A Sunbeam Occasion
On July 2nd/3rd the Sunbeam S.T. D. Register held its Fifth Annual Wolverhampton week-end. On the Saturday the first contingent in the age/distance rally clocked in at Albrighton, while from Tettenhall competitors in the treasure hunt were dispatched on a pleasant scenic route by the organiser Edward May. R. C. Carter failed to check in on time in the rally because the newly-overhauled Thomson-Bennett magneto on his fabulous 1921 23/60 Sunbeam enclosed limousine shed its shellac; during the afternoon, however, a near miracle happened when he was introduced to F. J. Dove of Wolverhampton who at once diagnosed the malady, reached up on a shelf, brought down a Lucas magneto from an old Armstrong-Siddeley which had the correct mounting, rotation and gearing, and presented it to the astonished but delighted Carter, who, during the afternoon was able to fit this and retime his massive six-cylinder engine in readiness for Sunday's parade.
Meanwhile, F. W. Joyce, aided by his son, had won the Treasure Hunt in his 1933 Sunbeam Sixteen saloon, which was so overcome that it broke down next day en route to the parade. Second was W. C. Hodgson (1923 Sunbeam Fourteen tourer). B. Burgess, whose 1932 Sunbeam Twenty saloon was taking time off from towing Carter's aforementioned, stricken 23/60, tied for 3rd place with John Coombes.
On the Saturday evening members repaired to the Express & Star Social Club, which Mr. Ross Giles, Motoring and Industrial Correspondent of that paper and a tower of strength on these Wolverhampton occasions, had kindly placed at the Register's disposal so that it could entertain some sixty ex-Sunbeam employees to a buffet/social.
In this charming room, with the Register's photographic records and a large blue and yellow Sunbeam flag for a background, old acquaintances were renewed, reminiscences exchanged, and knowledge expounded as those who built Sunbeams mingled informally with those who had brought Sunbeams back to the birthplace of these fine cars.
His Worship the Mayor of Wolverhampton, Alderman Frank Mansell, addressed the meeting and as he is himself an old Sunbeam employee, was able to recall many old faces, and to remember the strong football and cricket teams at the works and to refer humorously to the changes which have taken place in the industry.
Mr. F. Howarth. ex-Sunbeam Works Manager, who had come from Leeds with Mr. L. H. Challis, ex-Foreman of the Experimental Department, spoke for the staff, describing the early days of the Company, and referring to Mr. Louis Coatalen, while Mr. J. Sandbrook, ex-coachtrimmer, responded on behalf of the workers, keeping everyone in fits of laughter as he said that, they could easily have built the cars without the management and that besides a very strong sports team the old Company kept the best "book" in the town, hiding bets under the drawings when the managers were coming! The trades represented included fitter, coach-trimmer, engine and road tester, coach-painter, chargehand, estimator, draughtsman, machine-shop hand, inspector, electrician, servicing, and there were even two old apprentices present! Amongst the celebrities were Messrs. P. Mitchell, Frank Bill and W. Perkins of the Racing Department, R. H. Rose, Chief Designer; Major H. M. Weir, Road-Tester; R. B. Webster, Foreman of the Fitting-Shop and Robin Guy of Guy Motors Ltd. who deputised for his father, Mr. Sydney Guy (many of those present being employed now at Guy Motors) and spoke of the Sunbeam association from the days of Louis Coatalen onwards.
It is doubtful if any one-make organisation has ever brought together more persons directly connected with the make of car in which they are interested and the organiser and Hon. Registrar, Mrs. W. Boddy, after thanking Mr. Ross Giles for the use of the Express & Star social club (and W. Butler & Co. Ltd. for free beer!) paid tribute to the work put in by Mr. Frank Bill in getting the ex-employees together. In his speech Mr. Howarth had not overlooked the Sunbeam racing successes, achieved, as he said, at great cost to Mr. Bill (who was injured in a crash in 1919 outside the works in which Christiaens was killed) and Mr. Perkins (who was in the G.P. Sunbeam when Resta was killed at Brooklands in 1924) and during the evening Frank Bill's scrapbook recalled the old racing days and Mr. Mitchell was able to display the actual drawings of the Peugeot racing engine which was copied unashamedly for the 1914 G.P. Sunbeam, these drawings having been made in secret in Coatelen's drawing room, whence the Peugeot had been driven via the french-windows. Mr. Mitchell also showed the remarkable Coburn photograph of the Indianapolis line-up of 1914, when Chassagnes' Sunbeam, which he accompanied to America, overturned after 20 laps, Grant's Sunbeam finishing 7th. Mrs. Coombes, whose late husband was Publicity Manager at Sunbeams, even produced the old work's song "'Beam, 'Beam, 'Beam," verse four of which read:
The Sunbeam aircraft engines
Have helped the war to win,
In every "stunt" they've been right in front,
While at Jutland they did Fritz in;
Arab, Cossack, Maori,
Tribal types that could do no wrong,
‘Twas work well done when they whacked the Hun, so we
sing the SUNBEAM song.
On the Sunday morning torrential rain did its best to wash out the parade and Concours d'Elegance, but C. W. Gaskin successfully brought the 1901 2 ¾ h.p. Sunbeam-Mabley from Stone, John Hampton drove front Guildford that morning in his 1912 12/16 Sunbeam two-seater, and C. F. South had arrived the evening before from London in his immaculate 1913 12/16 Sunbeam tourer. Moreover. O. P. Hartree and crew had covered well over 700 miles in a 1924 14/40 Sunbeam tourer, starting from Berkshire and turning South only after reaching Berwick-on-Tweed, then to penetrate into Wales, where the hood succumbed to the gale, to arrive in ample time to win the Age/Distance Rally from W. C. Hodgson, who had driven up from Westcliff-on-Sea.
The now-classic parade through Wolverhampton duly took place, routed past the old Moorfield works by an efficient police escort, to West Park, where the Mayor and Mr. Robin Guy judged the Concours d'Elegance. The cars they examined ranged from the 1901 Mabley, through the aforementioned Edwardian 12/16s, and the 1919 16/20 tourer of J. C. Pearson (with leather side-valances and hand-lined varnish) and Carter's enormous 1921 23/60 saloon which was built for the Lord Lieutenant of Glamorgan and restored by the present owner and his wife in five weeks, including lifting the two cylinder blocks of the s.v. six-cylinder engine on the elaborate copper inlet-manifolding of which the Mayor found his initials as proof that he had made that part of the car in the days when he was a coppersmith at the Moorfield works, down to R. W. Webster's 1935 Sunbeam 25 saloon and an even later Talbot 75.
The 1913 Sunbeam of C. F. South won the Concours d'Elegance, second place going to J. Hampton's 1912 Sunbeam. As no competitor could win more than one prize the list reads as follows: —
Concours d'Elegance: "Express & Star " Tankard: C. F. South (1913 12/16 Sunbeam); 2nd place: J. Hampton (1912 12/16 Sunbeam).
Age/Distance Rally: Sydney Guy Tankard: O. P. Hartree (1924 14/40 Sunbeam) 721 miles; 2nd place W. C. Hodgson (1923 Sunbeam 14) 175 miles.
Treasure Hunt: Sternol Motor Oil Prize: F. W. Joyce (1933 Sunbeam 16); 2nd place: Tie —J. Coombes (1932 Sunbeam 16) and B. Burgess (1932 Sunbeam 25).
Oldest Car Prize: Ever-Ready Handlamp: C. W. Gaskin (1901 Sunbeam-Mabley).
Most Interesting Car Prize: C. F. South Tankard: R. C. Carter (1921 23/60 Sunbeam).