Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The Chrysler (as it then was) Sunbeam "hatch window" was introduced in 1977, and was evolved in a hurry from mainly Hillman Avenger components to produce a new model quickly.
Even the British Government came to the party, providing much needed financial assistance. Although the new car was supposed to be a replacement for the Imp, it was actually nearer to the Avenger in size, but retained some Imp features and styling cues. Initially three engines were available: a 930cc Imp unit and 1300 and 1600 Avenger units.
The engine drove the rear wheels through a live axle, but the 95.07 inch (241.5cm) wheelbase was slightly shorter than the Avenger. This rather old world configuration was covered by a good looking two-door body which oncorporated a folding rear seat and above-average load carrying capabilities.
Chrysler decided to revive the Sunbeam name, dormant since 1976, for the new model. Unfortunately this was not in keeping with Chrysler's policy of phasing out the old Rootes names. Consequently it was launched as the "Chrysler Sunbeam". Famous Sunbeams from the past were dusted off to publicize the new model. Unfortunately however the new Sunbeam was not quite as exciting as some of its illustrious forebears.
That changed with the announcement of the 100 bhp (75 kW) TI derivative, which used the 1600 ohv Avenger Tiger engine giving excellent performance. A subsequent arrangement was then made with Lotus to produce a special version of the light-alloy twin overhead cam 16 valve engine. Cubic capacity was increased to 2.2 litres (from the Lotus versions 2.0 litres), by using a longer-throw Vauxhall crankshaft, the exact cubic capacity being 2172cc with 76.2 mm stroke and normal 95 mm cylinder bore.
In its Sunbeam guise the 2.2 litre motor developed maximum power output of 150 bhp DIN (111.85 kW) at 5600 rpm on a compression ratio of 9.44:1. There were twin choke Weber carburetters, and maximum torque was 149.66 lb. ft. (20.7 mkg) at 4500 rpm (more than the 2 litre Lotus), although the top end power was down on the Lotus unit.
To gain the required sporting ratios a 5 speed ZF gearbox was fitted, and using the box energetically road testers of the day could extract 0-60 mph (0-100 km/h approx) in seven seconds, with a top speed of around 125 mph (200 km/h approx). The Sunbeam Lotus weighed 2050 lb (930 kg) at the kerb, and had a modified suspension for the high performance, but suprisingly even for the time the car lacked a limited slip differential. Inside, the Sunbeam Lotus featured an upgraded dashboard, bucket seats and 185/70 HR tyres on 6 inch rims.
The Sunbeam Lotus won the World Rally Championship in 1981 but sadly its life was cut short. Rally success was not sufficient to shift the rapidly aging mass market Talbots. The Linwood plant closed down that year, ending Sunbeam and Avenger production. 10,113 Ti models and 2,308 Lotus models were built. In some markets these cars were called Talbot Simca Sunbeams.