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12/14 HP Side Entrance Tonneau
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  Sunbeam 12/14 HP Side Entrance Tonneau

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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced from:1904 - 1905
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:Before December 1st, 2004
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Click here to download printer friendly versionMost pioneers in the automotive industry either started originally as a carriage builder or as a motorcycle constructor. Sunbeam was no exception when they entered the automotive industry in 1899. In the previous years the Wolverhampton based company had build the characteristic 'Sunbeam' bicycle. One of the typical characteristics of the 'Sunbeam' was the oil bath chain case, which enclosed the chain drive.

Sunbeam's first prototype featured a single cylinder engine, directly derived from the motorcycles. It was constructed in 1899, but not shown to the public until 1900. A second prototype featured a two cylinder engine, which powered the rear wheels through two chains. Actual production didn't commence until 1902, when the French designer T.C. Pullinger joined the staff. He had previously worked for Darracq and Teste de Moret.

Pullinger decided to adopt many design elements found on the French Berliet on the new Sunbeam car. To get acquainted with the Berliet design, Sunbeam purchased complete 10/12 hp chassis from Berliet and sold them as Sunbeams in the UK. Gradually the chassis were modified by Sunbeam more and more, making the last of the 80 10/12 hps purchased/constructed pretty much seperate Sunbeam models.

Lessons learned from the 10/12 hp were adopted in the new 12/14 hp, introduced late in 1904. It featured a four cylinder engine made up of two blocks of two cylinders. A novel feature was the T-shaped cylinder head, with the valves on both sides of the head, actuated by seperate camshafts. The intake valve lift was variable, operated by a sliding camshaft. Development was ongoing and later models featured the oil bath chain drive, the Sunbeam motorcycles were famous for.

In 1906, the 12/14 hp was replaced by the 16/20 hp. This was the first Sunbeam designed by Angus Shaw, who had previously worked under Pullinger, who had left Sunbeam to join Humber. Although these early Sunbeam motorcars are not the company's best known, but their high quality in both design and construction have helped build the solid reputation Sunbeam would be known for for decades to come.

Featured is chassis no. 325, powered by engine no. 27. As can be seen on the hood-ornament, it was originally registered 'DA 71'. A thorough restoration in the 1980s has left this 'Five Seater Side Entrance Tonneau' in mint condition. This very rare 12/14 hp was offered by Christie's in the 2003 Paleis 't Loo Concours d'Elegance Auction. A sale price of between $91,000 and $110,000, but the offers failed to meet the reserve set.

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