I will always reply to comments and always re-reply to re-replies.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


    It was a very snowy February in 1962. We had been married for about 3 years, money was short and I had sold my last bike, a Douglas Dragonfly, to cover wedding costs.

    I was desperate for another bike but they were all far out of my financial reach. A local old boy, quite a character, Percy Webb, did bike repairs in his old garage, one of a block and I was fossicking around behind it. There, almost covered in the snow from the roof was an old motorcycle! No wheels or headlamp, but otherwise looking complete. I scraped away the snow and saw the magic “Sunbeam”on the black tank – a 1937 350cc model.

    I went back when Percy was in residence (he worked when he felt like it and had not gone fishing!) and enquired if he might sell it. He sucked on the ever present pipe, said the bike worked before he had “stored” it , thought he had the wheels “somewhere” and suggested £5. I was earning about £7.00 - £8.00 a week then and we had a young child, too. It was out of my reach but he said I could pay him for it at 10 shillings (50pence) a week if I liked. That clinched it.

    A week later I went back – he had found the wheels and refitted them. The first ten shilling note changed hands and I pushed that old bike the 2 miles home through the snow-bound streets , almost sick with joy at having a bike again.

    Once home (down the back alley and into the shed of our terraced cottage) I stripped it down and repainted it with a brush and Japlac enamel. It was my first “restoration” of many since, but the most memorable. Nothing mechanical was done to it – it worked and I could not afford any outlay. But it went OK although I seem to remember some play in the front fork area.

    That little old Sunbeam gave me immense pleasure over about 2 years, when I sold it on to a young lad for his commute to work, for a whole £10 (£5 profit – those were the days!). It never let him down.

    48 bikes later and arthritis has led me to exchange my BMW R100 for a new, lighter Royal Enfield Bullet EFI (nostalgia for the 3 Bullets I had in the ‘60s), but it is always that old Sunbeam that sticks in the memory!


Roderick Robinson said...

Took me back, did this one. I did my RAF trade training (as an air wireless fitter) over eight months at RAF Yatesbury, a camp on the A4 two or three miles east of Calne. On the same course was a chap called Rouse who lived, I think, in Yarmouth and who went home all weekends (36s as well 48s) on a Sunbeam of about the same vintage as yours.

Making sure he always had plenty of push-rod caps in his pocket. The 'Beam ate these caps like Marmite toast and he was regularly required to replace them at the side of the road. Failure to do so (I may be waxing somewhat apocryphal here) would have meant a loose rod being propelled upwards at some velocity through the petrol tank. Being a complete 'Beam fanatic he wouldn't hear a word against a vehicle which I would have said suffered from a rather major defect.

Here of course we part company. Then and now my aim was always to get where I was going without digressions of this sort. Style came a long way behind utility. Alfresco repairs were never part of the charm. Chacun à son gout.

Avus said...

Interesting tale, RR. I don't recall "my" Sunbeam having push-rod end caps (but it was a long time ago)They were integral with the rod, I think. They certainly never flew off, anyway, but then I never ever rode it the distance of Yatesbury to Yarmouth/return.

Breakdowns on the road (car or motorcycle) have not been too many for me, but have often, in retrospect, led to interesting meetings, helpful souls and a learning curve. It helps to cultivate "Zen" in such situations; "This has happened to me - how can I benefit from it?"

Vita said...

Trying to spend less time goofing off has deprived me of your posts, and I see now that you had a very beautiful old Sunbeam. Is that your brush and Japlac enamel paint job in the photo? We still have the Sunbeam, but sold the beautiful Moto Guzzi Lemon.