2 TAL­BOT SUN­BEAM-LOTUS (1979-82)

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Classic Car Tours -

WHY IT’S HERE Chrysler wanted a se­ri­ous rally chal­lenger to RS Es­corts and HS Chevettes

Here’s a car with proper ral­ly­ing pedi­gree, that won the World Rally Cham­pi­onship in 1981, and the year be­fore be­came the last rear-wheel drive car to win the RAC Rally. The credit for mak­ing it hap­pen goes to Chrysler’s Com­pe­ti­tion Man­ager, Des O’Dell, a long-time rally en­thu­si­ast. He knew the Sun­beam was a good enough start­ing point, but Chrysler didn’t have an en­gine up to the job of pow­er­ing a real con­tender. Lotus did though: the 2.2-litre twin-cam it had re­cently stopped sup­ply­ing for the Jensen Healey.

A deal was done in Nor­folk, and not just for en­gines. Lotus also helped out with set­ting up the sus­pen­sion and de­sign­ing the ex­haust, then mod­i­fied all the body shells to take the en­gine and nec­es­sar­ily large ra­di­a­tor. It was quickly out there win­ning, usu­ally in the hands of Henri Toivo­nen, who found the rally ver­sion’s 234bhp plenty for see­ing off Fords and Vaux­halls.

The street ver­sion kicked pretty hard too, a gen­uine back­roads blaster with hair-trig­ger throt­tle re­sponse and more than enough power to break the tail loose on de­mand. Tal­bot built 2308 – quite a lot com­pared with other cars here – but ended up strug­gling to sell them all. It was prob­a­bly too fo­cused (and dear) to be a daily driver.

In­te­ri­ors built for pur­pose rather than pam­per­ing.

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