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Sunbeam - marque/manufacturer information

List of all Sunbeam cars

Sunbeam was a marque registered by John Marston Co. Ltd of Wolverhampton, England, in 1888. The company first made bicycles, then motorcycles and cars from the late 19th century to circa 1936, and applied the marque to all three forms of transportation. A Sunbeam was the first British car to win a Grand Prix race, and set a number of land speed records.

Early history

John Marston was apprenticed to the Jeddo Works of Wolverhampton as a japanner (metal lacquerer). In 1859, at the age of 23, he bought two existing tinplate manufacturers and set up on his own, John Marston Co. Ltd. Marston was an avid bicycler, and in 1877 set up the Sunbeamland Cycle Factory, producing bikes known as Sunbeams. Between 1899 and 1901 the company also produced a number of experimental cars, but none of these were offered to the market.

The first production car named as a Sunbeam was introduced in 1901, after a partnership with Maxwell Maberly-Smith. The Sunbeam-Mabley design was an odd one, with seats on either side of a belt-drive powered by a single-cylinder engine of less than 3hp. The design was a limited success, with 420 sold at £130 when production ended in 1904. At that point the company started production of a Thomas Pullinger designed car based on the Berliet mechanicals. They introduced a new model, based on a Peugeot motor they bought for study, in 1906 and sold about ten a week.

In 1905, the Sunbeam Motorcar Company Ltd was formed separate from the rest of the John Marston business which retained the Sunbeam motorcycles and bicycles.

The Breton car designer, Louis Coatalen, joined the company from Humber in 1909, and became chief designer. He soon reorganized production such that almost all parts were being built by the company, as opposed to relying on outside suppliers. He quickly introduced his first design, the Sunbeam 14/20, their first to use a shaft-driven rear axle, upgrading it in 1911 with a slightly larger engine as the 16/20.

Sunbeam made a small number of Veterans, and by 1912 were making very nice conventional high quality cars. Direct competitors to Rolls Royce, a Sunbeam was considered to be a car for those who thought a RR a little ostentatious!

Coatalen was particularly fond of racing as a way to drive excellence within the company, noting Racing improves the breed. After designing the 14/20 he started the design of advanced high-power engines, combining overhead valves with a pressurized oil lubrication system. In 1910 he built his first dedicated land-speed-record car, the Sunbeam Nautilus, powered by a 4.2 litre version of this engine design. The Nautilus implemented a number of early streamlining features, known as wind cutting at the time, but the custom engine suffered various problems and the design was eventually abandoned. The next year he introduced the Sunbeam Toodles II, which feature an improved valve system that turned it into a success. Coatalen won 22 prizes in Toodles II at Brooklands in 1911, and also achieved a flying mile of 86.16 mph to take the 16 hp Short Record. Sunbeam cars powered by more conventional (for the time) side-valve engines featured prominently in the 1911 Coupé de l'Auto race, and improved versions won first, second and third the next year. Sunbeams continued to race over the next few years, but the company had moved on to other interests.

Coatalen also designed a number of passenger cars, notably the Sunbeam 12/16. By 1911 they were building about 650 cars a year, at that time making them a major manufacturer.

The war years

Starting in 1912 they had also branched out into aircraft engines, introducing a series of engines that were not particularly successful commercially. Coatalen seemed to be convinced that the proper solution to any engine requirement was a design for those exact specifications, instead of producing a single engine and letting the aircraft designers build their aircraft around it. Their closest brush with success was with the lightweight V8 Sunbeam Arab, which was ordered in quantity in 1917 but suffered from vibration and reliability problems and only saw limited service and the V12 Sunbeam Cossack. Meanwhile Coatalen continued to experiment with ever-more odd designs such as the star-layout Sunbeam Malay which never got beyond prototype, air-cooled Sunbeam Spartan and Diesel-powered Sunbeam Pathan. The company was fairly successful with the introduction of newer manufacturing techniques, however, and was one of the first to build aluminium single-block engines, a design that would not become common until the 1930s.

