Unlike the majority of auto manufacturers who pioneered the fledgeling UK industry in the early days of the 20th century, John Marston, and Maxwell Maberly-Smith, the founders of Sunbeam Motors, were never involved in the manufacturing of either push bikes or motorbikes.
Instead, they moved straight into car production during the very early Nineteen Hundreds, selling their first innovatively designed Sunbeam for the princely sum of £130 .
What made Marston and Maberly-Smith’s new baby stand out from the crowd was that the vehicle was designed with its passenger seats fitted on either side of the chassis, facing in different directions.
Despite, or possibly because of this unusual design, the first Sunbeams enjoyed considerable success, with just over 400 models sold during 1904, the first year of full production.
Buoyed by the success, John Marston formed an association with the Berliet car company of France buying up vehicle chassis from them to which Sunbeam added home produced bodies.
Freed from the need to manufacture their own chassis, Sunbeam gradually became able of turning more of their manufacturing facilities into building most of their major mechanical parts.
They did continue to import engines, gearboxes, and vehicle sub-frames.
With the ability to market a broader range of more vehicles, finding larger premises soon became a major priority.
After a long search, a newer and considerably larger plant was eventually located, situated in the Midlands city of Wolverhampton.
To oversee the demends of increased production Marston and Maberly-Smith persuaded Louis Coatalen to be their chief engineer, joining Sunbeam from Humber.
Thanks to Coatalen’s considerable industry experience and exceptional local knowledge; the company gradually began to increase the levels of in-house production, becoming less dependent on outsourcing.
With the enterprise’s turnover increasing in volume every year, and new model ranges introduced, as the first decade that the company had been in business, Sunbeam’s fortunes were looking up.
All of that impetus was to take a back seat with the outbreak of World War I, with the company’s entire output switched towards helping the war effort.