Ask any car-savvy forty-something about Sunbeam and the conversation usually goes one of two ways. If he’s a “glass half-full” kinda bloke then he’ll probably get all misty-eyed about the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, the iconic RWD hot hatch fettled by the F1 boffins at Hethel. This 150bhp pocket-rocket might have been more angular than a Lego Sophie Ellis-Bexter minifigure but it was, interestingly, the last non 4WD car to win the Lombard RAC rally in 1980. Or he might remember the stylish Rapier, the V8 Tiger or the original Alpine roadster that cameo’d in Dr. No. This is the positive kind of chap I’d happily have over for Port and fondue of an evening.

However, if the gentleman in question is of a more “half-empty” disposition then, chances are, he’ll have a good ol’ moan about the criminally staid offerings the Rootes Group nailed together in the ‘70s; cars that eventually lead to the company, including the Talbot-Sunbeam brand, going bust and being sold off to Peugeot. Now you can say what you like about the French, but even they can spot a pup when they see one (although to be fair, since half their strays usually have rabies, they do have a heightened awareness about such things).

As part of this automotive yard sale Pug’s top brass were lumbered with some real dogs; stuff like the horrid Hillman Hunter (which the French quickly off-loaded to Iran for its taxi fleets), the soulless Solara and the Tagora exec’ saloon (remember them? I thought not). Over the next decade PSA slowly started to pick over the bones of this once great marque – but the pickings were slim.

Anyhow, we at MotorPunk thought we’d take a look back at this almost forgotten marque and remind ourselves of some of the best, and worst, production cars ever to bear that famous Talbot-Sunbeam nameplate. Be aware that some of these designs are so bland that they might make you drowsy. Please avoid driving or operating heavy machinery immediately afterwards. Thank you.

Best 5

1. Sunbeam Talbot Lotus. 2.2-litre RWD lunacy when all the sane people were buying Golf GTIs.

2. Sunbeam Rapier Works rally car of 1958. First in class at the Monte Carlo and overall winner in RAC rally that year. The Mini’s launch in ’59 didn’t help things later on.

3. Sunbeam Alpine Series II. Rented by the studio for Bond’s car chase scene in Dr. No, this stylish roadster was a quirky alternative to the ubiquitous MGB.

4. Sunbeam Tiger V8. The svelte little Alpine was given real muscle by Carroll Shelby from 1964 until 1967 using a 4.3-litre Ford engine. Two Tigers were even entered in the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans.

5. The Sunbeam 1000HP ‘Slug’. What’s not love about this 44.8 litre, twin V12 powered, 203mph Land Speed Record holder from 1927.

 

Worst 5

1. Talbot Arizona (AKA Peugeot 309). The last car that the British Rootes workers ever spannered. For those that missed the point of the 205’s compact brilliance.

2. Talbot Tagora. Perhaps the Rootes Groups greatest ever flop. An executive express more boring than a vegan barbeque.

3. Talbot Alpine. Not a speck of DNA carried over from the ‘60s roadsters. Just a dreary saloon which hoped the name might fool some into thinking it had some character.

4. Talbot Avenger. A last hurrah for the rebadged Hillman … but nobody actually cheered.

5. Talbot Samba. Basically, a hastily rebadged Pug 104 shopping cart; the last ever to bear the Talbot moniker (Note: We are quite fickle; it could be promoted into the ‘Best’ if in Samba Rallye spec’)

 

What would we have then? Well it has to be a Tiger, although I wouldn’t turn my nose up to a lovely little Alpine neither. Want to know more? Get the full low down here:

Dr.O

About The Author

Dr.Octane

Dr Darryl Octane can usually be found up to his elbows in some unloved piece of BL detritus when he isn’t snapping and scribbling for various print magazines, including Modern MINI, PPC and MOG Mag, or contributing to the occasional book on sports cars. As a professional Trophy Husband, under-worked layabout and occasional presenter on XCAR’s YouTube channel Dr O’s other hobbies include vintage Scalextrics, ‘60s Bang & Olufsen and dicing with the back markers when road rallying his classic Mini and Midget.

4 Responses

  1. Mark M

    Dr O. The Tagora was so forgettable that you managed to post a picture of the Solara instead… The Alpine apparently went on to become some sort of Russian luxury car. God bless socialism.

    Reply
    • Rich Duisberg
      Rich Duisberg

      I’m not sure if we should be impressed with your level of Solara geekery, but thanks for the correction!

      Reply
  2. Mark James

    As the previous owner of a Talbot Tagora, I can tell the author has never driven or possibly even seen one of these cars. Compared to the contemporary competition such as the Granada, Carlton, Volvo 200, BMW 5 series and Audi 100 it wasn’t actually half bad; it had an unusually bright and airy interior with a hint of French modernism and handled tidily. The styling was certainly more interesting than the above at that time.
    The Peugeot 309 was a brilliant fun car to drive with fluid handling and a pliant ride.
    Going back to cars actually called Sunbeams, how could you ignore the Stiletto, the Imp based coupé with its quick steering and characterful if unreliable engine; arguably the first car with split folding rear seats. Going back to Talbot badged cars, why not include the Murena, built by Matra?

    Reply
    • Rich Duisberg
      Rich Duisberg

      Thanks for the comment. We’ve previously featured the Murena, and also the Imp, on MotorPunk and are big fans.

      Reply

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