shaw.[7]

1906 Fred Eastmead and Angus Shaw, the car's designer took a car from John O'Groats to Land's End and back without once stopping the engine.

1906 A new model of car was introduced, based on a Peugeot motor that had been purchased for study; this sold about ten a week.

1906 Produced 12 and 16 h.p. models. [8]

1908 November. Details of the 14-hp car.[9]

1909 The Breton car designer, Louis Coatalen, joined the company from Humber in 1909, and became chief designer. He soon reorganized production such that almost all parts were being built by the company, as opposed to relying on outside suppliers. He quickly introduced his first design, the Sunbeam 14/20, their first to use a shaft-driven rear axle, upgrading it in 1911 with a slightly larger engine as the 16/20.

Coatalen also designed a number of passenger cars, notably the Sunbeam 12/16.

1909 October. Details of the 12-16hp car.[10]

Coatalen was particularly fond of racing, as a way to drive excellence within the company, noting that Racing improves the breed. After designing the 14/20 he started the design of advanced high-power engines, combining overhead valves with a pressurized oil lubrication system.

In 1910, he built his first dedicated land-speed-record car, the Sunbeam 'Nautilus', powered by a 4.2 litre version of this engine design. The 'Nautilus' implemented a number of early streamlining features, known as wind cutting at the time, but the custom engine suffered various problems and the design was eventually abandoned.

The next year he introduced the Sunbeam Toodles II, which feature an improved valve system that turned it into a success. Coatalen won 22 prizes in 'Toodles II' at Brooklands in 1911, and also achieved a flying mile of 86.16 mph to take the 16 hp Short Record.

Sunbeam cars powered by more conventional (for the time) side-valve engines featured prominently in the 1911 Coupe de l'Auto race, and improved versions won first, second and third the next year. Sunbeams continued to race over the next few years, but the company had moved on to other interests.

1910 October. Details of the 18-22hp six-cylinder car.[11]

1911 March. Details of the 18-22hp car.[12]

1911 October. Details of the models for 1912; 12-16hp (4); 16-20hp (4); and the 25-30hp (6). The 18-22hp (6) will be discontinued.[13]

By 1911 they were building about 650 cars a year, at that time making them a major manufacturer.

1912 Sunbeam made a small number of Veterans, and by 1912 were making very nice, conventional, high quality cars. Directly in competition with Rolls-Royce, a Sunbeam was considered to be a car for those who thought a RR a little ostentatious!

Marston was pushed into making motorcycles from 1912 onwards (at the age of 76), for which there was a greater and increasing market. Following in the tradition of their bicycles, the motorcycles were of high-quality, usually with a single cylinder, and known as the "Gentleman's Machine." Sunbeam motorcycles performed well in the early days of the famous TT (Tourist Trophy) races in the Isle of Man.

1913-1917 For a list of the models and prices see the 1917 Red Book

1913 August. Details of the twelve-cylinder racing car.[14]

1913 September. Details of the three-litre cars.[15]

1913 October. Details of cars for next year - three models unaltered in main design; 12-16hp, 16-20hp and 25-30hp.[16]

1914 February. Details of the 12-16hp car.[17]

1914 May. Details of the latest six-cylinder car.[18]

1914 Directory listed as Sunbeam Motor Car Co., Ltd., Upper Villiers Street, Wolverhampton and as motor car manufacturers. [19]

1914 Listed as motor car manufacturers. Speciality: The "Sunbeam" high-class motor cars. Employees 3,000. [20]

1920 November. Exhibited at the Motor Car Show at Olympia and the White City with cars of 16 hp (four-cylinders) and 24 hp (six-cylinders). [21]

WWII. In 1912, they had also branched out into aircraft engines, introducing a series of engines that were not particularly successful commercially. Coatalen seemed to be convinced that the proper solution to any engine requirement was a design for those exact specifications, instead of producing a single engine and letting the aircraft designers build their aircraft around it. Their closest brush with success was with the lightweight V8 Sunbeam 'Arab', which was ordered in quantity in 1917, but suffered from vibration and reliability problems and only saw limited service and the V12 Sunbeam 'Cossack'. Meanwhile Coatalen continued to experiment with ever-more odd designs such as the star-layout Sunbeam 'Malay', which never got beyond prototype, air-cooled Sunbeam 'Spartan' and Diesel-powered Sunbeam 'Pathan'. The company was fairly successful with the introduction of newer manufacturing techniques, however, and was one of the first to build aluminium single-block engines, a design that would not become common until the 1930s. During World War I, the company built motorcycles, lorries and ambulances. The company also participated in the Society of British Aircraft Constructors pool, who shared aircraft designs to anyone that could build them. Acting in this role they produced 'Short Bombers' powered by their own 'Gurkha' engines, Avro 504 trainers, and even designed their own Sunbeam Bomber which lost to a somewhat simpler Sopwith design. In total they produced 647 aircraft of various types by the time the lines shut down in early 1919.

