1901 Sunbeam Gent’s ‘Design OK’
The barge with oar and sail
Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan …
Long stood Sir Bedivere
Revolving many memories, till the hull
Look’d one black dot against the verge of dawn,
And on the mere the wailing died away
- The Passing of Arthur, Alfred Lord Tennyson
As the 20th century dawned, the bicycle industry geared up for a new era in personal transportation …one that no longer featured daily battles between bicycles and horse-drawn vehicles. The new opponent, as was soon to become apparent, was the motor car.
This transition, from 19th century roads and the ‘silence’ of cycling …to twentieth century beast-like ‘motor bicycles’ and ‘motor carriages’ spluttering and rattling and belching smoke is mirrored in Sunbeam’s advertising.
Until 1902, the glorious Sunbeam catalogue covers invited us to enter a world of Victorian fantasy, with fairies and warriors and, in 1902, a knight bathed in a luscious sunbeam. With the Victorian era now ended by reign as well as century, is this a final reminder of Tennyson’s Arthurian journeys?
If so, this last glance at that spectacular age reassured customers that Sunbeam’s Victorian ideals were there to help them as they started their journey through the new, fantastic, unknown century ahead.
SUNBEAM COLOUR CATALOGUE COVERS
Observe the colour Sunbeam covers below, as Victorian fairies give way to 1910′s totally functional image of a bloke in cap riding a bike.
1901 Sunbeam Gent’s Design OK
Frame No 46303
With Hand-Applied Band Brake
Sunbeam’s ‘OK’ model was introduced in 1901 to provide a lower-priced alternative to the Golden Sunbeam. The ‘OK’ was the company’s cheapest offering at 10 guineas against 18 guineas for the top-of-the-range Golden.
This recent acquisition is my oldest Sunbeam. Compare it to the complete and functional 1901 Ladies Sunbeam Royal on the next page.
Interesting features are 28″ beaded edge wheels and hand-operated contracting band brake (which made its debut in 1901).
I need to locate a few missing parts. I’m lucky to have the 1901 Ladies as a pattern, as well as several Humbers with band brakes.
I will not restore it cosmetically – it has the remains of its original box lining!
I look forward to investigating its three-speed hub gear, obviously later than 1901 but still an early example.
I’ll update this page as restoration progresses.
Images with thanks to SUNBEAM CYCLES: The Story from the Catalogues 1887-1957, by John Pinkerton & Derek Roberts; Pinkerton Press. Available through the V-CC