13th May 2015
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2015 Sunbeam MCC Oxon & Bucks Run
Richard Jones finds some fabulous vintage motorcycles for you to admire, on a splendid day out with the Sunbeam MCC around Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire...
I was looking through the schedule of this year’s events for the Sunbeam MCC when I was struck by an incongruity – not pleasant at my time of life. There, in April, was a run that didn’t have a name like ‘Pioneer’ or ‘Garden of England’ or ‘Greybeards’. In fact it seemed quite descriptive: “The First Oxon/Bucks Run”. Perhaps as this was the inaugural run there hadn’t been time to come up with a suitably romantic name. By this time my interest was piqued and as Chinnor, where this event was to commence, was only a short ride on trusty Tessie, the Hinckley Triumph, I loaded up the camera and set off. Although I got there an hour before proceedings were to commence early participants were in evidence – refreshments had been promised so perhaps this was the reason.
The event had been organised by Andy Middleton with a view to having a Sunbeam run north of London and he had succeeded in getting eighteen entries with the promise of a couple more, quite respectable for an inaugural try-out. There were to be two routes over the Chilterns for pre-1940 machinery, one of about 60 miles and the other one, perhaps aimed at the older entrants (bikes, not riders), of 45 miles. As well as refreshments at the start point, the same courtesy would be extended at the finish and riders needing sustenance in between could pre-order lunch at a hostelry en route. All in all a rather pleasant and rather a convivial way of spending an overcast but dry Sunday.
The oldest bike on parade was this 1914 Scott Two-Speed which looked to be in fine condition. Although fuel-soaked plugs delayed it joining the other participants, the ministrations of its patient owner led to it eventually shooting off in the way Scotts do. Alfred A Scott patented his two-stroke, twin cylinder engine design in 1904 and he also came up with a neat, simple two-speed gear mechanism. Two chains on either side of the central flywheel took the engine’s motion back to a countershaft carrying two sprockets of different sizes. Drum clutches, selected by a rocking foot pedal, then transferred the power from the countershaft and the appropriate sprocket to the rear wheel. 1909 saw the start of manufacture of production machines which had a capacity of 444cc and a kick-starter; the marque then went on to win the Senior TT in 1912 and 1913 with 486cc capacity machines, This enthused the buying public so much that new premises were required to meet demand and a move was made from Bradford to Saltaire in 1912, the year that engine capacity increased to 532cc.
Nine years after the Scott had rolled off the assembly line in Yorkshire, this Raleigh Model 5 350cc first saw the light of day in Nottingham. The manufacturer was better known for its bicycles – I had a purple Hercules Hustler in the early 1970s – but had entered the waters of powered two-wheel activity in 1901, only to retrench five years later when the market turned down. They then came back in 1920 with an innovative 698cc flat-twin featuring a Sturmey-Archer three-speed gearbox, chain final-drive and pivoted-fork rear suspension. This remained in production until 1923 but a year earlier it had been joined by more conventional 348cc and 349cc singles with two or three speeds and belt final drive, of which the example at Chinnor was presumably one of the smaller models, albeit with chain final drive which was used on all models from 1924.
Moving on to 1927 we come to this 350cc Sun, built by the magnificently named Sun Cycle & Fitting Co Ltd of Birmingham – I know this because it’s proudly painted on the tank. Sun’s first motorcycle saw the light of day in 1911 and by the 1920s there was the Sun-Villiers, the Sun-Blackburne and the Sun-JAP depending on which proprietary engines were the preferred option in a particular year. In 1926, 346cc side-valve and ohv JAP engined models were added to the range and this is presumably one of those. The ‘Sun-Various’ approach lasted for the 1920s but the following decade saw a return to the Sun name with the Villiers and JAP engine names not appearing in the model appellation.
The following year, this Norton CS1 490cc left the factory to start the long life that brought it to Chinnor in 2015. This was the marque’s first overhead camshaft engine, designed by Walter Moore during 1926; the engine had not been tested when two newly completed units were rushed to the Isle of Man in 1927 by Moore who persuaded the team to use them. A good decision – Alec Bennett won the Senior more than eight minutes ahead of Jimmy Guthrie on a New Hudson. Unfortunately the 1927 success was not repeated by the CS1 – it proved unreliable, apparently due to Moore seeking to improve it, proving the adage ‘if it’s not broken, don’t try to mend it’. Production models appeared in 1927 at the Olympia show and featured a new cradle frame that replaced the old diamond frame design. They also had saddle tanks with soldered-joint construction, leading to the pie-crust nickname, that is visible on this example.
This magnificent Coventry Eagle dates from 1937 although the marque’s first motorcycles appeared in 1901 and, unsurprisingly, were built in Coventry at locations including Lincoln Street and Foleshill Road. Between 1901 and the time this example was built a number of engines had been used, including MMC, Villiers, JAP, King Dick and Aza, whilst gearboxes had been sourced from Albion and Sturmey-Archer. However in 1937 there was a return to four-stroke singles and Matchless provided the power plant in three sizes – I can’t tell you which one this is as I forgot to ask! However if you want to know more about Coventry Eagle the owner has produced a book, now in electronic form, available at http://coventryeaglemotorcycle.org.uk/.
In 1933 Velocette introduced the MOV, the first of its range of OHV high-cam, short pushrod singles; this 248cc model was joined by the 349cc MAC in 1934 and then came the MSS the following year of which this is an example from 1939. The bore and stroke of 81mm x 96mm produced a 495cc long-stroke engine which was installed in a heavy frame, derived from racing machinery, with Webb-type girder forks and a rigid rear end. Not the fastest of machines it would cruise along at 70mph which is – let’s face it – about as fast as you can go in these days of congestion, potholes etc. The machine also has a lot of kerb appeal with its black and gold livery, set off by that fishtail silencer which must add at least 10mph, in the rider’s mind if not actuality.
I have to say that I really enjoyed my morning. Here’s hoping this run takes place again next year – thank you Sunbeam MCC.
The Sunbeam MCC’s full calendar of events can be found at www.sunbeam-mcc.co.uk
You’ll find more photos from this event and many other motorcycle rides and shows at Richard’s archive: www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photography/sets/
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