During World War I the company built motorcycles, trucks and ambulances. The company also participated in the Society of British Aircraft Constructors pool, who shared aircraft designs to anyone that could build them. Acting in this role they produced Short Bombers powered by their own Sunbeam Gurkha engines, Avro 504 trainers, and even designed their own Sunbeam Bomber which lost to a somewhat simpler Sopwith design. In total they produced 647 aircraft of various types by the time the lines shut down in early 1919.


On August 13, 1920, Sunbeam merged with the French company Automobiles Darracq S.A.. Alexandre Darracq built his first car in 1896, and his cars were so successful that Alfa Romeo and Opel both started out in the car industry by building Darracqs under licence. In 1919 Darracq bought the London-based firm of Clement-Talbot to become Talbot-Darracq in order to import Talbots into England. Adding Sunbeam created "Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq," or "STD Motors".

In addition to quality limousine, saloon and touring cars, Coatalen was pleased to build racing cars for Henry Segrave – who won the French and Spanish GPs in 1923/4. He also built a Brooklands racer for K L Guinness – based on a V12 27 litre 350 hp Sunbeam Manitou engine, originally designed to power the R34 airship. This famous car (350HP Sunbeam) established a new Land Speed Record at Brooklands and in Malcolm Campbell’s hands at Pendine Sands where it achieved 150.766 mph in 1925 after renaming it the Blue Bird and painting it blue. The same year Coatalen’s new 3 litre Super Sports came 2nd at Le Mans – beating Bentley – this was the first production twin cam car in the world. In 1926 Segrave captured the LSR in a new 4 litre V12 Sunbeam racer originally named Ladybird and later renamed Tiger. Coatalen decided to re-enter the LSR field himself, building the truly gigantic Sunbeam 1000HP powered by two 500 hp Matabele engines. On 29 March 1927 the car captured the speed record at 203.792 mph. The car is now at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, UK.

Sunbeam's great age was really the 1920s under Coatalen’s leadership with very well engineered, high quality, reliable cars — and a great reputation on the track. They did not really survive the depression and in 1935 went into receivership and sold to Lord Rootes. The last true Sunbeam was made in 1935. The new entry model “Dawn” was a typical mid 30’s design with independent front suspension. Whereas other models, 18.2HP and Speed 20 were based on Vintage designs and qualify as PVT under VSCC rules.

Coatalen’s obsession with improvement meant that there were numerous small changes in models from year to year. This means that although all his designs are basically similar, very few parts are interchangeable!

In the Vintage period, typically two models dominated production volumes at each period:

  • 1920 - 24 16hp, 16/40, 24hp, 24/60 & 24/70 all based on pre war designs.
  • 1922 - 23 14hp The first highly successful post war 4 cylinder.
  • 1924 - 26 14/40 and big brother 20/60 developed from 14hp with 2 more cylinders added.
  • 1924 12/30 & 16/50 only produced in small numbers.
  • 1926 - 30 3 Litre Super Sports, highly successful and much coveted, the first production twin ohc car in the world.
  • 1926 - 32 20/60 developed into 25hp with bore increased from 75 to 80mm. A few 8 cylinder cars produced in this period, 30hp & 35hp.
  • 1926 - 30 16hp (16.9) & 20hp (20.9). Two new designs with integral cast iron block and crankcase. Both produced in large numbers, the 20.9 being noted for its performance has many shared components with the 3 litre Super Sports (brakes, axles, transmission).
  • 1930 - 32 16hp bore increased from 67 to 70mm, (16.9 to 18.2hp).
  • 1931 - 33 New model 20hp introduced with 80mm bore and 7 main bearings rated at 23.8hp. Very smooth and powerful engine.
  • 1933 - 34 20.9hp engine resurrected and installed in new cruciform braced chassis for the Speed 20. Highly desirable model especially the 1934 body style.
  • 1933 18.2hp engine installed in Speed 20 chassis and renamed ‘Twenty’.
  • 1934 Twenty given the 20.9 engine in place of the 18.2.
  • 1935 Speed 20 renamed Sports 21 with redesigned body style.
  • 1933 - 35 Twenty-Five introduced with modified 1931-33 23.8hp engine.
  • 1935 Sports 21 given a high compression version of Twenty-Five engine.
  • 1934 - 35 Dawn introduced. 12.8hp engine and IFS. Nice little car but not a great success.

The most successful, judged by volumes, was the 16hp (Sunbeam 16.9) followed by 20hp Sunbeam 20.9 made from 1926-30. Whilst the 16 was solid and very reliable, it was a little underpowered at 2.1 litres, the 20.9 made a big jump to 3 litres and 70 BHP with similar body weight and vacuum servo brakes and was capable of 70mph.

Sunbeam built their own bodies but also supplied to the coachbuilder trade; many limousines were built on Sunbeam chassis. The sales catalogue illustrates the standard body designs.


The Sunbeam, Talbot Darracq Register has membership with about 200 Sunbeams, there are probably another 200+ outside the register. A comprehensive forum contains archive copies of all STD Register journals published since 1950.

The register has experts ready and able to answer questions and provide assistance. A maintenance manual is available along with digital copies of period owner's manuals, spare parts lists, sales catalogues, road tests and engineering drawings.

The register funds cooperative production of limited batches of critical spares from time to time, specialist restorers occasionally manufacture parts on their own initiative. This means that most parts needed in general running are available. The excellent materials used mean that re-manufacture or repair is generally possible on failed components. Enthusiasts today build cars from bare chassis, gathering parts from wherever they can, with some success.

The register runs local monthly meeting across the UK and a limited number of events each year.

Rootes Group

STD Motors went bankrupt in 1934 at the height of the Great Depression. By this point only Talbots was still a success, and in 1935 that portion was purchased by the Rootes Group. The receivers eventually sold the rest of the company to William Lyons of "SS Cars," who was looking for a name change given the rising Nazi connotations. But just as the deal was supposed to close, Rootes purchased Sunbeam out from under Lyons, who was justifiably upset. He then changed the name of SS Cars to Jaguar.

Rootes was an early proponent of badge engineering, building a single mass-produced chassis and equipping it with different body panels and interiors to fit different markets. He ended production of existing models at all the new companies, replacing them with designs from Hillman and Humber that were more amenable to mass production. For many years the Sunbeam-Talbot marque was used on their upmarket versions, while Hillman was use on base models and Humber on trucks.

In 1935 the Rootes Group headed by brothers, William "Billy" and Reginald, bought the bankrupt Sunbeam and Talbot marques and quickly moved to introduce a new marque in 1938 called Sunbeam-Talbot which combined the quality Talbot coachwork and the current Hillman and Humber chassis and was assembled at the Talbot factory in London. The initial two models were the Sunbeam-Talbot 10 and the 3-litre followed by the Sunbeam-Talbot 2 litre and 4 litre models based on the earlier models only with different engines and longer wheelbases. Production of these models continued after the war until 1948.

In the summer of 1948, the Sunbeam-Talbot 80 and Sunbeam-Talbot 90 were introduced, with a totally new streamlined design with flowing front fenders (wings). The 80 used the Hillman Minx based engine with ohv and the 90 utilized a modified version of the Humber Hawk with ohv. The car bodies were manufactured by another Rootes Group company, British Light Steel Pressings of Acton, however the convertible drophead coupé shells were completed by Thrupp & Maberly coachbuilders in Cricklewood. The underpowered 80 was discontinued in 1950. The 90 was renamed the 90 Mark II and then the 90 Mark IIA and eventually in 1954 the Sunbeam Mark III, finally dropping the Talbot name. With the model name changes, the headlights were raised on the front fenders and an independent coil front suspension and the engine displacement went from 1944cc to 2267cc with a high compression head and developing 80 bhp.

There was one more model of the Sunbeam-Talbot that appeared in 1953 in the form of an Alpine, a two seater sports roadster which was initially developed by a Sunbeam-Talbot dealer George Hartwell in Bournemouth as a one-off rally car that had its beginnings as a 1952 drophead coupé. It was named supposedly by Norman Garrad, (works Competition Department) who was heavily involved in the Sunbeam-Talbot successes in the Alpine Rally in the early 1950s using the Saloon model. The Alpine Mark I and Mark III (a Mark II was never made) were hand built like the Drophead Coupé at Thrupp & Maberly coachbuilders from 1953 to 1955 when production ceased after close to 3000 were produced. It has been estimated that perhaps only 200 remain in existence today. The Talbot name was dropped in 1954 for the Sunbeam Alpine sports car, making Sunbeam the sports-performance marque. In 1955 a Sunbeam saloon won the Monte Carlo Rally. Production ceased in 1956 and replaced by the sporty Sunbeam Rapier.

In 1959 a totally new Alpine was introduced, and the 1955 Rapier (essentially a badge-engineered Hillman Minx) was upgraded. After several successful series of the Alpine were released, director of US West-Coast operations, Ian Garrad, became interested in the success of the AC Cobra, which mounted a small-block V-8 engine in the small AC Ace frame to create one of the most successful sports cars of all time. Garrad became convinced the Alpine frame could also be adapted the same way, and contracted Carroll Shelby to prototype such a fit with a Ford engine. The result was the Sunbeam Tiger, released in 1964, which went on to be a huge success.

The Chrysler era

But by this point Rootes was itself in financial trouble. Talks with Leyland Motors went nowhere, so in 1964 30 percent of the company (along with 50 percent of the non-voting shares) was purchased by Chrysler, which was attempting to enter the European market. Ironically, Chrysler had purchased Simca the year earlier, who had earlier purchased Automobiles Talbot, originally the British brand that had been merged into STD Motors many years earlier.

Chrysler's experience with the Rootes empire appears to have been an unhappy one. Models were abandoned over the next few years while they tried to build a single brand from the best models of each of the company's components, but for management "best" typically meant "cheapest to produce" which was at odds with the former higher-quality Rootes philosophy. Brand loyalty started to erode, and was greatly damaged when they decided to drop former marques and start calling everything a Chrysler. The Tiger was dropped in 1967 after an abortive attempt to fit it with a Chrysler engine, and the Hillman Imp-derived Stiletto disappeared in 1972.

The last Sunbeam produced was the "Rootes Arrow" series Alpine/Rapier fastback (1967-76), after which Chrysler, who had purchased Rootes, disbanded the marque. The Hillman (by now Chrysler) Hunter on which they were based soldiered on until 1978. A Hillman Avenger-derived hatchback, the Chrysler Sunbeam, maintained the name as a model rather than a marque from 1978 to the early 1980s, with the very last models sold as Talbot Sunbeams. The remains of Chrysler Europe were purchased by Peugeot and Renault in 1978, and the name has not been used since.


Sunbeam cars:


  • Sunbeam Mabley 1901-1904
  • Sunbeam 12hp 1903-1910
  • Sunbeam 16/20 and 25/30 1905-1911
  • Sunbeam 20 1908
  • Sunbeam 35 1908-1909
  • Sunbeam 16 1909
  • Sunbeam 14/20, 16/20, and 20 1909-1915
  • Sunbeam 12/16 1910-1911
  • Sunbeam 18/22, 25/30 and 30 1911-1915
  • Sunbeam 12/16 and 16 1912-1915
  • Sunbeam 16/20 1912-1914

Inter-war years

  • Sunbeam 16/40 1919-1921
  • Sunbeam 24, 24/60 and 24/70 1919-1924
  • Sunbeam 14 and 14/40 1922-1923
  • Sunbeam 16 (16.9 and 18.4) 1924-1933
  • Sunbeam 20/60 1923-1926
  • Sunbeam Long 25 1926-1932
  • Sunbeam 3 Litre Super Sport (Twin Cam) 1925-1930
  • Sunbeam 20 (20.9) 1927-1930
  • Sunbeam 20 (23.8)1930-1933
  • Sunbeam Speed Twenty 1933-1935
  • Sunbeam Twenty 1934-1935
  • Sunbeam Twenty-Five 1934-1935
  • Sunbeam Dawn 1934-1935

