1912 SUNBEAM 16/20hp FIVE SEATER TOURER WITH HOOD
Registration No. LF 4900
Chassis No. 2331
Engine No. 2433
Grey with green upholstery
Engine: Four-cylinder monobloc, L-head, 90mm bore, 160mm stroke, 4072cc. Bosch dual magneto ignition (magneto missing), Claudel-Hobson carburettor. Transmission: cone clutch, 4-speed and reverse gearbox with right-hand change, shaft drive to bevel back axle. Chassis: pressed steel, 10'3 1/4" wheelbase, 4'7" track, semi-elliptic springs front, 3/4 elliptic springs rear, right-hand drive. Brakes: metal to metal internal expanding from side lever on rear wheels and internal expanding from foot pedal on transmission. Wood wheels, tyre size: 820 x 120mm beaded-edge. Right hand drive.
'After the remarkably successful season that has been enjoyed by the Sunbeam company, there can be little doubt that stand 69 will be the centre of attraction at the show.'
The Olympia Show, A Forecast of the Exhibits
The Car Illustrated, November 1, 1911
The same magazine commented on the Sunbeam cars as exhibited: 'To all intents and purposes the 1912 models are entirely new. The new chassis are all modelled on the six-cylinder 30hp which put up such a fine performance recently at Brooklands. Three models are being made: the 12/16 hp, the 16/20 hp, and the six-cylinder 30 hp. In the engine the principal alteration lies in the position of the valves. These are now all on the same side of the cylinder, and are slightly inclined inwards. In all models monobloc cylinder castings are employed. A very effective form of three-point suspension is adopted for mounting the gearbox, which, in all cases, provides four speeds forwards and one reverse. As to the final driving medium in the back axle, the bevel gear regains the position captured by the worm last year.'
Even if customers might have been puzzled or amused by the final sentence, they visited the Show stand, were impressed by these new models, and placed orders. Prior to the Show the motoring public had been similarly impressed by the success of Sunbeam's competition and record breaking exploits at Brooklands track. Louis Coatalen had joined Sunbeam in 1909 as chief engineer and fully appreciated the value of racing both to improve production models and to obtain publicity for the Company. In this he succeeded admirably. Sunbeam achievements in motor racing and record breaking between 1910 and 1930 literally do fill a book.
The Sunbeam works records do not survive, but numbers allocated to each type for 1912 indicate that nearly 1000 of the popular 12/16 model were anticipated being made, 200 of the more substancial 4-litre 16/20 were to be built, whilst production of the six cylinder 30 hp was expected to be similar. 12/16 cars survive in respectable numbers and are so much appreciated by those who own them that they rarely come up for sale, but the survival rate of the 16/20 is very low, only two other examples being known. Limited production apart, the reason why so few 16/20s exist today might appear to be a mystery. However, it is almost certainly due to the fact that a significant number were used for military purposes in World War One, and the cars were of such quality that they were capable of figuratively being driven into the ground, a fate that befell more than one prestigious motor car make of the immediate pre-Great War period.
LF 4900 was supplied new to Viscount Enfield (Later Sixth Earl of Strafford) by C.S. Sadgrove & Co of London, SW, in the summer of 1912, as a plate on the dasboard confirms. The car seems to have had only limited use as the Stewart speedometer/odometer reads only 39,997 miles. That this figure may well be accurate is supported by a statement in a private letter written in 1977 by the respected motoring historian Michael Sedgwick who had inspected the car. He commented: 'Lord Strafford never drove, and was in fact completely disinterested in cars.' The family did though keep the Sunbeam, unfortunately not in ideal conditions, but it is eminently restorable and virtually complete in every detail.
It seems that in the early 1920's the car was updated, with the provision of electric starting and lighting. The front Lucas side and head lamps are in place and in sound order, but the rear lamps are missing. A starter ring-gear has been fitted to the flywheel, but the starter motor is not present. There is a bracket to carry a belt-driven dynamo on the off-side of the engine but the dynamo and the dual Bosch magneto have disappeared. Apart from these items, everything that should be there seems to be in place, including significant items such as the Claudel-Hobson carburettor, and the water pump. Mechanically the car looks to be in good, but neglected, order.
Although rusted, it appears that the handsome Sunbeam-made bodywork is in essentially sound condition and eminently restorable also. It was painted grey (a correct Sunbeam colour of the period) with black chassis and mudguards. The dilapidated hood and side screens are present and provide a perfect pattern for reproduction. The black leather upholstery and trim will give the new owner an exact guide as to what was the style and quality of the day.
Whilst this Sunbeam has passed beyond the state where museum type 'conservation in original form' is a realistic proposition, the car is nevertheless in such condition that it should be quite possible to restore it sympathetically to show precisely what a Sunbeam 16/20 was like when it was new in 1912.
Even in its present state this 16/20 Sunbeam is an imposing vehicle, built by one of the best English manufacturers of the day. The better known 12/16 is a delightful car to drive and there seems little doubt that once restored this 'big brother' will match, and may perhaps surpass, the driving pleasure of its smaller sibling.
The Sunbeam also retains its original registration number on a modern V5 document, and is sold with copy of the original log book.