Put a Sunbeam in your life

December 26, 2010

When I bought a Chrysler Sunbeam (1977-1982) in September 1979 I never expected I would still own one over 30 years later. At the time of purchase I also never expected I’d be returning to the dealer 2 months later to have the badges changed from “Chrysler” to “Talbot” when Chrysler UK was abandoned by struggling Chrysler USA and taken over by the French !! (Wasn’t Chrysler USA in a similar predicament recently when they were bailed out by Fiat ?) Anyway I loved the cars and over the years most variants passed through my hands apart from the 2.2 litre Lotus engined one. Ironically although only 2308 of those road-going Rally cars were made, survivors of them must now outnumber the more mundane 930cc, 1300cc and 1600cc models in LS,GLS or Ti guise that I used and enjoyed as second cars when they went through their “cheap as chips” phase. That is something that once happened to all cars when they were old enough to be “bangers” but not old enough to be “classics”. Rules/regulations/running costs preclude me from taxing and insuring more than one car at a time these days….

The Chrysler (later Talbot) Sunbeam history is not to be confused with Sunbeam Talbot cars from the 1950s and earlier. The car I owned was pretty much a Chrysler Avenger floorpan fitted with a (for the time) modern hatchback body. The Hillman Imp derived 930cc engines were underpowered and made the car tedious to drive with much gear-changing required on hills or on the rare time you may have foolhardily attempted to overtake an even slower vehicle on a motorway. The 1300cc powered vehicles were perfectly useable on the motorways of the time however and I covered 125,000 reliable miles in mine throughout the 1980s.

Although my “classic car” was by then an Opel Monza I couldn’t resist buying a low mileage 1980 Talbot Sunbeam 1.3 GLS Auto about 10 years ago. I drove it to the petrol station to fill it with 4* and then on to the garage for a fresh MOT. I’m ashamed to say it hasn’t moved since. Other projects and hobbies have taken what spare time I have. Today I opened the bonnet and was relieved to find that despite the recent -14 degree temperatures the antifreeze was still working. I stuck in another litre of neat antifreeze just to make sure. In the spring I might try to re-commission this vehicle although I must at all costs resist a sudden overwhelming urge to own a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus ………..

The car cover was frozen stiff so I haven’t taken a photo of my car. Instead here is a pic of a Sunbeam similar to mine apparently residing in the Glasgow Museum of Transport. The cars were originally manufactured in Linwood (Scotland’s only car factory). The car in the photo is a Mark 1. Mine is a Mark 2. Mark 2 models had larger, flush headlights which is useful info only for Train-spotters. Actually I can’t recall the last time I saw a Sunbeam being driven on the road, or a Viva, or a Mk 3 Cortina, or any vehicle from the 1980s or earlier for that matter ……

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