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Lot 404: 1916 Sunbeam 499cc 3.5hp

Collectors' Motorcycles, Bonhams (16 October 2005)

John Marston served his apprenticeship with Edward Perry’s metalwork and japanning company in Wolverhampton, taking over the firm when Perry died. To domestic japanned-ware manufacture under the JM brand, he added bicycles in 1887, his ‘Sunbeam’ cycles displaying a quality unequalled by any other maker. In 1901, the company commenced manufacture of the famous Sunbeam cars and in 1912 began to make motorcycles. A conservative man, Marston would only consider a ‘gentleman’s motorcycle’, thus eschewing machines without clutch or foot starter. The company’s first product, a lovely two-speed 347cc ‘single’, sold well, proving quiet and extremely durable. The second, this 3 1/2hp 499cc side-valve, designed completely ‘in-house’ by John Greenwood, launched the firm into the top echelon of the trade, almost winning the Isle of Man TT race at its first attempt in the hands of H.R. Davies and remaining in production until 1926.

For the 1915 season, the audible magneto gear drive was replaced by a silent toothed chain and the 85 x 88mm ‘square’ engine appeared in its developed form. The ‘3 1/2’ was made for the military after 1915 with Sunbeam supplying machines for the British, French and Imperial Russian armies. LC 4511 is one of these military machines, shown by the ‘General Service’ GS stamp to the engine. Contemporary pictures show the ‘3 1/2’ in both service khaki and the famous Marston black enamel and gold finish, often with OHMS (On His Majesty’s Service), on the number plate.

Discovered in the 1970’s by Sunbeam marque authority Bob Cordon Champ, this machine was then in complete and original state. It passed into the hands of a noted Sunbeam restorer and has been the subject of a carefully executed restoration, retaining originality in all major respects. Since restoration it has been a regular concours d’ élégance winner and comes now from enthusiast ownership and we are told that it runs as John Marston would have expected. The bike is correctly liveried in traditional Sunbeam black and gold and is equipped with a full acetylene lighting set, rear view mirror, leather tool panniers and luggage carrier. It is offered with a Swansea registration document.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motorcycles
Bonhams, Classic & Motorcycle Mechanics Show, Stafford
TypeMotorcycle
Lot Number404
Estimate£7000-£9000
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Year1916
Condition rating
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis number
Engine number105/4071GS
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors