Sunbeam S8

Sunbeam S8 British 1950s classic motorcycle

Even in GB's 'Black Country', the sun still sometimes shines. The Sunbeam S8 was proof positive of that! Sunbeam's factory was in Wolverhampton - in England's Midlands. From the outset - in 1912 - the firm acquired a name for classy and reliable bikes. Some innovation was thrown in, for good measure. The first Sunbeam, for example, came with a fully-enclosed chain. That helped keep both bike and rider oil-free. Such niceties quickly gained Sunbeam a reputation as manufacturers of 'gentlemen's machines'. The Sunbeam S8 - made between '49 and '56 - was another variation on the high-end theme.

The S8's predecessor - the Sunbeam S7 - had not covered itself in glory. It was comfortable, certainly - but that was about it. The S7 was overweight, lacked manoeuvrability - and its brakes were not the best. The deficiencies were addressed - to some extent - by the S7 De Luxe model. It fell to the S8, though, to get Sunbeam fully shipshape again.

The S8 was a sports bike. That was only to be expected. After all, development engineer George Dance had set speed records on Sunbeams. And, in the early Twenties, Sunbeam had twice been victorious in the Senior TT. Indeed, as far back as 1913, a single-cylinder 3.5bhp Sunbeam was successfully raced. So, the twin-cylinder S8 was the latest in a long line of performance-based Sunbeams. Stylist Erling Poppe was plainly inspired by the BMW R75. Design rights to the German-built bike had been passed to BSA - as part of the war reparations. BSA had acquired Sunbeam from AMC - in '43. Under Poppe's aegis, the S8 had shed the 'portliness' of the S7. And it now sported a set of solid front forks. Even its exhaust note had been modifed - to a sound more sonorous. Top speed for the S8 was a heady 85mph. Handling, too, had come on by leaps and bounds. All in all, then, the Sunbeam S8 shone a warm ray of light on its 'Black Country' roots.

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