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  Talbot Sunbeam  

The Sunbeam is a small supermini three-door hatchback manufactured by Chrysler Europe at the former Rootes Group factory in Linwood in Scotland, from 1977-81. The Chrysler Sunbeam's development was funded by a UK Government grant with the aim of keeping the Linwood plant running, and the small car was based on the larger Hillman Avenger, also manufactured there. After the takeover of Chrysler's European operations by PSA, the model was renamed Talbot Sunbeam and continued in production until 1981. A Talbot Sunbeam Lotus version was successful in rallying and won the World Rally Championship manufacturers' title for Talbot in 1981.

The Chrysler Sunbeam was launched to a quite positive reception by the British automotive press. An advertising campaign featured Petula Clark singing "...put a Chrysler Sunbeam in your life." There were initially three engine sizes; 0.9, 1.3 and 1.6 litres, and three trim levels available - base "LS", better-equipped "GL" and the most expensive "S". To reduce in-house competition, the more basic versions of the two-door Avengers were dropped at the same time in the UK market, and the Chrysler Horizon was only available in five-door form. The Sunbeam sold well, but was not a runaway success.

In order to boost the Sunbeam's image, a hot hatch version of the Sunbeam was launched at the 1978 British and Paris Motor Shows, called Sunbeam Ti. On sale in the UK from June 1979 priced at 3,779, it was based on the former Avenger Tiger. It featured sporty two-tone paint and a body kit, and was very sport-oriented, being stripped of equipment that would have compromised its performance (and image). It proved quite popular with reviewers and enthusiasts,

Chrysler had also commissioned Lotus to develop a rally version of the Sunbeam. The resulting Sunbeam Lotus was based on the Sunbeam 1.6 GLS, but fitted with stiffer suspension, a larger anti-roll bar and a larger transmission tunnel. The drivetrain comprised an enlarged, 2,172 cc, version of the Lotus 1973 cc Type 907 engine, a 16V slant four engine mounted in the car at Ludham Airfield, close to the Lotus facility in Hethel, Norfolk, where the almost-complete cars were shipped from Linwood.

The Sunbeam Lotus was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in April 1979, but the road-going version of the rally car was not ready for deliveries to the public until after the rebranding, and thus became the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus. At first these were produced mostly in black and silver, although later models came in a moonstone blue and silver (or black) scheme. The car saw not only enthusiastic press reviews, but also much success in the World Rally Championship - in 1980, Henri Toivonen won the 29th Lombard RAC Rally in one, and, in 1981, the Sunbeam Lotus brought the entire manufacturer's championship to Talbot.

After the takeover, PSA decided that keeping Linwood running would remain unprofitable in the long run and that the facility would have to be closed. This would also mean the end of the Avenger and Sunbeam model lines. The Sunbeam also overlapped in size with the Simca-based Chrysler Horizon, while the Avenger upon which it was based overlapped with the Peugeot 305, both of which were launched in 1977 and were newer, front wheel drive designs. The decision was quite reasonable, given the advanced age of the former and the fact that the "C2-short", in development, was to be launched. Even though the C2-short programme was eventually scrapped, PSA did prepare their own version, the Talbot Samba (based on PSA's own front-wheel drive supermini, the Peugeot 104). The Samba was launched in 1981, signalling the time the Sunbeam would take its final bow.

Vanguards VA11300; Talbot Sunbeam ti 1600; 1986 Scottish Rally Championship; Colin McRae Vanguards VA11301; 1980 Talbot Sunbeam; Metropolitan Police Vanguards VA11302; 1980 Talbot Sunbeam; Lotus, Embassy Black Vanguards VA11303; 1980 Talbot Sunbeam MkII 1.3; Sussex Police Vanguards VA11304; 1980 Talbot Sunbeam; WRW 29S Works Development Car; Bernard Unett & Terry Harryman
Vanguards VA11300; Talbot Sunbeam ti 1600; 1986 Scottish Rally Championship; Colin McRae Vanguards VA11301; 1980 Talbot Sunbeam; Metropolitan Police Vanguards VA11302; Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, Embassy Black Vanguards VA11303; 1980 Talbot Sunbeam MkII 1.3; Sussex Police Vanguards VA11304; 1980 Talbot Sunbeam; WRW 29S Works Development Car; Bernard Unett & Terry Harryman
VA11305 1980 Talbot Sunbeam Lotus; Moonstone Vanguards VA11306; 1980 Talbot Sunbeam; Moss Green Metallic Vanguards VA11307; 1980 Talbot Sunbeam; 1988 Wales Rally, Richard Burns & John King, RN85    
Vanguards VA11305; 1980 Talbot Sunbeam Lotus; Moonstone Vanguards VA11306; Talbot Sunbeam ti 1600; Moss Green Metallic Vanguards VA11307; Talbot Sunbeam; 1988 Newtown Stages, Wales 25th; Burns & King; RN85    

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Last Edit: 30/12/2022   Page Added 30/12/2022