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Lot 645: 1913 Sunbeam 25/30hp Torpedo

Collectors' Motor Cars and Motorcycles, Bonhams (3 December 2007)

Founded by John Marston, a God-fearing Victorian industrialist who foresaw the growth in demand for private transport, Sunbeam was first associated with beautifully made, though expensive, bicycles. Although comparative latecomers to motor car manufacture, the Wolverhampton-based Sunbeam factory quickly established a fine reputation alongside Lanchester, Wolseley, Austin and Daimler at the heart of the expanding Midlands motor industry. Apart from the curious Sunbeam-Mabley cycle car, Sunbeam’s production centred mainly around four-cylinder models, which have survived in greater numbers than any of its aforementioned contemporaries.
The company’s first conventional car was largely conceived by T C Pullinger, who persuaded Marston to purchase a complete chassis from the French Berliet concern. Exhibited at the Crystal Palace in November 1902, it was marketed as the Sunbeam 10/12, but it was not until 1907, two years after the Sunbeam Motor Car Company had been formed, that the firm produced its first all-British model, the 16/20. The arrival from Hillman in 1909 of influential designer Louis Coatalen and the pursuit of an effective competitions programme enabled the marque to establish a formidable reputation prior to WWI, its superbly made products enjoying a reputation rivalling that of the best from Alvis and Bentley thereafter.
By the outbreak of WWI, the Sunbeam range consisted of four-cylinder 12/16hp and 16/20hp models plus the 25/30hp. Powered by a 6.1-litre ‘six’, Sunbeam’s 25/30 was one of the fastest and most durable production cars of its day, as evidenced by its setting a new 12-hour record at Brooklands in 1911 at an average speed of 75.7mph. In its edition of April 19th 1913, The Autocar described the 25/30 as follows: ‘The car affords a most delightful combination of speed, power and smoothness of running, having all the efficiency that one associates with a Sunbeam with the smoothness and silence that one, as naturally, associates with a six-cylinder engine. The engine is quite devoid of vibration, though no damper or other such device is fitted.’ Praise indeed.
First registered on 9th August 1913 at Argyll Motor Taxation Office, ‘SB 560’ first belonged to one George Clark Hutchinson who resided on the Isle of Eriska, Ledaig, by Oban in Argyllshire. Like many Scottish-registered cars of quality, the Sunbeam later found its way into the renowned Sword Collection. Sold at the first Sword dispersal sale in 1962, it subsequently passed through the hands of several Veteran Car Club luminaries. A wealth of accompanying invoices testifies to its continued use and upkeep.
Under present ownership ‘SB 650’ has been used extensively both in the UK and Europe, winning numerous prizes in concours competitions. The car is well equipped with period Sunbeam factory fittings including a rear Auster screen, CAV (Sunbeam-branded) electrical equipment and easy-to-operate hood with one-man Rotax fittings, while an electric fuel pump, hydraulic rear brakes and an alternator have been incorporated to facilitate long distance rallying. (The original dynamo is included in the sale). Finished in green with black wings and tan interior, the car is offered with the aforementioned invoices, VCC dating certificate (number ‘1384’), Sunbeam Register entry, old-style logbook, current MoT/road fund licence and Swansea V5.
‘SB 650’ constitutes a wonderful opportunity to acquire a car representing the pinnacle of engineering excellence in the Edwardian era, its continuing use and fine condition testifying to the quality of workmanship used in its production. Eminently suitable for a variety of VCC and other events, it exudes period charm and would be the perfect Edwardian addition to any motor house.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motor Cars and Motorcycles
Bonhams, Olympia, London,
Lot Number645
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Condition rating
Registration numberSB 560
Chassis number5320
Engine number5358
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors