Back in the good old days of the mid 1960s, when I was just a kid living in Clifton, one of the suburbs of Nottingham, I would walk to junior school every day, come home for lunch, and go back in the afternoon.
It was during my walk back up Dungannon Road after lunch, that on most days, I would pass a pea green motorcycle and sidecar parked outside a house. I admired it from a distance but didn’t realise at that time that it was a classic Sunbeam S7.
Seeing this motorcycle became a daily delight until my second year of senior school, when the bike suddenly was no longer there. Oddly, I found myself missing the bike but as time went on I forgot about it, thinking more about things like football and girls - not necessarily in that order, and in some cases, both at the same time!
Anyway, back to the story. As my life progressed I eventually left school, got an apprenticeship, started to earn a wage, and bought my first bike (Japanese). I was finally a motorcyclist and the first in my family to own such a form of transport. Needless to say my poor old Mum was mortified and tried every bribe under the sun to talk me out of continuing with two wheels but nothing worked.
As I progressed to larger capacity Japanese bikes, I sat down and made a list of all the things I wanted to do during my biking life, tour, race, rally, etc. and one was to restore an old British machine.
Back in 1985, while recovering from stepping off a 900cc Honda, I was informed by a friend of the whereabouts of the wreck of an old motorcycle; it was quite local, and still in Clifton.
This seemed like the perfect opportunity to have a go at restoring so I went along to look at the motorcycle. However, I use the term ‘motorcycle’ in its loosest sense as about 40% of it was either missing or unsalvageable. Still I had clarified that it was a British twin so I made an offer of £ 80.
We had to fit the wheels to the frame and wheelbarrow all the loose bits home.
Needless to say, everyone who was not a motorcycle enthusiast thought I was mad, including dear old Mum!
Later on when I finally went through the bike’s paperwork, I went cold. There before me was the exact same Sunbeam S7, minus its sidecar, that I had seen and passed almost daily as a young lad.
The documentation, and by this I mean the old green log book to those that remember, showed that the bike had had five previous owners, the first being the gentleman on Dungannon Road. The tax disc and MOT certificate showed it was last used on the road in 1970.
I now had in my possession a machine that had an amazing history, one which was linked to me and I knew from that day on I was always meant to own it and bring it back to its former glory.
At that point in my life, I had the ambition to restore a bike, but not the skills so I arranged for it to be carefully and safely stored till I could restore it.
Many years passed as I grew up, tackled the trials and tribulations life throws, became a more experienced self taught mechanic, and finally felt confident enough set to work restoring the Sunbeam as a hobby project.
Little did I know when I started, which has helped me greatly in my work now, that locating spares for the more uncommon motorcycle was very difficult. With the contacts I have made, I am now able to confidently source and replace almost every nut and bolt on British vintage and classic motorcycles.
As the Sunbeam restoration was a hobby I did have time on my side, and as I was not prepared to compromise on quality and finish, it took me a long time to source suitable replacement parts. However, the Sunbeam was finally fully restored to concourse condition in 1998, having taken me some three and a half years to complete.
Up until March 2006, the ‘Beam’ was on loan and displayed at the London Motorcycle Museum. Now it’s back home, where it belongs, and I take it with me wherever we display as an example of the quality and workmanship my business provides. You will also see it used in my advertising.
You are welcome to come and visit the ‘Beam’ in my workshop in Newark anytime. Contact me to arrange a free, no obligation appointment.
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N. A. Hopewell, Unit 10, Acorn Industrial Estate, Riverview Road, Beverley East Riding of Yorkshire HU17 0LD