Chrysler Sunbeam

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Chrysler Europe
Chrysler Sunbeam
Chrysler Sunbeam
Production period: 1977-1981
Class : Compact class
Body versions : Station wagon
Petrol engines : 0.9–2.2 liters
(31–110 kW)
Length: 3829 mm
Width: 1603 mm
Height: 1395 mm
Wheelbase : 2413 mm
Empty weight : 825-930 kg
Previous model Hillman Imp
successor Talbot Samba

The Chrysler Sunbeam was a passenger car produced by the automobile manufacturer Chrysler in Great Britain from mid-1977 to spring 1981 . After the European Chrysler branches were taken over by the PSA group, the car was sold as the Talbot Sunbeam . A version of the car called the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus was successful in motorsport.


In 1976, the British subsidiary of the Chrysler group developed a new vehicle with the support of the British government to replace the Hillman Imp , which was barely for sale , which was never as successful as planned and was a major loss maker due to quality defects and the now outdated rear engine concept.

The decision in favor of production of the Sunbeam was mainly due to political reasons that had a specifically British background: Because numerous components produced in Great Britain were used for the Talbot Sunbeam and the future of the Rootes plant in Linwood after the end of the Hillman Imp was uncertain, the Sunbeam ensured the continued production of these parts and the Linwood plant for several years, thus helping to maintain British jobs. That is why there was also generous financial support for the project from the British government, which covered a significant part of the development costs, with the requirement that the new small car be completed within 18 months.

The car, known internally as the R 424 project, was developed extremely quickly. Barely a year and a half passed from the start of development work to the start of production in the summer of 1977. In view of the tight time frame and tight budget, the company had little leeway for new developments. The requirement for the development team was therefore to use as many existing parts from models from the Rootes group as possible. In fact, the R 424 was a shortened Hillman Avenger with a hatchback. The Avenger was a lower mid-range sedan produced in Great Britain since 1970. Chrysler used the Avenger platform for the R 424 . This meant that the Sunbeam got rear-wheel drive , unlike what is common in small cars . The engines, the gearbox, the body up to the B-pillar and numerous add-on parts such as headlights or dashboard were taken over from the Avenger.

The R 424 was designed by Roy Ax, a long-time Rootes designer. The body was designed as a two-door hatchback sedan. The lines were sleek and contemporary and, when roughly viewed, showed similarities with the Talbot Horizon presented a little later . The - comparatively large - rear window, which could be folded up, served as the tailgate. The headlights came (at least initially) from the Avenger, the taillights from the Simca 1307 , which was sold in Great Britain as Chrysler Alpine.


When the vehicle was presented to the public in July 1977, it was named Chrysler Sunbeam . Chrysler fell back on a traditional, well-established name that could arouse sporting associations. However, the choice of the name was not without problems: Sunbeam had previously been a brand belonging to the Rootes Group (and thus to Chrysler), under which vehicles had been sold until 1976 (most recently the Sunbeam Rapier , a sporty version of the Hillman Hunter ) . The name Chrysler Sunbeam meant a degradation of the name Sunbeam from its own brand to a mere model name.

Talbot Sunbeam (1979–1981)

As Chrysler found itself in a severe financial crisis in 1978, Chrysler Europe was sold to Peugeot , who introduced a new name. The choice fell on the name Talbot , which belonged to Simca and had not been used since the last Talbot-Lago in 1959. The car was sold as the Talbot Sunbeam from 1979 .

Although its predecessor, the Hillman Imp , was out of date and no longer sold well, the Sunbeam was also a vehicle with an outdated concept. Although it had a modern hatchback, it still had a rigid, driven rear axle.

Chrysler Europe offered a modern front-wheel drive car with the Simca 1307 (Chrysler Alpine) and the Chrysler-Simca Horizon , a five-door compact car with front-wheel drive, was imminent.

Model history

The vehicle was offered with three different engines : the smallest unit with 930 cm³ was taken over from the Imp and the larger engines with 1300 or 1600 cm³ from the Avenger. In terms of size, the vehicle corresponded to the newer small cars such as Ford Fiesta , Renault 5 and VW Polo .

The British press was mostly very friendly with the new model when it was introduced. The vehicle has been referred to as a "Last Chance Saloon" (MOTOR Magazine), but as a "transitional model it will help Chrysler survive the next five years".

In October 1979 two new variants came onto the market:

  • The first model was the Ti 1600 , which got an upgraded Avenger machine that developed 100 hp (74 kW) at 1600 cm³.
  • The second model was much sportier and got a 2.2-liter engine with 150 hp (110 kW) developed by Lotus . The Talbot Sunbeam-Lotus won the 1981 World Rally Championship, but the Sunbeam only had a short life. The world title was not a sufficient argument for those responsible at PSA to keep production of the Sunbeam.

The Linwood plant closed in April 1981, ending Sunbeam and Avenger production. A total of 10,113 Ti models and 2,308 Lotus models were produced. In some countries these cars were called Talbot Simca Sunbeam.

The successor was the Talbot Samba in late autumn 1981 , which was no longer built in Scotland but in France.


Type Construction period Cylinder / valve control Displacement power
930 1977-1981 4 / ohc 928 cc 42–45 hp (31–33 kW)
1300 1977-1981 4 / ohv 1295 cc 54–59 hp (40–43 kW)
1600 1977-1981 4 / ohv 1598 cc 80 hp (59 kW)
1600Ti 1979-1981 4 / ohv 1598 cc 100 hp (74 kW)
Lotus 16V 1979-1981 4 / ohc 2174 cc 150 hp (110 kW)

Talbot Sunbeam Lotus

Talbot Sunbeam Lotus (1979–1981)
The Sunbeam Lotus in action as a rally vehicle

The Sunbeam Lotus was initially intended for competition purposes modification of the Sunbeam, which came to a limited series production. The foundation stone for the project was laid by Chrysler; But after taking over Chrysler's European plants, Peugeot stuck to the idea. The car was equipped with a 2.2 liter four-cylinder Lotus engine . Lotus had developed a cylinder head with 16 valves for the model. Together with a few other changes, the result was an output of 150 hp (110 kW). A special feature was a five-speed transmission from ZF , which was not available for any other Sunbeam model.

The production process was cumbersome. Basically, it was series production vehicles that were subsequently revised by Lotus. The starting model was a Sunbeam 1.6 GLS, which - apart from a tighter suspension - was equipped as standard. The vehicles were individually transferred to Lotus, where their own engine and five-speed gearbox were installed. Finally, the cars were returned to Chrysler for the finishing touches.

The performance of the car was impressive. The magazine Motor determined an acceleration from 0 to 96 km / h in 6.8 seconds, and an acceleration from 0 to 160 km / h was measured in just 19.8 seconds. The driving performance and the sporty driving behavior were praised: "If you want pure performance and are willing to make compromises in other areas, then there is little else that we can recommend for the same price" (Autocar, October 1979).

The Talbot Sunbeam Lotus was successful in rallying. Talbot maintained a factory rally team in 1980 and 1981 that used several Sunbeam Lotus. Henri Toivonen , Guy Fréquelin and Stig Blomqvist won the 1981 World Rally Championship for Talbot.

The Sunbeam Lotus are sought-after youngtimers today, for which high prices are paid.

Web links

Commons : Chrysler Sunbeam  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Heise Autos: Chrysler Sunbeam: The one from the blended family. Retrieved March 7, 2019 .