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Sunbeam S8 - Part 2

In the first episode of this tale, Sunbeam Peter found his dream classic bike. Now he begins to resurrect the beast, and so has to discover exactly what's what. And what's not. And what's not even there...

So, having made the initial decision that this was to be a 'non' restoration where would you begin? In this case I solved the dilemma by doing nothing for over twelve months. The old wooden garage, which came with the house, wasn't big enough and a palatial new shed was on my wish list. To be honest there were several occasions during the wait when I nearly changed tack. Looking at the old girl in all her faded glory I found myself reaching for the wire brush and fondly imagining gleaming black paint and shiny new chrome. Fortunately, this never got any further than rumination; sitting looking at her brought back the early thoughts of a resurrection rather than restoration. So I confined my enthusiasm to fortnightly skirmishes with oil can, Plus-gas and making a list.

I like lists, others hate them but I take great pleasure from seeing long lines of tasks slowly reduce as I strike through an item as it is dealt with. At this stage the list contained one item; 'Get it going.' Closer acquaintance with the S8 over the following weeks offered plenty more scope for this list to develop!

Nothing that a wipe down with an oily rag wouldn't fix.

Unsurprisingly the battery was flat. Oh yes, it was dry and split as well!. Connecting the battery charger and turning on the lights gave but a moment of function, suddenly the charger was making a deep, angry buzz and its ammeter needle swung to the top of the scale. Oops.

Headlamp out, the wiring had turned into bare wire with occasional bits of crumbly rubber for company… write it down. Blow the tyres up, success! Spinning the wheels and wiping off the muck showed acceptable rims and spokes and 'Slipmasters' with good tread. I was wondering about how hard they may have gone over the years - and then I got to a branded impression in the sidewall which read 'Remould'. My heart sank. Write it down. I was after as much originality as I could get but none of these original items were offering anything to help rideability. Never mind, at least I had a more substantial list!

The toolkit forms an orderly line for inspection.Whilst draining all the oils I opened the toolbox. Aha! Whilst not packed with factory stuff there was a full set of rider's tools and, at the bottom of the box, a small metal canister containing a spare key. It fitted! Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!

The oils offered no tales of nastiness, so sump off, no big bits present, ditto gearbox and -- the real worry with a shafty Sunbeam -- the rear drive unit. Holds breath, crosses fingers, this can get expensive… well the oil did look a bit like gold paint but with the inspection cover off the bronze worm wheel had a full set of good teeth.

Lucky me, breath out, don't write it down!

Anyone else remember 'Ask the Family'?I was quite pleased up to now as all the signs were good ones. Then I had another read of 'The Bedside Book', (the Stewart Engineering handbook/guide to the mysteries of Beams) and read about crankshaft oilways blocked with sludge. Then I read the bit about half time pins being worn and consequent oil pressure loss. Then I read the bit about original front main ball bearings collapsing. Then I took the engine out of the bike…

I resigned myself to strip and inspect it, I didn't relish the idea of any/all of the above bringing catastrophe, so a 'little look' seemed a fair compromise. It's only when you get one of these engines on the bench that you fully realise just how much car practice went into it and how radical a departure from mainstream bike engineering it must have seemed way back then.

It came to bits very easily and without resort to the umpteen different pullers and pushers that so many old Brits need (only a little persuasion with the tyre lever, er, Official Sunbeam Factory Flywheel Removal Tool was required). Sooner than I expected I had a pile of oily bits strewn all over the bench.

The sense of satisfaction faded over the next hour; big end and main journals were badly scored with shells down into the bronze, cylinder bores lipped and scored, half time pinion and pin was sloppy and valves and guides were on very poor terms indeed. Adding this lot and associated necessaries to the list took me onto page three and the 'little look' had turned into a wide-eyed stare of financial terror!

Never mind, press on. I went back to the bike itself, stripped the front and rear suspension, nothing wrong at the back end, only seals needed at the front. A few items were missing, like the front 'brace bar' which bridges the two lower front engine 'snubbers' to strengthen the frame -- mine was missing. I realised why it was missing after another read of The Bedside Book. If you forget to fit it before putting the engine back in then it won't go in! Plainly the engine had been out before and some clod hadn't been bothered to re-fit it, (A Hungarian mechanic whilst serving his apprenticeship?).

Other silly little bits such as stop lamp switch and bracket weren't there, and the 'To Do' list drew to a close and the 'To Buy' list could be ignored no longer. I gathered my courage and my credit card and rang Stewart's.

The bits list was easy and a few days later they all arrived, carefully and lovingly wrapped in newspaper. Don't you just love this part of the game? Our living room looked like Christmas morning when I was a kid, bits of paper everywhere! The sundry items were soon living on the bike and I couldn't ignore the worn out oily bits any longer. Another telephone call to Stewarts and a day off to run it down there offered the solution. Dave Holyoake had a look, suggested a few other items and improvements for the list and then led the patient into the back of the shop. After buying a few little bits needed for the cycle side of its resurrection I drove home with a glad heart -- and started saving!

Any more shed-finds?

Sumbeam's experiments with a transverse twin never got beyond the first right-hand bend...

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