Rootes Group Cars:

  • Sunbeam 30 1936-1937
  • Sunbeam-Talbot Ten 1938-1948
  • Sunbeam-Talbot Two Litre 1939-1948
  • Sunbeam-Talbot Three Litre 1938-1940
  • Sunbeam-Talbot Four Litre 1939-194


  • Sunbeam-Talbot Ten 1938-1948
  • Sunbeam-Talbot Two Litre 1939-1948
  • Sunbeam-Talbot 80 1948-1950
  • Sunbeam-Talbot 90 Mk I,II,IIA 1948-1954
  • Sunbeam Mk III 1954-1957
  • Sunbeam Alpine 1953-1955
  • Sunbeam Alpine Series I,II,III,IIIGT,IV,V 1959-1968
  • Sunbeam Rapier Series I,II,III,IV,V 1955-1967
  • Sunbeam Rapier & Alpine Fastbacks 1967-1976
  • Sunbeam Sport
  • Sunbeam Venezia 1963-1964 by Carrozzeria Touring
  • Sunbeam Tiger
  • Sunbeam Imp Sport 1966-1976
  • Sunbeam Stiletto 1967-1972
  • Sunbeam Vogue
  • Chrysler Sunbeam/Talbot Sunbeam 1977-1981
  • Talbot Sunbeam Lotus 1979-1981
  • Sunbeam Lotus-Horizon 1982


  • Sunbeam Minx
  • Sunbeam Imp, Chamois and 900
  • Sunbeam Arrow, Hunter, Minx, Gazelle, Vogue and Sceptre
  • Sunbeam Funwagon/Highwayman
  • Sunbeam Avenger, 1250, 1300, 1500 and 1600

Sunbeam-Coatalen engines:

  • Sunbeam Crusader V8, 150 hp
  • Sunbeam Zulu V8, 160 hp, developed from Crusader
  • Sunbeam Mohawk V12, 225 hp
  • Sunbeam Gurkha V12, 240 hp, developed from Maori
  • Sunbeam Cossack V12, 320 hp, 18.4 litres
  • Sunbeam Nubian V8, 155hp, 7.7 litres
  • Sunbeam Afridi V12, 200 hp, 11.476 litres
  • Sunbeam Maori V12, 250 hp, 14.7 litres, developed from Afridi
  • Sunbeam Amazon Straight-6, 160 hp, 9.2 litres, developed from Cossack
  • Sunbeam Saracen Straight-6, 200 hp, 11.2 litres, developed from Amazon
  • Sunbeam Viking W18 "Broad Arrow" 450 hp, 33.6 litres, developed from Cossack
  • Sunbeam Arab V8, 200 hp, 11.8 litres
  • Sunbeam Bedouin inverted V8, 200hp, 12.3 litres, developed from Arab
  • Sunbeam Manitou V12, 325 hp, 14.7 litres, developed from Maori
  • Sunbeam Tartar V12, 300 hp, 15.4 litres
  • Sunbeam Kaffir W18 "Broad Arrow" 300 hp, developed from Arab, 18.3 litres
  • Sunbeam Spartan V12, 200 hp, 14 litres, air-cooled
  • Sunbeam Matabele V12, 400 hp, 22.4 litres, developed from Cossack
  • Sunbeam Malay Five-pointed star arrangement of 20 cylinders, 500 hp, 29.4 litres
  • Sunbeam Pathan Straight-6, 100 hp, 8.8 litres, diesel
  • Sunbeam Dyak Straight-6, 100 hp, 8.8 litres
  • Sunbeam Sikh V12, 800 hp, 64.1 litres

List of all Sunbeam cars

Source: Wikipedia


Auto Insurance Discounts

There are several discount programmes offered by many insurance companies, which we summarized below. Availability of each discount, discount rates and age requirements may vary by insurance company and by state, indeed. Also be aware that certain types vehicles may not qualify, you should always check with your insurance provider.

Anti-Theft Discount

Vehicles equipped with an alarm or anti-theft device may save you money on your Comprehensive Coverage.