2021 Shannons Spring Timed Online Auction
1980 Talbot Sunbeam Lotus Hatchback
|Engine||In-line 4-cylinder, 2172cc|
This lot is no longer available
Part of the Rootes Group family of cars developed under Chrysler Europe, the Sunbeam was a three-door hatchback model produced at the Linwood factory in Scotland from 1977 until the early 1980s. Following the takeover of Chrysler’s European operation by the French PSA group, the car was rebadged the Talbot Sunbeam and the first high performance derivative, badged the TI, was launched at the 1978 British Motor Show as a direct replacement for the Hillman Avenger Tiger. Powered by a 1.6-litre engine sporting twin Weber carburettors and good for 100 horsepower, along with fancy two-tone paint and a body kit, the TI was PSA’s answer to the like of Ford’s Escort RS and the Vauxhall Chevette HS. An even hotter version was developed by Lotus with a view to competing in Group 4 rallying in 1979. The road going Sunbeam Lotus was based on the upmarket GLS model and almost complete cars were transported from Linwood to a facility at Ludham Airfield near Lotus Cars base in Hethel, Norfolk to be converted. The 1.6-litre engine was ditched, replaced with a version of Lotus famous 16-valve twin-cam unit (in this case displacing 2172cc) breathing through twin Dell’Orto twin-choke carburettors, along with a ZF five-speed gearbox, which required a modification to the transmission tunnel. Other changes included stiffer suspension, an anti-roll bar and Lotus alloy wheels. Final inspection took place at Stoke, Coventry and cars were delivered to the public, initially in the signature Embassy Black and silver stripes colour scheme although later on blue, black or silver were all offered. Developing a healthy 150 horsepower at 5750 rpm, the rear-wheel drive Sunbeam Lotus proved more than proficient on both road and track, receiving rave reviews from the press. Motor magazine managed to do the 0-60 mph time in 6.8 seconds and 0-100 mph in 19.8 seconds. Drivers Henri Toivonen and Guy Frequelin combined to win the 1980 Lombard-RAC Rally and ultimately won Talbot the World Championship for Makes in 1981. Slow sales meant only 2,308 were built from a projected total of 4,500 cars and these homologation specials are now in big demand in the UK and Europe, but rarely seen elsewhere.