Sun Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Sun Motorcycles of Birmingham

Sun Cycle and Fittings Co of Aston Brook Street, Birmingham
  • Sun produced motorcycles from 1911 to 1961.

    Sun motorcycles were virtually unique in that they remained under the control of the Parkes family from conception to the end of motorcycle manufacture. They were also unique in that the company both started and finished in the bicycle industry.

    Founded in Victorian times, the brand has its origins in James Parkes & Son, a brass foundry making, amongst other things, incandescent lamps - hence the eventual Sun brand name. The company was run by the Parkes family and the Sun name first appeared in 1885. James Parkes died in 1896.

    In 1907, Joseph Parkes, son of James, changed the name of the company to The Sun Cycle and Fittings Company, and the firm was also incorporated as a limited company. As established bicycle makers, it was the final form of the company name.

    1911 The first of their motorcycles, the Sun Precision, was produced late that year. It had a 3½ hp Precision engine (built in nearby Moorsom St), Amac or B and B carburettor, Bosch magneto, Sturmey-Archer gearing and Druid forks.

    1913 Two more versions were added, plus one with a 3½ hp JAP engine, but that one was soon dropped. Later that year came the first Sun-Villiers model, but that was soon replaced by a 269cc two-stroke Villiers. They then added V-twins with either Precision or JAP engines.

Engine - 2½ h. p. two-stroke Vitesse, 269 c.c.
Iqnition - Bosch magneto.
Carburetter - Senspray.
Change Speed - Counter-shaft two-speed, slipping clutch, 5½ and 10 to 1.
Transmission - Chain and belt.
Dimensions - Height of saddle from ground, 28in. Ground clearance, 7½in. Wheelbase, 52in.
Lubrication - Drip feed.
Other Features - Druid forks. Roman rims to order. Dunlop tyres.
Price - £35 10s.
Other Models - Sun-Villiers, h.p., 269 c.c., £34 10s.

Sun Cycle and Fittings Co., Ltd., Aston Brook Street, Birmingham

British Lightweights, 1914

  • 1915 The company now used the Sun-Vitesse name for a two-stroke, 269cc model fitted with their own engine.

    Post Great War. The company developed their engine further and added a disc valve to control induction.

    1921 In entering the 250cc TT, the firm reduced the size of their engine slightly, but without much success.

    1922 Their road model was joined by one fitted with a JAP engine.

    1923-1924 Further models were introduced with Villiers and Blackburne engines.

    1925 The company started to use double names, such as Sun-Blackburne and Sun-JAP. This trend lasted until the end of the decade.

    1930s Although Villiers and JAP engines were still in use, the marques returned to the Sun name only.

    1933 The production of motorcycles ceased for some years.

    1940 The Sun name appeared once more, this time on three versions of an autocycle, with a 98cc Villiers engine.

    1946-1949 Only one version of the autocycle was produced.

    1951 The autocycle had gone, but two new models appeared, both with Villiers engines. One was the 122cc Model De Luxe which credited the performance of Paddy Goddard in the new lightweight class at Isle of Man TT races. The other was the 197cc Challenger which was destined to become their most popular model for the next several years. It took its name from a bicycle of 1934.

    1953 A competition model was added to the range. This was the Challenger competition trials machine which had a rigid frame; the MkIII had a tweaked engine It did very well in trials events including the Scottish Six Day.

    In 1955 a Challenger scrambler version was added. While the trials machine remained rigid, the scrambler sported Armstrong swinging arm suspension, and both were given Earles-style forks with 21 inch front wheels.

    For 1956 the competition models were renamed Wasp.

    1957 Attention shifted to production at each end of the scale. At the top end was the 249cc Villiers 2T twin engined Overlander. At the other end came the Geni scooter - this had 15-inch wheels and a 99cc engine. The Challenger rigid model was given a swinging arm frame.

    1959 The company's first true scooter was produced. Called the Sunwasp, it had a 174cc Villiers engine. It was also the year that production stopped and the firm was taken over.

    1960 Of the two scooters, the smaller went out of production that year.

    1961 Production of the larger scooter stopped and that brought the marque to a close. Raleigh picked up the company, and continued the bicycle manufacturing side.

Sources: Graces Guide, The Motor Cycle