Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Talbot Sunbeam Lotus (1979-1981)

Published: 19th Sep 2012 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Talbot Sunbeam Lotus (1979-1981)

Fast Facts

  • Engine: 2172cc/4-cyl
  • Power (bhp/rpm): 150/5750
  • Torque (lb ft@rpm): 150/4500
  • Top speed: 122mph
  • 0-60mph: 7.3sec
  • Fuel consumption: 17.4mpg
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
  • Length: 12ft 7in (3.83m)
  • Width (inc mirrors): 5ft 3in (1.60m)
  • Weight: 2166lb (982kg)
  • Clubs:
  • Websites: Sunbeam Lotus Owners’ Club. 01525 840 331,
    Little Bit Sideways,
Magazine Subscription
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

If you’re after a hot hatch that’s a break from the norm, a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus could be just the ticket. While everyone else building hot hatches was feeding the power to the front wheels, Talbot was busy doing the right thing by sending it to the back – and the car is much more fun to drive as a result. It’s a tough machine too which is why the Sunbeam Lotus has an enviable competition history; it took part in international rallying between 1979 and 1982, winning the World Rally Championship in 1981 and the Lombard RAC Rally in 1980. And now, the market is latching onto just what a bargain – and what a great car – the Sunbeam Lotus is.

What to look for

An unkempt Sunbeam will have rubbish bodywork, with plenty of scope for major, costly work to be needed. That’s why you need to check the bodywork for corrosion as well as accident damage; these cars used to be bought so they could be thrashed mercilessly – although they tend to lead easier lives nowadays. The key corrosion spots are the sills, rear wheelarches, rear quarter panels, front wings, windscreen surround and spare wheel well. Original panels are very hard to source and while repro panels are generally available, they’re costly.

However it’s the engine that could end up breaking you; rebuilds are very costly. All the usual checks apply, so look for a smokey exhaust, water and oil leaks plus low oil pressure. Also ensure the cam belt and tensioner have been replaced recently; if in doubt, do it immediately. Transmissions are very strong, but when cold it can be tricky getting second gear; when warm though, changes should be smooth and crunch-free. Really harddriven cars with major engine upgrades have been known to suffer from cracks in the front chassis members, just to the rear of the anti-roll bar mounts. Such cracks are serious – so make sure you don’t miss them if they’re hidden by underseal. Welding plates over the cracks can solve the problem, but the whole crossmember may need replacing; either way, a lot of dismantling is necessary.


For a given condition, values are the same for all derivatives – except those with works racing history, which are wor th big money. Most good cars are £6000-8000, and while cars are priced from £4000, at this level you’ll be taking on a liability. At the other end of the scale, the best road cars have changed hands for up to £15,000 – but cars at this level are few and far between. Before buying, make sure you contact the owners’ club; there are some fakes around, built around a non-Sunbeam Lotus bodyshell.

Driving one

It’s because of the driving experience that you want a Sunbeam-Lotus. With that free-revving twin-cam four in the nose, sucking through a pair of Dell’Orto DHLA45s, there’s grunt aplenty. The real attraction is that this power is directed to the back, so there’s no torque steer, but plenty of oppor tunities for oversteer when the going gets greasy. As soon as you fi re up the twin-cam ‘four’ you can tell this is something special, with its urgent beat that reverberates throughout the car. Prod the loud pedal and there’s an instant response, with the powerplant offering an addictive, linear spread of torque as soon as you get past 2500rpm. The gearbox features a dog-leg fi rst, with a long-throw lever that seems at odds with the car’s purpose – but you soon warm to it. It’s not as though you’ve got to row the car along on the gears anyway, although the engine does invite regular forays towards the red line. It really is a modern Lotus Cortina but faster – and much cheaper,


Apr 1979:

The Talbot Sunbeam Ti debuts, featuring a 100bhp 1.6-litre engine with twin DCOE Webers. It looked the part with its alloy wheels, striped paintwork and spoilers, but Talbot’s competitions manager Des O’Dell knew it was never going to win any prizes in international rallying; something more serious was needed.

Jul 1979:

The Talbot Sunbeam-Lotus arrives, available in black only and with 2.2-litre Lotus twin-cam engine giving a reliable 230bhp for competition use or 155bhp in road trim.

Jan 1981:

The series 2 model appears, with larger headlamps, a fresh grille, tinted glass and a larger fuel tank.

May 1981:

Production ends, Lotus claiming to have built 2298 examples; Talbot claimed an extra 10 were produced, probably due to pre-production and works rally car builds completed by Talbot.

Jan 1983:

There are still lots of unsold cars, so 58 are retrimmed and repainted by Avon Coachworks as a special edition Avon model. These are then sold through a Nuneaton-based Talbot dealer, at reduced prices.

Share This Article

Share with Facebook Share with Facebook

Share with Twitter Tweet this article

Share bookmark with Delicious Share bookmark with Delicious

Share with Digg Digg this article

Share with Email Share by email

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Subscribe Today
Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%

Britians top classic cars bookazine