1924 Sunbeam Cub

The Sunbeam Cub was a Grand Prix racecar built by the British company Sunbeam.

The Sunbeam racing team had been very successful in 1923, culminating with a win by Segrave in the French Grand Prix. The Sunbeam design for the 1924 season was similar, but the three competing cars were supercharged. Probably the fastest cars on the track at Lyon that year, their power was compromised by unreliability.

Driven by K. L. Guinness, this car was forced to retire with a damaged universal joint, after leading briefly on the 16th lap. Later in the year, it competed in the Spanish Grand Prix at San Sebastian, with Guinness at the controls once more. The race ended in tragedy when the car crashed into a ravine, killing Barrett, the mechanic riding with Guinness. The Sunbeam was rebuilt and used successfully by Segrave in British hill-climbing events.

Kaye Don later drove Sunbeams at Brooklands, having already made a name for himself at the circuit. Between 1928 and 1930, he created over twenty international records in the 2-litre class at the circuit with this car. Also driving the V12, 4-litre cars dubbed Tiger and Tigress, it was inevitable that the 2-litre Sunbeam would become known as the Cub.

Sir Henry Segrave became the first British driver to win a Grand Prix in a British car in 1923, driving a Sunbeam to victory in the French Grand Prix at Tours averaging 75mph over 35 laps and 496 miles. The Sunbeam Grand Prix team was the only competitive British equipe of the era and for 1924, they planned performance improvements to compete with Alfa Romeo, Bugatti and Delage.

This car, driven by Segrave and also by KL Guinness, retained the six-cylinder inline, 1998cc engine, but has a supercharger which eventually helped boost power to 170bhp and top speed to 130mph. Describing the layout, legendary author Bill Boddy commented that, ‘ the blower, a rather special Roots-type, was driven from the front of the power unit. It sucked from a Solex carburetor… and in 1924 form, it ran on about equal quantities of petrol, benzole and methyl alcohol.’ All cars had a four-speed gearbox, compared with the three-speed used by the earlier cars.

All the Sunbeam race cars had Wolverhampton registration plates for road use and were driven to and from the race tracks.

KL Guinness raced this car at the 1924 Gran Premio de San Sebastian but sadly crashed into a ravine, killing his riding mechanic and ending his career as a driver. Good fortune was on Sunbeam's side and Segrave drove the sister car to outright victory to reinforce his record as one of Britain's greatest drivers of the era.

The car was rebuilt at Sunbeam’s Wolverhampton factory and as Segrave retired from Grand Prix racing to concentrate on speed records, he used it in British hill-climbing events. With Sunbeam also having V12-engined 4-litre cars (nicknamed ‘Tiger’ and ‘Tigress) it was inevitable that the little two-litre car would be christened ‘The Cub’, Segrave taking fastest time at the Kop Hill Climb in 1925.

At this point, Kaye Don started driving the car, especially at Brooklands where he became a regular winner. Between 1928 and 1930 he created over 20 international records in the 2-litre class at Brooklands.

The only surviving example of it kind, this Sunbeam is displayed courtesy of Lord Montagu and Doug Hill of the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu.

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