Tag Archives: 63

Championship Clincher – Talbot Sunbeam Lotus (Type 81)

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.

Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, Race Retro, Stoneleigh

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.

Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, Race Retro, Stoneleigh

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 !


White Elephant – Lotus 63

The thinking behind the Lotus 63 intended to capitalise on the lessons learned from the all wheel drive Lotus 56 Champ Car, which nearly won the Indy 500 in 1968, and replace the Lotus 49 for the 1969 Grand Prix season.

Lotus 63, Donington Park Museum

Colin Chapman recognised that the 3 litre / 183 cui Ford Cosworth DFV V8 which he had been responsible for commissioning with Ford finance had more power than the Lotus 49 could properly utilise even with the aid of wings which generated downforce on the wheels when in motion.

Lotus 63, Donington Park Museum

Having learned about the benefits of all wheel drive from the Lotus 56 Indianapolis programme Colin Directed Maurice Phillipe to design an all wheel drive car for Grand Prix racing, this was by no means the first such Grand Prix vehicle the 1961 Ferguson P99 featured such a transmission and won the non championship 1961 Oulton Park Gold Cup with Stirling Moss at the wheel.

Lotus 63, Donington Park Museum

The fuel cells for the 63 were built into the sides of the car and under the drivers seat !

Lotus 63, Donington Park Museum

The mounting of the Cosworth DFV broke with tradition having the clutch at the front driving the four wheels through shafts mounted in tunnels on the left hand side of the car. The second pipe from the left in this photo is connected to the radiator at the front.

Lotus 63, Donington Park Museum

To reduce unsprung weight and improve handling the ventilated disc brakes were mounted in board front and rear.

Lotus 63, Donington Park Museum

Graham Hill tested the Lotus 63 once and refused to race it feeling the car was unsafe, Jochen Rindt managed a best second place in the non championship 1969 Oulton Park but like Hill was not keen on driving a car with his feet ahead of the front axles and his legs beneath them !

Grand Prix novice John Miles who did the bulk of the testing for the model, because Chapman thought he would lack any preconceptions to hinder development, managed one non points finish from four starts and Mario Andretti crashed in both races he started with the Lotus 63. By the end of 1969 the car was running with a heavy drive bias to the rear thus negating the advantages of four wheel drive and so the car was abandoned as a white elephant in favour of the new Lotus 72 design which would set the Grand Prix world alight in 1970.

The Lotus 63 featured today is regularly on view at the Donington Park Museum.

Owner driver Roger Dawson – Damer lost his life in an accident while driving his Lotus 63 at the 2000 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Thanks for joining me on this ‘White Elephant’ edition of ‘Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres’, I hope you’ll join me again tomorrow when I’ll be celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Maserati Merak. Don’t forget to come back now !

PS I hope you will join me in wishing GALPOT contributor Ralf Pickel a speedy recovery from a nasty accident at Hockenheim in which he broke both legs last week.