History of the Chrysler Talbot Sunbeam

In the year 1976 Chrysler UK developed a new car, wich should changed the antiquated Hillman Imp., because the sales figures were worse. For reasons of economy, the chassis of the old Hillman Avenger were used. Consequential the car got rear-wheel drive, wich was unusual in this vehicle class. In-house, the Sunbeam was namend "Project 424". Later, Chrysler UK decieded to change the name into "Sunbeam", who came from the early years and wasn't used since the 70s. This name stands all times for sporty cars and was very traditional. After the take-over by Peugeot, the name "Chrysler" was changed into "Talbot". In some countrys, the Sunbeam was also named "Chrysler Simca Sunbeam".
After the end of developement, the car launch was in 1977. First, the Sunbeam was available with 3 engines: the basic 930cc, the 1300cc and the 1600cc engine. Later , the 1600cc engine was assemled with 2 weber caburetors and the engine-output was 100bhp. This was exclusiveley for the TI Models and was launched in 1979. Furthermore there was a more sporty version of the car, the Sunbeam Lotus. It contained a 2,2 litre engine wit 2 overhad camshafts, developed by Lotus. The engine-output was 150bhp and the top speed was 122mph. The Sunbeam Lotus was also successfull in Motorsports, especially in Rallye Sports. It won the World Rallye Championship in 1981.
Sadly, the sales figures of the Sunbeam were worse, because of quality problems. After 10.013 TI and 2.308 Lotus models the production was cease and the factory in Linwood were closed.

First concepts of the Chrysler Project
R 424

History of the Chrysler Talbot Sunbeam Lotus

The Chrysler Sunbeam Lotus was launched in 1979 on the Geneva Motor Show. It was the road version of the Sunbeam Lotus Rallye, the winner of the Rallye World Championships in 1981.
The first cars were supplyed in the summer of 1979. At this time, Chrysler was sold to Peugeot, so the company was renamed to Talbot. In except for the pre-produced models, all cars was named Talbot now.
Serially, the Sunbeam Lotus was sold in black with silver stripes only. The interior was grey.
The first cars had have an exhaust with double end-pipe. In the year 1981, the Sunbeam Lotus was modified by facelift. It contained larger headlamps, a modified radiator grill, different exterior mirrors and a larger fuel tank. Furthermore, the engine was a little bit modified, too.
The production worked as follows: The rolling body shells wich was produced in Linwood, were brought to Lotus in Norfolk by transporters. There, the cars got the engine and the ZF-5-speed-gearbox. Also the body shells became their modifications, a larger radiator was obstructed and the alloy wheels were fitted there.
After it, the cars were brought back to the end control to Linwood, then they went to the dealers.
One year later, many cars haven't been sold, the sales figures were worse. By this time, the cars were available in moonstone blue only and the customer could choose between silver or black stripes. In the winter of 1982/1983, many cars were still unsold, so it has been deicided to bring out a limited edition of the Sunbeam Lotus called „Avon“. This cars got some green/yellow Lotus decals at the sides. Furthermore, every car got a limited-edition-registration-number. The last new cars were sold with special conditions by a dealer in Nuneaton.

Geneva Motor Show 1979, car terminal in Norfolk and Sunbeam Lotus Avon

History of the Sunbeam Lotus Rallye

After the launch of the new developed medium sized car with the code number 424 in the autumn of the year 1977, the Chrysler sport manager Desmond O'Dell saw a proverbial „Sunbeam“ for the chipped car industry. The glory sporty times of Chrysler were many years ago and Des O'Dell wanted to start into the rallye business. He knew by the experiences of his Avenger times, that an Engine with 1600 cc and 100 bhp wasn't be adequadet to be conquering in the rallye world.
O'Dell has won some championchips for Chrysler since 6 years in fact, but from the end of the year 1974 it doesn't work anymore. The glory times of the Hillman Imp, Hillman Hunter and Chrysler Avenger were so long ago. And now, there was a Sunbeam at the horizon again! Des O'Dell haven't found an adequate Engine for the Sunbeam in the Chrysler construction kit, so he needed some help from outside. In the January of 1977, he met some old friends of Lotus, that he knew from his Aston Martin times, as he was the testmanager there. Lotus has developed a 2 Litres engine by this time, and so he made the deal.
In the April of 1978, the first test engine was ready. It has an engine output of 238 bhp, but the developer wasn' t happy with the engine torque. Therefor, the price of the engine was very good, it costs only 13.000 DM (inclusive the road version with 150 bhp). Later, the cubic capacity of the engine was enlarged, so the torque was good now.
In the May of 1978, O'Dell invited the Chrysler managers in his brand new workshop, which was very large. He wanted to convince of his Sunbeam Lotus project, and the managers were very happy about it.

Sunbeam Rallye Workshop / Talbot Racing Team with Des O'Dell

The sportcrew was increase up to 18 persons. The Lotus engine parts and the ZF transmission parts arrived. The Bilstein suspensions came to Coventry too.
In The September of 1978, the test drives with Andy Cowan and Bill Unett begun. After some little problems, the car runned very well.
In the December of 1978, Des O'Dell engaged the british rallye star Tony Pond for the season '79. The sport crew absolved some Sunbeam Lotus workshops at this time.
In the April of 1979, were enough Sunbeam Lotus road versions for the homologation built and the rallye mangement in Paris gave their OK for the rallye car. Des O'Dell said at the time proudly: "That we have made by our own hands - one more Sunbeam for the car industry of the United Kingdom!"
After the great performance of Tony Pond by the „Mille Pistes“, Chrysler France decided to drive a Sunbeam Lotus rallye car, too.
In the August of 1979, five mechanics from France learned in a workshop to build up a Sunbeam Lotus rallye car. In their own workshop, they built the cars of Jean-Pierre Nicolas. This procedere was very hectical.
In the Oktober of 1979, the Chrysler Sunbeam Lotus was namend Talbot Sunbeam Lotus now.

Car of Russel Brookes (left) / Henri Toivonen (right)

November 1979: After a good start at the „RAC-Rallye“, Pond failed and left the Talbot racing team.
In the January of 1980, Nicolas was changed by Guy Frequelin. The finish youngstar Henri Toivonen and the british Russell Brookes entered the team. O' Dell made the deal about 1.5 Million DM perfect. Brookes and Toivonen started at the british championchips, Frequelin and Toivonen started at the european championships. In the February of 1980 Toivonen won at the "Artic-Rallye" before the competitions of Fiat, Ford, Porsche and Vauxhall. O'Dell about Toivonen: "A real newcomer – a flying finish man for the future of Talbot!"
In 1981, Talbot won the constructors world-rallye-championship, Guy Fréquelin and copilot Jean Todt won the vice-world-rallye-championship for the driver valuation. Talbot stopped the Sunbeam production at the same time, so a new start of the Talbot Racing Team was dispensable. The Racing Team from France drove the Peugeot 205 turbo-16 already. Talbot started under the new Peugeot flag with Stig Blomqvist in England again. He finished the championship on the 9th position and on the 8th position at the overall standings.
In the season of 1983, the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus started very sporadical. In the present, there are many private Sunbeam drivers, which start on some motorsport events. There are some great rebuilt cars around the race tracks, so lets hope, that this awesome cars will never die!

© 2007-2014 by www.talbot-sunbeam.de