The Chrysler Sunbeam was one to the spring of 1981 produced by mid-1977 in the UK passenger cars of the automobile manufacturer Chrysler. After the takeover of Chrysler Europe Branches by the PSA Group, the car was sold as a Talbot Sunbeam. An entity known as the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus version of the car was successful in motorsport.
In 1976, the British branch of the Chrysler Group with support from the British government a new vehicle to replace the outdated and hardly salable Hillman Imp.
The internally known as Project R 424 car was developed extraordinarily quickly. From the start of development work to start production in the summer of 1977 passed almost one and a half years. Given the tight time frame and the tight budget the company remained little scope for major redevelopment. The stated requirement to the development team was therefore to use so many familiar parts of the Rootes Group as possible. In fact, the R was 424 closely related in many ways to the Hillman Avenger, one produced in the UK since 1970 compact sedan. The R 424 used the entire platform of the Avenger, the – had experienced no changes – apart from a reduction of 10 centimeters. This meant that the Sunbeam, unlike small cars usual, got rear wheel drive. The engines, transmission and countless parts such as headlights or dashboard were the Avenger taken. Among the French Simca models that belonged to the Chrysler Group also contrast was no technical relationship.
The design of the R 424 was from Roy Axe, a longtime Rootes designer. The body was designed as a two-door hatchback sedan. The lines were smooth and timely and showed for gross consideration of some similarities with the presented later Talbot Horizon, without, however, to be related with this model. When the tailgate was the – relatively small – rear window that could be folded up. The headlights came (at least initially) by the Avenger, the rear lights from the Simca 1307, which was sold in the UK as Chrysler Alpine. The largest value of the design was by matching assessment of the press is to have the use of these parts fairly well concealed.
When the vehicle was introduced to the public in July 1977, it was called the Chrysler Sunbeam. Chrysler attacked so back to a traditional, well-established name that was quite capable to awaken sporting associations. However, the choice of name was not without problems: Sunbeam has so far been an independent, if the Rootes Group (and thus Chrysler) owned brand that was sold to 1976 vehicles under its own name (Most recently the Sunbeam Rapier, a sporty modified version of the Hillman Hunter). Now, if the R 424, the name Chrysler Sunbeam was, this meant a degradation of the name Sunbeam of its own brand to a mere model designation. This careless handling of the Chrysler management with traditions was included in the British public is not without criticism.
Similarly unhappy was a mid-1979 fully coated name change. Since Chrysler was in 1978 in a severe financial crisis, the European divisions were sold to Peugeot. Peugeot needed a new name for his new acquisition. The choice fell on the name "Talbot", which was unused since the last Talbot-Lago in 1959. So was "Chrysler" by "Talbot" replaced, the car was sold from then on as a Talbot Sunbeam – what of Marketing professionals was greeted with head shaking, as Talbot cars had traditionally belonged to the luxury class.
On an objective view, the development of the Sunbeam however, was superfluous. While was the predecessor, the Hillman Imp, outdated and no longer sold well, but also the Sunbeam was a vehicle with Recon concept. In fact, Chrysler Europe possessed with the Simca 1307 a modern car with a contemporary layout and current drive technology. In addition was the introduction of the Chrysler Simca Horizon, a five-door compact car with front wheel drive, imminent.
If however the decision was made in favor of a production of the Sunbeam, this had mainly political reasons which had a specifically British background. Thus, the Talbot Sunbeam namely used many produced in the UK components, he secured the continuation of the production of these parts for a few years, contributing to the preservation of British jobs. Against this background also explains the generous financial Support of the project by the British government, which took over a significant portion of the development costs.
The vehicle with three different engines available: the smallest unit was ³ 930 cm taken from the Imp and the larger engines with 1300 and 1600cc from Avenger. In terms of size, the vehicle met the newer small cars like Ford Fiesta, Renault 5 and Volkswagen Polo.
The British press went when it was unveiled mostly quite friendly with the new model has to offer. The vehicle was indeed called (MOTOR Magazine) as "Last Chance Saloon", but as "transition model it will help Chrysler to survive the next five years."
In October 1979, two new versions came on the market:
The plant in Linwood closed in April 1981 and thus ended the Sunbeam and Avenger production. A total of 10,113 Ti models and 2,308 Lotus models were produced. In some countries these cars Simca Sunbeam Talbot were called.
Was succeeded in late autumn 1981, the Talbot Samba, which was built but not in Scotland but in France.
The Sunbeam Lotus was initially intended for competition purposes variation of the Sunbeam, which was a limited series production. The foundation stone for the project was still determined by Chrysler; Peugeot but held fast to the idea after the acquisition of the European Chrysler-works. The car was equipped with an enlarged 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine from Lotus. Lotus had developed a cylinder head with 16 valves for the model. Along with some other changes resulted in an output of 150hp (110 kW). A special feature was a five-speed transmission from ZF, which was available for any other Sunbeam model.
The production process was cumbersome. Basically, it was vehicles of serial production, which were revised subsequently at Lotus. Initial model was a Sunbeam 1.6 GLS, each of which – came as standard – apart from a tighter suspension. The vehicles were individually transferred to Lotus, where the own engine and five-speed gearbox has been installed. Finally, the cars were transported back to Chrysler to there recent To obtain fine-tuning.
The performance of the car were impressive. The journal engine detected an acceleration from 0 to 96km/h in 6.8 seconds and accelerate from 0 to 160km/h time of just 19.8 seconds was measured. The performance and the sporty driving behavior were praised: "If you want pure performance and are willing to take on other areas of compromise, then there is little else that we can recommend for the same price" (Autocar October 1979).
The Talbot Sunbeam Lotus was successful in rallying. Talbot maintained in 1980 and 1981, a rally works team, the mobilization of several Sunbeam Lotus. Henri Toivonen, Guy Fréquelin Stig Blomqvist and won the 1981 World Rally Championship for Talbot.
The Sunbeam Lotus are now sought-after classic cars that fetch high prices.