Sunbeams at Wolverhampton

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The week-end devoted annually to a pilgrimage of old Sunbeam cars to their birthplace took place for the seventh time, this year, on August 17th/18th. The Sunbeam S.T.D. Register obtained an interesting entry, examples of almost every vintage Sunbeam model except the 20/60 being backed up by a number of imposing Roesch Talbots.

On the Saturday afternoon, driving tests were held on the grass aerodrome at Pendeford. These were skilfully devised by J. Coombes, whose late father was publicity manager for Sunbeam in the ‘twenties. A handicap system embracing engine size, valve location, wheelbase, whether sports or touring and whether back or front-wheel braked evened things up between a diverse entry as drivers drove fast, drove as slowly as possible, tested their visual judgment and hustled into the usual bays and garages. The result was victory for Lt.-Col. K. C. Gresham, a Sunbeam enthusiast who, after exile in the Far East, has acquired a very nice 1927 Sunbeam 20 saloon, with white fabric body and lowered roof line. C. F. South did splendidly to come second in the oldest car entered, his well-known 1913 12/16 Sunbeam tourer, and W. Cook’s 1934 Sunbeam 20 saloon was third. The second round of a private Alvis/Fiat/Humber/S.T.D. team contest was fought out between full teams from S.T.D. and Fiat, two Alvis members and a lone 12/25 Humber. Cheshire’s 1931 12/60 Alvis beetleback made best showing but Fiat carried the day, aided by Manning’s smooth-running 1935 Batilla saloon and Jones’ 1940 Tipo 508C saloon, backed up by a 1928 o.h.c. 509A and a front-braked 1926 502.

After tea a party of S.T.D. members was flown over Wolverhampton, to circle the old Sunbeam factory in a near-vintage D.H. Rapide. That evening a big assembly of ex-Sunbeam employees and S.T.D. members met in Guy Motors’ spacious canteen to recall the glorious past, Messrs. C. F. Johnson, F. Howarth, Alderman Mansell and Frank Bill speaking for the ex-Sunbeamists, while Norman Garrad said Rootes were determined to keep the name of Sunbeam to the forefront of present-day competitions. After a film showing Sunbearn-Talbots in a Monte Carlo Rally Miss Sheila Van Damm presented the handsome Rootes Challenge Cup to Lt.-Col. Gresham and ably and charmingly parried questions on modern competition motoring put to her by the audience. 1922 and 1928 Guy commercial vehicles, a 1928 Wolverhampton-built Star saloon and Rootes’ 1922 TT Sunbeam racing-car were on show outside and with the arrival of the inevitable rain their vintage engines were heard protesting at the damp and cold as they went off to find shelter for themselves and the racing-car. The evening concluded with Shell and Rootes’ films and general conviviality.

On Sunday a police-marshalled Parade took place through the town, headed by Rootes’ 1904 chain-drive 12-h.p. Sunbeam carrying the Hon. Registrar, Mrs. W. Boddy. The cavalcade paused for tear-shedding outside the Moorfield works, before proceeding to West Park for a Concours d’Elegance judged by two ex-Sunbeam executives, C. F. Johnson and F. Howarth. Again Rootes’ 1922 TT Sunbeam was a much appreciated static exhibit, being towed to the park behind Heal’s twin-cam 3-litre Sunbeam with the Editor of Motor Sport clutching apprehensively at the long outside hand brake. South’s 1913 Sunbeam won the Concours d’Elegance, Ross Giles presenting the painstaking owner with the Express and Star Trophy. The runners-up were F. Joyce’s 1934 Sunbeam Speed 20 and R. Webster’s 1935 Sunbeam 25. At tea Mrs. Boddy presented the remaining prizes, after which a vote of thanks was proposed to her by Mr. South. The Fiat team and Concours runners-up received some handsome cut-glass donated anonymously, John Coombes won the S.T.D. Annual Aggregate Award (a piece of Grays vintage-car pottery), the Coombes cigarette box went to a runner-up in the tests, and framed S.P.M. Motor Prints of the 1923 G.P. Sunbeam were given to Cheshire and to the first 20 Concours entrants. The C. F. South Trophy was deservedly won by P. Roberts’ rare 1923 16/40 Sunbeam tourer, with the 5-bearing o.h.v. 4-cylinder engine, which has been splendidly restored after years as a farm hack.