A most significant motorcycle
The post-war Sunbeam Motorcycle (OBA 74) has an interesting history. During the conflict BSA were given various captured enemy motorcycles for test. They were very impressed with the BMW R75 and that is the machine that the post war Sunbeam is based on. The Teutonic influence is apparent in the general lines of the machine and the brakes with their hidden actuating mechanism. The article speculated on the fat wheels, the reason is that the Military BMW had interchangeable wheels that used the same cross section tyre as the Kubbelwaggen (the German Jeep) so that, in the event of combat damage, salvaging a tyre off a wrecked Jeep could make the difference between walking or riding back to the lines. Why BSA carried this design feature over to an upmarket civilian machine remains a mystery. Very few vicars or schoolmasters would be expecting to stop a Russian bullet in deepest Shropshire. The designer Mr. Poppe was involved in motorcycle production in the ‘twenties. That ceased when his business partner was murdered in the factory by a disgruntled sales rep! There were so many design problems with what was supposed to be BSA’s flagship motorcycle that Mr. Poppe was given 10 minutes to clear off the premises. The S7 De Luxe is a redesign by BSA Engineers. It is worth noting that the OHC Sunbeam engine was very advanced for its time and its basic layout morphed into a Fire Pump and eventually evolved into the Coventry Climax engine. As far as the “fragile” transmission is concerned, it is worth remembering that a Sunbeam outfit won a Gold Medal in the I.S.T.D in the early ‘fifties. Some years ago the Guggenheim Art Gallery in New York had an event called “The Art of the Motorcycle”. They had a Sunbeam amongst the bikes exhibited and declared this machine to be the most significant motorcycle design of all time; high praise indeed.
I live in inner city Melbourne, an area which is now infected with bicycle lanes and 40km/h streets. When I go for a coffee I often ride a classic motorcycle. These bikes attract little attention from the younger population, except for my S7 De Luxe which invariably draws favourable comment from stylists, designers, hipsters and the like. Folk just love its Art Deco lines.
Phillip White Melbourne, Vic.