Postwar Sunbeam S7, the smooth operator

The sophisticated S7 was all wrong for cash-strapped riders in the 1950s. It’s much more suitable as a 21st century classic!

When Motor Cycling magazine tested an S7 it covered more than 900 miles, giving ‘day-in and day-out service without necessary recourse to the toolbox or apprehension on the part of the rider about Sunbeam reliability’ Photo: Chris Dickinson
When Motor Cycling magazine tested an S7 it covered more than 900 miles, giving ‘day-in and day-out service without necessary recourse to the toolbox or apprehension on the part of the rider about Sunbeam reliability’ Photo: Chris Dickinson

Back in the day, the postwar Sunbeam S7 was initially acclaimed for introducing a raft of innovative technical features.

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‘With its in-line parallel twin cylinder engine and gearbox in unit, shaft drive, coil ignition, unique appearance and many ingenious features it represented a complete breakaway from current motorcycle design,’ said The Motor Cycle, talking about the 1947 launch of the 487cc ohc tourer.

In theory, this was the machine which blitzed Britons had been dreaming about. In practice, the substantially more conventional model which followed it – the S8 – significantly outsold its pioneering predecessor.

In the six years before production ended in 1956, the public bought 50% more S8s than S7s. In that time BSA (which had bought the Sunbeam name during the war) built less than 15,000 of both, just 2500 a year. And the S8 was definitely the more popular of the two.

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