Chassis No. 4002K
Engine No. 4002K
Registration No. OG4774
+44 (0)1869 244 255
Presented for sale here is the sole surviving example of the two Super Sports tourers built by the Sunbeam Works Competition department to contest the inaugural Irish Grand Prix in 1929.
One need only browse through a copy of Anthony Heal’s superb work on Sunbeam’s racing expolits; Sunbeam Racing Cars 1910 – 1930to begin comprehend the significance of the marque during this period. The Sunbeam Motor Car Co. Ltd. was the first British firm to win an International Grand Prix -The French Grand Prix of 1923. In 1924 Sunbeam became the last British marque to win an international Grand Prix until 1955. The Wolverhampton based firm succeeded in breaking Land Speed records and was the first company to break the magic 200mph mark on land. They had produced a six-cylinder twin overhead-camshaft engine before The First World War and had even competed at Indianapolis. The Sunbeam Motor Car Co. Ltd. was, in essence, the only major British producer of purebred racing cars before The Second World War.
It is worth noting that, aside from their Grand Prix, Indianapolis and Land Speed Record successes, Sunbeam’s first and only major attempt at the Le Mans 24-Hour Race of 1925 resulted in Sir Henry Seagrave leading for the first hour and Sammy Davis finishing a highly creditable 2ndoverall – in turn beating the Bentleys. It could be argued, quite fairly, that Sunbeam’s Motorsport achievements in the period of 1910 to 1930 outweighed those of any other British motor car manufacturer.
Drawing on their considerable experience with twin overhead camshaft engines, that predated The First World War, Sunbeam introduced the “Super Sports” model in 1924. Powered by a 3-Litre six-cylinder twin-overhead camshaft engine the car was undoubtedly one of the finest sports cars available worldwide and bettered the 3-Litre Bentleys in performance – as the result at the 1925 Le Mans race had proved. By the late 1920s Bentley had introduced both the Speed Six and 4½-Litre models and the Super Sports Sunbeams, lacking the capacity of the larger Bentleys were struggling to keep up with the pace in sports car racing. For the inaugural Irish Grand Prix at Phoenix Park in 1929, races were to be held for sports cars, one with capacity limited to 1500cc and one for unlimited capacity. In an attempt to better the larger capacity Bentleys, Sunbeam produced two supercharged Super Sports models to be driven by another land speed record ace, namely Captain Sir Malcolm Campbell. Finished in Smoke Blue the cars were fitted with huge Cozette No. 11 blowers that were held by a cradle in a space made in the crankcase sides. An extension to the timing gear case above the water pump drive housed a gear that drove the supercharger via a horizontal shaft. The Blower breathed through a Cozette type carburetter mounted below it in between the crankcase and chassis side member and was fed by mechanical fuel pumps driven of the camshafts. Extra breathers were fitted to the camshaft covers. Power output was raised from a roughly 90bhp to a reported 138BHP giving the cars an estimated top speed of 110mph.
As well as the modifications to the engines both cars featured: Strengthened chassis, larger brakes, fold flat screens & aero screens, twin core radiators, separate wings and foot steps (as opposed to the helmet wings and running boards on the standard cars) as well as stone guards for the lights and radiator.
This particular example, chassis no. 4002K, was to be driven in the practice session and another car, chassis no 4001K, in the race. 4002K was fitted with a standard style body while the other was fitted with a slightly lower radiator, a more barreled body and a larger than standard fuel tank. Both cars were professionally photographed outside the works and are described in Anthony Heal’s book Sunbeam Racing Cars 1910 – 1930 (Pages 224 to 226.) Unfortunately Sunbeam had not had much time to develop the cars and they proved unreliable. By Sunbeam’s high standards the event had not been a success. In the race Campbell’s car had been slow to start and get away, but once running had proved the potential of the blown cars by putting in a lap of 77.1 mph before eventually succumbing to clutch and transmission problems. The speeds at which Campbell’s car had run had bettered the fastest lap time of the overall winner, Ivanovsky on the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Super Sports and been well up with the Speed Six Bentleys and Supercharged Mercedes SSKs.
Despite the impressive pace of the blown Super Sports, Sunbeam did not develop the cars, presumably due to financial restraints and the focus on breaking the Land Speed Records. Only four further supercharged cars were built for private owners. 4002K was stripped of its supercharger by the works but otherwise retained all of its original racing features and was sold in this form by the works during the 1930s and registered OG 4774. Although the exact details of its pre-war ownership history is not known exactly, original tax discs contained within the history file show that ‘OG 4774’ remained in the Birmingham area in 1938 and 1939 and was still “Smoke Blue.”
By 1947 ‘OG 4774’ was owned by a Mr. Ian W. Ferguson of Manchester. In 1948 Ferguson sold the car and it passed through three London based owners during the 1950s before being purchased by Thomas W. Tyler of Marton, Yorkshire in 1962. The buff logbook on file lists Thomas Tyler as the then owner who became a prominent member of the Sunbeam Talbot Darracq Club. Tyler gently restored his works car during the early 1980s and retained ownership of it until he passed away. It passed though one other owner, a close family friend of the Tylers, until it was purchased by the current owner.
Whilst in the current owner’s possession an original Cozette number 11 type supercharger has been sourced and work commenced on the research into making up the drive gear for the blower and various remedial works have been carried out by Dr. James Catnach, all documented with the history file offered with the car.
‘4002K,’ remains in highly original condition retaining all of its original major mechanical components (less supercharger) including the strengthened chassis and enlarged brakes as well as its original body, featuring nearly all of the works alterations and even a good deal of the original upholstery. It is considered to be only works Super Sports Sunbeam to have survived both intact and original. It is a truly collectable motorcar that would be of interest to organisers of both motorsport and concours type events around the world. It is a significant piece of history from the company that first put Great Britain on the top step of the Grand Prix podium.