Talbot Lotus Sunbeam
Mk 1 & 2 Escorts, RS Turbo, Honda Integra, Astra GTE,
I rallied Escorts in my late teens and early twenties, so after marriage and a family I wanted to get oil under my fingernails again. I looked at Escorts as I knew my way round them, but then a friend at work gave me an advert from our local evening paper: ‘Lotus Sunbeam for sale - stripped but complete - £500’. The rest is history!
What I wish I’d known:
I knew nothing about the Lotus Sunbeam itself other than its success in international rallying, so I set to and re-assembled the car, replacing any parts I could. I got the engine rebuilt by a local guy I'd known for years then went in search for a new paint job. Big mistake! As I'd never done this before I should have taken the stripped-out shell to the paint shop first and had it totally restored before assembling the car. Joining the owners' club was the best thing I did - the help and advice they provided in those early years was priceless. A million thanks to them.
Things I love:
I love taking the car to work or just out for a spin - most people just stare as they haven't got a clue! Travelling round on motorways, you get cars full of young guys taking photos, or kids taking pictures because their Dad knows exactly what it is. But in the paddock at hillclimbs or sprints, that's when you get swamped. I can't stop talking about it to people! I love owning the car, and I love driving the car - the smell, the noise... I’ll never sell it.
I hate the perfectionists who comment about the grill badge not being right or the interior being wrong - this is my car and I love her as she is so get over it. I've never shown the car and never will. I don't care what anyone else thinks of her. It's usually the only one at club meetings with marked tow points and BARC badges. Then there’s my top cam cover – it will not stop leaking, no matter what fancy sealant I use or how extra careful I am fitting yet another cam cover gasket. I get some funny looks from people about the kitchen roll packed round the spark plugs!
I'm lucky that the cost of running the car isn't an issue; even my wife Anne is very understanding. I run high octane fuel in the car and good quality oil, and I get most of my parts from the owners club parts guy. I find his prices very reasonable. If there’s anything serious, I go and see Simon at Quicksale Sports & Performance in Ferryhill, who knows the car well as I get it MOT'd there. He is into his classic cars and gave me the name of a better insurance company (thanks, bud!)
After watching a pal speed-hillclimb his TVR, I thought ‘I could do that in the Lotus’. So I to that end, I set to improving the suspension and brakes. What a brilliant form of motorsport! After the first season I had the bug - all the promises I’d made to myself and my wife went out the window – I needed more power! I hillclimbed and sprinted the Lotus for four years, and only stopped because I had a couple of costly incidents which made me realise that one day it could end up being terminal. She's never been de-tuned, and it makes the summer days out even better!
After two hurried bodywork repairs between events, which were good but not perfect, the car is now going back to the restorers early 2013 to have new front wings and a front panel fitted, which will make it pristine again. I'll never sell the car, which is why I want to keep it perfect for as long as possible - I have so many used parts in the attic that they'll all end up on my bed one of these nights! Not only that, but my son Tom would probably kill me if I did - he can't wait to take the keys off me... for good!