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!