Sunbeam Rapier H120
Debunking the most common old wives’ tales ‘H’ IS FOR HIGH PERFORMANCE
Nope – the ‘H’ actually refers to Holbay, the race engine tuning company that worked over the Sunbeam’s standard 1725cc engine to coax 110bhp from it. This was a hefty power boost over the standard car’s 76bhp; it was achieved with twin Weber carburettors, a higher final drive ratio, modified exhaust porting and a bespoke camshaft. The ‘120’ part of the name refers to the prototype, which was supposed to achieve 120mph from a one-off 120bhp engine. This proved too volatile for a production model, but the aspiration lingered on in the name.
IT WAS INSPIRED BY A US MUSCLE CAR
The Rapier was the sporty fastback derivative of the Arrow series – a four-seater coupé with pillarless side windows. Some claim that it was inspired by the Plymouth Barracuda, but stylist Roy Axe always denied this. It shared its mechanical package with the Hillman Hunter, using the longer Hunter estate wheelbase. The H120 was based on the personal ‘hot rod’ belonging to Tony Stevens, product planning manager for the range, codenamed ‘Arrow’. His plan was to build 1000 bright orange cars, but it was made part of the standard line-up until the Rapier was axed in 1976.
ORANGE THE ONLY COLOUR
Once the H120 became a permanent fixture, Roots offered other colours, including lime green and bright yellow. There were, however, several features unique to the H120. These included a boot lid panel whose pressed profile incorporated a subtle spoiler, Rostyle wheels, a matt black grille, wide side stripes and stainless steel sill covers. It was rapid rather than fast, with 0-60mph taking just over 11sec and hitting a 106mph top speed.