Myth Buster

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - Giles Chap­man

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.


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.


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.

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