1920 Sunbeam merged with Talbot-Darracq to create Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq (STD) or STD Motors.

In addition to quality limousine, saloon and touring cars, Coatalen built racing cars for Henry Segrave – who won the French and Spanish GPs in 1923/4. He also built a Brooklands racer for K. L. Guinness – based on a V12 27 litre 350hp Sunbeam 'Manitou' engine, originally designed to power the R34 airship. This famous car (350HP Sunbeam) established a new Land Speed Record at Brooklands and in Malcolm Campbell’s hands at Pendine Sands where it achieved 150.766 mph in 1925 after renaming it the Bluebird. The same year Coatalen’s new 3 litre 'Super Sports' came 2nd at Le Mans – beating Bentley – this was the first production twin cam car in the world.

In 1926, Segrave captured the LSR in a new 4 litre V12 Sunbeam racer 'Tiger' and Coatalen decided to re-enter the LSR field himself, building the truly gigantic Sunbeam 1,000 HP powered by two 500 hp 'Matabele' aero engines.

On 29th March 1927, the car captured the speed record at 203.792 mph, a record that stood for a number of years. The car is now at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, UK.

1935 They did not really survive the depression and in 1935 went into receivership and sold to the Rootes Group. The last true Sunbeam was made in 1935. The new entry model 'Dawn', was a typical mid 30’s design with independent front suspension. Whereas other models, 18.2HP and Speed 20 were based on Vintage designs and qualify as PVT under VSCC rules.

In 1937 the Sunbeam motorcycle trademark was sold to Associated Motor Cycles (AMC), which continued to make Sunbeam bicycles and motorcycles until 1939.

1951 Exhibitor at the 1951 Motor Show in the Car Section.

1961 Listed as subsidiary of Humber and maker of Sunbeam cars. [22]

1963 Motor Show exhibitor. Showed the Sunbeam 'Rapier' and 'Alpine' listed as part of Rootes Motors. [23]

Early Registrations

List of Models


  • 1901–04 Sunbeam Mabley
  • 1903–10 Sunbeam 12hp
  • 1905–11 Sunbeam 16/20 and 25/30
  • 1908 Sunbeam 20
  • 1908–09 Sunbeam 35
  • 1909 Sunbeam 16
  • 1909–15 Sunbeam 14/20, 16/20, and 20
  • 1910–11 Sunbeam 12/16
  • 1911–15 Sunbeam 18/22, 25/30 and 30
  • 1912–15 Sunbeam 12/16 and 16
  • 1912–14 Sunbeam 16/20
  • Sunbeam 16/40
  • 1935 Sunbeam Model 25 Saloon1919–21
  • 1919–24 Sunbeam 24, 24/60 and 24/70
  • 1922–23 Sunbeam 14 and 14/40
  • 1923–26 Sunbeam 20/60
  • 1924–33 Sunbeam 16 (16.9 and 18.4)
  • 1925–30 Sunbeam 3 Litre Super Sport (Twin Cam)
  • 1926–32 Sunbeam Long 25
  • 1927–30 Sunbeam 20 (20.9)
  • 1930–33 Sunbeam 20 (23.8)
  • 1933–35 Sunbeam Speed Twenty
  • 1934–35 Sunbeam Twenty
  • 1934–35 Sunbeam Twenty-Five
  • 1934–35 Sunbeam Dawn
  • 1936–37 Sunbeam 30
  • 1939–48 Sunbeam-Talbot Two Litre
  • 1938–40 Sunbeam-Talbot Three Litre
  • 1939–40 Sunbeam-Talbot Four Litre
  • 1938–48 Sunbeam-Talbot Ten
  • 1939–48 Sunbeam-Talbot Two Litre
  • 1977–81 Talbot Sunbeam
  • 1979–81 Talbot Sunbeam Lotus
  • 1982–82 Sunbeam Lotus-Horizon

See Also

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Sources of Information