Some motorcycles age better than others. Like fine wine, they seem to improve with age, and gain more admirers as the years pass by. The Sunbeam S7 and S8 are two such machines: originally built between 1946 and 1956, they did not sell in huge numbers but today have a growing base of admirers.
This particular machine, shot by Benoit Guerry, was built in 1954. It’s a hybrid or “bitsa”, a mix of parts from both the S7 and S8 models. The frame is from the S8, whereas the engine and body panels are from the S7. (Purists will recognize the sprung seat from an S8; the S7 seat is cantilevered, with springs are hidden from view.)
The Sunbeams have a ‘heavy’ appearance that’s very much in vogue today. The oversized tires add to the appeal, and it’s a bike that could wear vintage Firestones without attracting reproach. This motorcycle has a shaft drive and the engine is of a ‘square’ design with an overhead cam, good for a maximum speed of 140kph. The build quality and finish is quite luxurious when compared to other post-War machines, and the “Mist Green” paintwork identifies this bike as one of the “Deluxe” models.
‘Jacques’ restored this Sunbeam in 1979, and he’s well aware of the Sunbeam’s good and bad points—having owned another one when he was younger. He also knows that the S models have a tendency to overheat, due to the engine design. It’s an incurable fault, so the inline 500 cc twin requires close scrutiny. To make things easier, Jacques has fitted oil pressure and temperature gauges, and by keeping a close eye on them, can average 90-100kph without complaint.
It’s a classy, smaller-capacity alternative to a Harley-Davidson knuckle or flathead, with just as much style—if you can find one.