Race Retro Classic Car Sale 2017

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1981 Talbot Sunbeam Lotus

Lot No.: 939

Registration: HFT 690W
Chassis Number: T4DCYBL413937
Engine Number: Not Specified
Number of cylinders: 4
CC: 2172
Year of Manufacture: 1981
Sold for (£): Unsold

The Talbot Sunbeam Lotus was one of the most exciting hot hatchbacks to emerge from the 1970s and was originally conceived when Chrysler Group's competition manager, Des O'Dell, decided that there was a need for the company to create a car that would be competitive in International 'Group 4' rallying. The Sunbeam 1.6 GLS appeared to be their most relevant product, so he approached Lotus and offered them one as a basis. Lotus Engineering rose to the challenge and within a couple of months had developed the GLS into a potential winner. As well as their expertise, Lotus' supplied the 2.2 type-911 version of their 16valve, four-cylinder engine coupled to a 5-speed ZF dog-leg gearbox, and also engineered a number of chassis and exhaust system improvements aimed squarely at beating the dominant Escort RS and Vauxhall Chevette HS/HSR's at their own game.

Lotus' efforts were rewarded in 1980 when a Sunbeam piloted by Henri Toivonen won the RAC Rally of Great Britain, and indeed, this would be the last time a rear-wheel-drive car ever took the title. In 1981, the Constructor's World Championship was claimed by Sunbeam for the newly christened 'Talbot' team (having been renamed by new owners Peugeot in 1979).

Homologation rules at the time dictated that for a new car to be eligible to compete internationally, it would also have to be offered to the general public and sold in a specified minimum number. In order to comply with this requirement, Talbot set up a separate production line at their Linwood factory to fabricate the body shells which would then be shipped directly to Ludham Airfield where Lotus would fit the engine, suspension, and gearbox etc. These road-going Talbot Sunbeam Lotus 'homologation specials' were more than just fast, they certainly looked the part as well.  Initially, they were offered only in Embassy Black with Silver stripes and sporting a brace of Marchal spotlights and bespoke ‘double four-spoke' cast alloy wheels.

Launched to an eager public in 1979, the 2174cc twin-cam engine, breathing through twin Dell'Orto carburetors developed 150 BHP and delivered excellent performance. Glowing reports from the motoring press followed, noting the car's razor-sharp handling and rapid pace, indeed, even when driven today, the Sunbeam is still considered a truly thrilling drive, set apart from most by its rear wheel drive balance, beautifully weighted controls, and overall lightness. 

HFT 690W is one of those rare cars, and has been with its current owner for twenty-one years, having been enjoyed by six owners since 1981. It appears that this Sunbeam-Lotus has had many thousands of pounds lavished on it over the years, keeping it fresh and resulting in a well sorted, very solid and usable classic car and, indeed, a lot of work has been carried out recently. The engine has been taken out of the car and fully rebuilt including new cylinder liners and high compression pistons, new big end bearings, the cylinder head ported and polished, new water pump, rebuilt distributor and all the other things you do when an engine is on the bench. Back in the car, it's now been run in, having completed 1,600 miles since its rebuild.

Bilstein front struts, rated at 195lb, inside shorter springs have been fitted at the front and matching rears (210lb) and a new anti-roll bar keep the back end firmly planted.  The front brakes were rebuilt to standard M16 specification including new discs, cables, brake cylinders, and master cylinder. To finish off, the steering rack was replaced along with new track control rod ends, making sure this focussed little hatchback stops and steers as well as when it left the factory. The odometer currently reads 88,000 miles which, although not warranted, the vendor believes to be correct.

With similar cars from other manufacturers achieving well in excess of the guide on this particular car, this wonderful and rare Lotus must surely represent great value for money.