In the early 80’s appeared a car that smashed the World Rally Championship. Just before the outbreak of the monstrous group B cars, the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus broke all odds by defeating the great masters of the Golden Era of rallying, the Fiat 131 Abarth and Ford Escort RS 1800.
The origin of the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus is a result of the crisis that affected the European division of Chrysler in the 70s. To avoid closing, the British government provided a grant to produce a new car in the Scottish factory to save the company from bankruptcy in 1975.
Thus, in just 19 months, was released the Chrysler Sunbeam. A compact three-door model with a modern and attractive line that was well received by critics. Despite its popularity Sunbeam suffered from certain shortcomings, one of their biggest problems was the lack of supply of alternative bodies, for example, a five-door.
The Sunbeam had good sales in the UK market, but despite this, Chrysler Europe was still in a precarious situation, which led to its sale to the French group PSA on 1st January 1979. Among other things, this led to the models manufactured by Chrysler to be renamed as Talbot from 1 August 1979.
But the best thing Chrysler did, is that commissioned the sports car manufacturer and engineering company Lotus to develop a strict rally version of the Sunbeam to compete in the World Rally Cahmpionship. The resulting Sunbeam Lotus was based on the Sunbeam 1.6 GLS, but only in appearance. It was fitted with stiffer suspension, a larger anti-roll bar and a larger transmission tunnel.
The Sunbeam Lotus was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in April 1979, but the road-going version of the rally car was not actually 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 drivetrain comprised an enlarged 2172 cc version of the Lotus 1973 cc 907 engine, a 16V slant four engine, along with a ZF gearbox, both 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 Lotus type 911 engine produced 152hp 5,750rpm and 203 Nm of torque at 4,500rpm.
The rally version was not ready until after the change of name and renamed Talbot Sunbeam Lotus. Racing car development continued reaching an output of 250 hp at 7,800 rpm. The front suspension was independent, McPherson type, and the rear axle with double springs, and ventilated front brake discs. The gearbox was a five-speed ZF with the first back, having a 70% limited slip differential to the rear wheels. The car was so agile and had a very good torque at low rpm, being perfect for english rallyes.
he car had a lot of success in the World Rally Championship. In this sense, in 1980, Henri Toivonen won the 29th Lombard RAC Rally, with other 2 cars in top 4. But the great success was in 1981, when the Sunbeam Lotus brought the entire manufacturer’s championship to Talbot. The car, aslo won the Spanish National Rally Championship (Nacional de Rallyes) in 1982 with Antonio Zanini. Despite its short life, the car was an amazing success, winning the WRC and “Nacional de Rallyes” in only 4 years.