Several months ago, actually on July 21, 2011, I posted a story about the Talbot Lago cars. In that post I mentioned that I would discuss the Sunbeam Talbot rally car. The naming aspects of this car are somewhat bewildering and let me muddy this a little further by noting that the key car was the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus introduced in 1979 and built through 1981. As far as I can tell, this car was never available in the USA.
Talbot Sunbeam Lotus
The standard Talbot Sunbeam car was fitted with a 2,172cc Lotus engine with 16 valves, dual overhead camshafts, and two Dellorto carburetors all contributing to developing 150 horsepower. The car weighed only 2,116 pounds which means that the standard car was quite “peppy”. The car had a 5-speed transmission and while disk brakes were fitted on the front wheels, the rear brakes were drum brakes.
The Talbot Sunbeam Lotus initially came with only a black paint color with silver stripes, but later a Limited Edition model was available with a pale blue color and black stripes. All cars came with additional Marchal headlights and double-four spoked alloy wheels.
Two Color Schemes for the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus
The Talbot Sunbeam Lotus was built for rallying. For rallying the standard Lotus engine was tuned to deliver approximately 240 horsepower. The rear brakes were converted from drum to disk brakes.
Tony Pond’s Talbot Sunbeam Retired While Leading the 1979 Scottish Rally
For a couple of years the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus was very successful in the World Rally Championship. In 1979 Tony Pond/Ian Gundrod finished 4th in the Rallye San Remo. In 1980 the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus began to rack up some very good performances on the WRC circuit. Guy Frequelin/Jean Todt finished 3rd in the Rallye do Portugal. At the 1980 Rallye San Remo, Guy Frequelin/Jean Todt finished 4th, while Henri Toivonen/Antero Lindqvist finished 5th. The results at the Lombard RAC Rally were spectacular – Henri Toivonen/Paul White won the rally with Guy Frequelin/Jean Todt finishing 3rd and Russel Brooks/Peter Bryant came in 4th.
Several years ago Craig Hamm of Ottawa, Ontario sent me some photos that he took at David Sutton’s shop in England. A couple of those photos included images of a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus in the livery of the Henri Toivonen/Paul White Lombard RAC Rally winning car.
Talbot Sunbeam Lotus 1980 Lombard RAC Rally Winner
The Talbot Sunbeam Lotus is a rather plain looking car, but it was a great rally performer at the end of the two wheel drive (pre-Audi Quattro) era.
This Talbot Sunbeam Lotus is Owned by David Sutton
Of course Talbot took advantage of the rally success to promote the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus car.
In 1981 Talbot Sunbeam Lotus cars did extremely well finishing 2nd & 5th at Monte Carlo, 2nd in Portugal 2nd in the Tour de Corse, 4th in Acropolis Rally, 1st in Argentina, 2nd in Brazil, 2nd in Rally San Remo, and 3rd in the Lombard RAC Rally. This resulted in Talbot winning the WRC Manufacturers Championship and Guy Frequelin finished 2nd in the WRC Drivers Championship.
After 1981, the Chrysler company apparently lost interest in the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus. In 1982, the car only had one top five finish in the WRC, 5th by Antero Lainel/Risto Viranen in the Rally of 100 Lakes, then effectively disappeared from the WRC scene.
In summary, while not a spectacular looking car, the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus was a good performing car with a brief, but successful WRC career.