In 1977 the European division of Chrysler launched the Chrysler Sunbeam hatchback which was financed with Government aid that was part of a strategic plan to keep jobs at Chryslers Linwood factory in Scotland where the Hillman Imp production had come to a halt in 1976.
The new hatchback used the floor plan of the Hillman Avenger, another model manufactured at Linwood, of which sales were falling and which was to be discontinued in 1981.
In 1978 Chrysler commissioned Lotus to develop a competition version of the Sunbeam hatchback, which appears to have shared the same type number ’81’ as the Lotus Ford ’81’ Formula One car.
Incidentally this appears to be the third of two completely unrelated projects have shared a Lotus Type number, I have read suggestions this occurred because some one lost the book in which the Lotus projects were recorded, I have also seen suggestions that what ever Lotus type numbers vehicles have now, they were not necessarily the same as those that appeared on the original Lotus drawings.
The Sunbeam Lotus was produced with a 150 hp for road trim and 250 hp for competition rally trim both versions using variants of the Lotus Type 907 motor first seen in the Lotus 62 sports racing car and later in the Lotus Elite, Type 75, road car.
The Sunbeam Lotus was first seen in early 1979 but by the end of the year Chrysler had sold it’s European operations to Peugeot for US$1 (One US Dollar) which came packaged with all of Chrysler Europe’s debt. For 1980 all of Chrysler Europe’s models including the Chrysler Sunbeam Lotus were rebranded as Talbots and all of the road going Sunbeam Lotus models appear with Talbot badges.
In 1979 a works Chrysler Sunbeam Lotus team entered selected World Championship Rally events in anticipation for a full scale onslaught in 1981. The following year the now Talbot entered team scored three wins two for Henri Toivonen one on snow and the other on gravel, while Frenchman Guy Fréquelin partnered by Jean Todt, since of Peugeot and Ferrari management and now president of the FIA.
In 1981 going into the final rally of the season the RAC Rally Guy and Jean led the World Rally Drivers Chanpionship and Talbot the manufacturers championship despite only managing to score one overall victory. For some reason Guy never got to grips with his second RAC Rally start and he retired while Ari Vatenen his only challenger finished second in a Ford Escort behind Hannu Mikkola in his Audi. After Henri Toivonen also retired the manufacturers championship was clinched for Talbot by Swedes Stig Blomqvist and Bjorn Cederberg in the #14 Swedish Dealer Team entered Talbot which carried the registration/license plated LAC999V.
However I can’t be sure that the car shown in the two photos above is the same car because all thought the car above carries the LAC999V plates it is painted in the factory Talbot Sunbeam Lotus colours which were not the same as the colours carried on Stig’s car in the 1981 RAC Rally.
Thanks for joining me on this “Championship Clincher” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at a Rolls Royce. Don’t forget to come back now !