Spotted: Talbot Sunbeam Lotus

Jeremy Clarkson is to blame for this one. Since his 2001 Christmas DVD Top 100 Cars named the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus his 55th best car ever, the car has totally beguiled me.

A RWD hot hatch? Where do we sign!
A RWD hot hatch? Where do we sign!
Having known nothing about its rally exploits at the time, the Sunbeam was being considered only as a road car. And in 2001, the hot hatch revolution that now proffers an Astra with as much power as a Honda NSX was very much still nascent. Yes, there was the first-gen Clio 172 and original Honda Civic Type R, but the opposition was poor in the context of today's market.

Then there was the Sunbeam. The styling may have been criminally staid but it could still show cars 20 years its junior a clean set of heels. Looking at the basic stats it isn't hard to see why; the 2.2-litre Lotus Twin Cam engine made just over 150hp had to push along just 960kg.

The claimed 0-60mph times were around seven seconds, which made it rapid on launch, at the turn of the millennium and, despite the advent of hatches like the Audi RS3, still fairly quick now.

Time to pounce on an undervalued classic?
Time to pounce on an undervalued classic?
The off-the-mark performance was aided by the Sunbeam's party piece; it was rear wheel-drive. The whole project had stemmed from Chrysler's determination to beat Ford in rallying and, though the final Sunbeam was a Talbot after Chrysler UK was sold, the concept remained intact. Just as the Golf GTI was showing front wheel-drive hatches could also be fast, this little renegade was going even quicker, and maybe just a little sideways...

Of course, it was the iconic VW that went on to be the genre-defining hatch (and be found much higher up Clarkson's list), but the rallying justification behind the Sunbeam's inception paid off; it was the last car without 4WD to win the RAC rally, in 1982.

If all that makes you want a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus like I do, it seems unlikely you'll find a better example than this 1983 car. Part of the last 150, it was intended to be retrimmed and resprayed as a run-out 'Avon' special, but only 56 of those cars were ever made.

So it's 'just' a regular Moonstone Blue car, but one that's only covered 26,000 miles under a single owner in 30 years. Taken off the road just four years after the original purchase, a full restoration was recently commissioned by the selling dealer to restore its former glory. Details are scarce in the advert, but the pictures imply this is an almost showroom-fresh Lotus.

One-owner car, fully restored and priced accordingly
One-owner car, fully restored and priced accordingly
And if £20,000 seems a tad strong, consider the current values of other 80s road cars with stage success. This Ford Escort RS2000 has covered even fewer miles than the Sunbeam, but is unrestored. It is currently up at £45,000. This rare Audi Quattro MB has been subject to a mechanical refresh, but it's £4,000 more than the Lotus and has covered more than 100,000 miles!

Alright, it's not quite as revered as those two rally legends, but the very fact it isn't lends the Lotus a quirky appeal. It's an engineering oddball in the best sense, and looks great fun to boot.


2170cc, four-cylinder
Transmission: Five-speed manual, RWD
Power (hp): 152@5,750rpm
Torque (lb ft): 150@4,500rpm
MPG: 19
CO2: N/A
Recorded mileage: 26,000
First registered: 08/03/1983
Price new: £6,995
Yours for: £19,980

See the original advert here

And if you want to learn more about the car you do worse than have a look at the very authoritative Sunbeam Lotus Owners Club website. Or watch this video of Henri Toivonen putting it through its paces...





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Comments (105) Join the discussion on the forum

  • GranCab 13 Nov 2012

    I've always liked these - many, many moons ago when I was the proud owner of a new red Escort XR3 (RRA 25X) I pulled up alongside a black/silver Lotus Sunbeam at a set of lights and had the good sense not to bother trying to drag race it ...

  • arfur 13 Nov 2012

    At 18 years old (a long time ago), I tried to insure one of these for myself

    I was laughed at frown

    So I bought an Uno Turbo instead ...

    Bah !

  • Sexual Chocolate 13 Nov 2012

    Ah the powers of PH. Car is sold!

  • Twoshoe 13 Nov 2012

    Launched "at the turn of the millenium"...???

  • kambites 13 Nov 2012

    Certainly the most entertaining hot hatch that I've ever driven, but I wouldn't pay that for one! smile

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