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
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.
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