Wolseley 1500

The Sunbeam Rapier’s sporty image and im­pres­sive rally pedi­gree made it the ideal fam­ily sports car. We look at a re­cently re­stored Se­ries IIIA that’s well on the way to be­com­ing one of the best in the coun­try

Classics Monthly - - Contents - WORDS IAIN WAKE­FIELD PHO­TOG­RA­PHY SI­MON COOKE

How this smart lit­tle fam­ily sa­loon was trans­formed into a cher­ished clas­sic.

To many en­thu­si­asts, Sunbeam is one of those long lost cher­ished mar­ques that can trace its roots back to the in­fant years of the UK’s long es­tab­lished mo­tor­ing scene. The name is also syn­ony­mous with nu­mer­ous early world speed record- break­ing bids and Sunbeam went on to suc­cess­fully dom­i­nate the mo­tor­sport scene in the early ‘ Fifties, with fa­mous driv­ers like Sir Stir­ling Moss and the late She­lia van Damm tak­ing top hon­ours in sev­eral in­ter­na­tional ral­lies.

To young­sters grow­ing up in the ‘ Six­ties, spot­ting an Au­dax- style Sunbeam Rapier was al­ways a red let­ter mo­ment and my fa­ther prob­a­bly lost count of how many times he was bad­gered into buy­ing one by his young son! Un­for­tu­nately there never was a Sunbeam Rapier in the Wake­field house­hold but af­ter driv­ing a friend’s Se­ries IIIA Rapier back in my stu­dent days, I was hooked. This sport­ing Sunbeam was the first car I ever drove fit­ted over­drive and from that day on the Rapier has re­mained a firm per­sonal favourite ever since.

CUT­TING EDGE

From the sam­ple im­ages sent in by it's owner, the 1963 Se­ries IIIA Rapier fea­tured in this Reader’s Resto looked ab­so­lutely stun­ning and I was really look­ing for­ward to meet­ing up with the owner to find out more about the car. Glouces­ter based Paul Hughes and his part­ner Sue Kennaby are the Sunbeam’s cur­rent cus­to­di­ans and Paul ex­plained how he orig­i­nally bought the Rapier to use while their other clas­sic was off the road.

“Sue has a Mor­ris Mi­nor Con­vert­ible and as it re­quired a new floor, we de­cided to look around and buy an­other clas­sic to use while the Mi­nor was off the road,” re­called Paul. “We’re both mem­bers of the Cotswold Clas­sic Car Club and one of the mem­bers told us about a Sunbeam Rapier that was for sale in Es­sex. The owner had not long had the car but had un­for­tu­nately suf­fered a stroke, so the Sunbeam was up for sale”.

Paul then went on to ex­plain how he put a new clutch in the Rapier and af­ter sort­ing out a few other jobs the car was re­turned to the road. “This was back in 2016 and at first we only wanted to use the Rapier for the sea­son while the Mi­nor was be­ing re­stored. Although the Rapier drove okay, it had a rather fine patina and was start­ing to show its age”.

Paul then ex­plained how his orig­i­nal in­ten­tion was to have the Sunbeam re­sprayed and sell it on when af­ter the Mi­nor had been re­stored. "The Rapier was booked into the

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