Page 1 of 2 Next >> Incorporating elements of winning designs has always been common practice in racing but the way Sunbeam's chief designer Louis Coatalen went about it in 1914 had little to do with fair competition. It was not for lack of talent as the Coatalen designed Sunbeams had been quite successful, scoring a 1-2-3 victory at Brooklands in 1912. He nevertheless figured it would be so much easier and cheaper to directly copy the dominant and revolutionary 1913 Peugeot instead of trying to invent the wheel all over again. His solution was quite simple; he acquired one of the Peugeot Grand Prix racers and had it shipped to his house England for close inspection.
A real team effort, the groundbreaking Peugeot was developed jointly by their three talented drivers, draughtsman-designer Ernest Henry and an engineer by the name of Vasselot. What made the Peugeot so special was the four cylinder engine, which featured twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. It was the first time this configuration was used and it is still the valve-train of choice for high performance engines today. One of Coatalen's earlier designs used a single overhead camshaft, so he was not a complete stranger to this technology.
Upon arrival, Coatalen had the Peugeot Grand Prix car completely disassembled and detailed engineering drawings made of every part. These were then used to make four new Sunbeams for the 1914 Tourist Trophy. The only real difference was the slight increase in bore, which saw the engine grow to just under the 3.3 litre displacement maximum. Mated to a four-speed gearbox, the 90 bhp engine was fitted in a straightforward ladder frame. Suspension was by live axles, semi-elliptic leaf springs and Houdaille friction dampers. The rolling chassis was clothed in a rudimentary 'Touring' body.
The four Sunbeams that lined up at the 1914 Tourest Trophy were almost perfect Peugeot clones; the only 'error' was the Sunbeam badge on the nose. Coatalen's practices were known by some at the time but they hardly raised an eyebrow. A few years later he did one better by actually employing Ernest Henry to design him a new racing cars. It must be said that 1914 saw the birth of several more adaptations of the successful Peugeot design. Delage, Nagant, Humber and Vauxhall also fielded cars with twin-cam and four valve per cylinder heads. Page 1 of 2 Next >>