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Sunbeam Company History

Published: 24th Mar 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


Sunbeam Archive

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The Sunbeam Motor Car Co. Ltd. Was started in 1905 following development of cycles and then cars from diverse beginnings (starting in 1887 with John Marston and his ‘Sunbeamland Cycle Factory’). Designed by Angus Shaw, the first product of the new Sunbeam company was the 16/20, introduced in 1907. Louis Coatalen (previously with Humber and Hillman) became Designer in 1909 and joint Managing Director (with W. M. Iliffe) in 1914. Participation and success in motor sport followed, and helped to encourage sales prior to the First World War. During the conflict the firm produced vehicles and aircraft engines. Post-War expansion saw production in relatively high numbers of the16 and 24. In 1920 the Sunbeam business was joined with that of S.T.D. Motors Ltd. (which incorporated Talbot and Darracq).

During the 1920s the Sunbeam concern produced well-engineered, highly respected touring cars, including some powered by Talbot engines (featuring overhead camshafts). Record breakers and racing cars also helped to make famous the Sunbeam name. However, this aspect of the firm’s operations was curtailed in 1926 due to financial difficulties, and many advanced engine projects (including aero units) also sadly came to an end.

The company successfully produced buses from the late 1920s, and Sunbeam Trolleybuses Ltd. (operated jointly by A.E.C. and Rootes) was set up in 1934. Sadly the firm’s affairs were chaotic in the early 1930s, eventually leading to Rootes stepping in to effect a revival, in 1935. New models were based on Rootes Talbots (Talbot was also Rootes owned), and successful sports/luxury cars produced in Talbot’s London factory included the Ten (derived from the Hillman Minx), and in post-War years the 80 and the 2.3-litre 90, also the two-seater Sunbeam Alpine of 1953. These models proved to be highly effective in rallying.

During the 1950s the two-door Sunbeam Rapier was a relatively fast and very desirable sporting offshoot of the contemporary Minx. A new and attractive four-cylinder Alpine sports car arrived in 1960 to take on MG. Much later, Ford V8 engines were installed, producing the awesome Sunbeam Tiger but this was to the last true sporting Sunbeam. New ‘Arrow’ range fastback Rapiers proved popular in the late 1960s/70s, and the Stiletto was a sports/luxury variant ased on the rear-engined Hillman Imp. Another fascinating Sunbeam was the Venezia - a Humber Sceptre based Italian-bodied sports saloon. It never made production of course due to continual financial problems. Following the Chrysler takeover of Rootes, Sunbeam disappeared as a marque name in 1976, although since then Sunbeam has been used as a model name on various cars, including the Talbot Sunbeams.

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