2 TALBOT SUNBEAM-LOTUS (1979-82)
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.