This page is intended to be a useful guide to buying Sunbeams. 'Buyer beware' is the key term. However, be aware you are being preached to by the converted: Buying a Sunbeam, in any condition, at any price will undoubtedly improve your life... This guide is intended to help you find the right bike for you.
Sunbeams and parts do turn-up at auto jumbles. The large jumbles normally have auctions too, in which you might find a Sunbeam in need of a home. The advantage of real-world auctions (over ebay), is that you can kick the tyres, see the bike first hand before you bid. There is an auto jumble bring and buy at the annual Sunbeam rally, and occasionally whole bikes will be for sale at the rally.
On The Beam
The Sunbeam Owners Fellowship magazine carry's for sale and wanted adverts. Buying from a fellowship member ensures you are purchasing from someone who has had access to the wealth of technical knowledge the members can provide. There is no guarantee this knowledge has been applied to their bike, but at the very least membership shows some interest in finding out more about their machines.
As well as supplying spares Stewart Engineering will normally help you find a bike too. Sometimes they will have complete bikes to sell 'in stock'. They will also have contacts, or details on who might have a Sunbeam for sale.
With a low cost to the seller and a large pool of potential buyers, ebay is becoming an increasing popular place to sell anything. When considering an ebay purchase, you have photos and a description of the machine to inform you of its condition. Also take advantage of the 'Ask the Seller' function, to answer any questions before you bid. In experience ebay is a good place to sell, but not so good to buy as you are bidding against potentially many interested parties, especially so for the rarer items.
Classic Bike, Real Classics, motorcycle news, Motorcycle Mechanics etc all carry classified adverts.
private sellersPrices can range from sensible to silly, the adverts are normally short, maybe with a small photo, so you are likely to have to arrange a viewing before purchasing.
tradersMost magazine advert prices for traders seem to over-price Sunbeams. For the extra money they are normally provide a cosmetically better bike, and some form of redress (if it goes wrong shortly after purchase). Which if you are not confident in judging the technical soundness of a Sunbeam, could be a premium worth paying.
Refer to the Sunbeam S7, Sunbeam S7 Deluxe and Sunbeam S8 pages to be able to differentiate between the models.
The original Sunbeam S7 seems to get higher prices than the other models. Fewer were produced. With the inverted leavers some people consider them the purest Sunbeam, the closest realisation of Poppes vision.
The Sunbeam S7 Deluxe is the more affordable wide tyred Sunbeam, it has the presence of the S7, but parts are easier to source. The stock colour of green is either something you like or you don't. If you love everything except the colour; paint it any colour you care for (assuming not an original condition beam).
The Sunbeam S8 is the least pricey of the models to buy, as more of these were produced, therefore more are found for sale. It could be argued the least pure of the three models, or the farthest evolution of the ideas. Whichever, it is still a Sunbeam and therefore endlessly better bike than any other marque.
If you are going to completely rebuild your new Sunbeam, then the condition of the parts is probably secondary to the completeness of the bike. During a basket case rebuild you should be expecting to replace all the wearable parts, so all you need to check is that all the big and expensive parts are present and usable. As a rough guide consider the following as big and expensive parts:
- Forks (especially S7)
- Seat (especially S7)
- Exhaust (especially S8)
- Wheels (especially S7)
- Tool box
That's ten items, therefore for each missing item take a tenth of what you would be prepared to pay for the complete bike. If you are going to replace all the wearable parts during the rebuild, budget for around Â£500, assuming you a buying new parts. Tinware repairs and resprays should be the only other significant cost, assuming you are rebuilding the bike yourself.
If you are looking to buy a running machine, then the internal health of the engine will be the biggest area of interest. Check how easy the bike starts, the exhaust emissions may indicate oil burning and therefore engine wear. If the current owner has been ridding and maintaining the machine, they may have Stewarts invoices for replacement wearable items, or should at least be able to tell you when the last major engine maintenance was completed. If the seller claims work has been carried out by Stewarts, ask to see the receipts.
As for runner, but in addition, check for replacement fibre glass air filter cover, mudguards, tool box. Ensure all the model differences are right on this age and model of the bike.
Kicking the tyres
It is impossible to provide a comprehensive list of checks to ensure you are fully aware of the road worthiness of a Sunbeam before you own it and complete some miles on it. Here however is a list of checks you may be able to perform to gauge a better idea of the condition a Sunbeam:
- To verify the electrics are OK, check the battery is charging when the engine is revved.
- Hold the back wheel and try rotating the dive shaft, any considerable play could indicated a relatively expensive rear drive replacement needs investigation. Also check for lateral play by pushing the shaft into the housing, more than 1/2 inch movement may require further investigation.
- Most Sunbeams leak oil, check for signs of excessive oil leaking from the engine. Even the best cared for engine may weep a little oil, some owners are happy to top-up oil leaving the engine from every pore.
- Check the machine starts and re-starts OK.
- Take the bike for a run and go through all the gears.
This is a guide only, it is intended to help potential purchasers. It has been based on current (2014) British prices. Some Sunbeams still get dragged out of sheds and sold for £250, some are advertised for sale, well above the price ranges stated below.
|Model||Basket Case (complete)||Runner||Pristine|
|Sunbeam S7||£1,000 - £2,000||£4,000 - £5,000||£6,000 - £7,500|
|Sunbeam S7 Deluxe||£500 - £1,500||£4,000 - £4,500||£4,500 - £6,500
|Sunbeam S8||£500 - £1,000||£2,250 - £3,500||£4,000 - £5,000|