Talbot Sunbeam Lotus @ Silverstone Auctions Race Retro sale

Talbot Sunbeam Lotus @ Silverstone Auctions Race Retro sale

A great introduction into historic rallying, an intriguing car with some interesting provenance; recently serviced and ready to enjoy.  

GUIDE PRICE: £22,000 - £26,000


The Talbot Sunbeam-Lotus was one of the most exciting hot-hatches to emerge from the 1970s. Chrysler commissioned Lotus to produce an effective entrant for International Group 4 rallying - to beat the dominant Ford Escort RSs at their own game- and a 1.6GLS shell found its way to Hethel. Lotus installed a 2.2-litre 'Type 911' (closely related to the Type 912 found in the S2 and S3 Esprit) version of their 16-valve four-cylinder engine and a 5-speed ZF gearbox. The new Sunbeam-Lotus certainly looked the part and was initially offered only in Black and Silver, with Marchal spotlights and tailored 'double four-spoke' cast-alloy wheels.

Launched in 1979, the high-compression 2174cc twin-cam engine breathed through two twin-choke Dell'Orto carburettors, developed 150bhp (but was easily tuneable to well over 200bhp for rally use), and delivered excellent performance, offering 0-60mph in just 6.6 seconds. Lotus wasn't just an engine supplier; it was also involved in designing the suspension and exhaust system.

As soon as it qualified for inclusion in international rally competition, the Sunbeam-Lotus proved extremely effective, finishing 1st, 3rd and 4th at the 1980 Lombard-RAC rally, Britain's round of the World Rally Championship. In 1981, the Sunbeam Lotus brought the entire manufacturer's championship to Talbot.

For the Series 2 cars in 1981, a big 'T' was placed in the middle of the grille, the engine was mildly tweaked, the fuel tank and headlights were enlarged, and the wing mirrors were changed. Only 1,184 right-hand drive examples of the Sunbeam-Lotus were ever built, approximately half the total number, however, today you'd be lucky to find 80 of these special cars according to the Owners' Club.

The car presented here is a 1981 Talbot Sunbeam Lotus (T4DCYBL425455) and, according to its accompanying Production Certificate, was one of less than 400 UK-cars in Moonstone Metallic. It came off the factory line at Linwood in May 1981, the week before production of this model ended and the factory closed. Transported to Lotus in Norfolk for completion, it was then put into storage awaiting sale. Prior to leaving for the dealer (Renwicks of Exeter) in October 1982 it underwent final preparation at Talbot’s Stoke service workshops. With registration ‘CTA 410Y’ applied, it would have cost £7,948 plus on-the-road costs in 1982.

By 1987, ‘CTA 410Y’, like lots of these special cars, had been used in motorsport with some interesting provenance already. According to an article (and photoshoot) in the popular magazine ‘Cars and Car Conversions’ (October 1987) its then-owner was Mr Mike Robertson, who acquired it from Eagle Racing in early 1986. At this time, the car had been properly kitted out, with the suspension set up done by Iain Gardner, one of Scotland's top road racers of the period; it was in basically Group A tarmac rally specification, with uprated road springs and anti-roll bars at both ends, DS11 pads all round, but retaining the standard ZF 5-speed gearbox. The engine was both lightened and balanced, with Mike adding an Agra Engineering head with half-race cams (giving c.205bhp at the flywheel). Used mainly on the road by Mike, and still with a car-phone plumbed in (a fact that was said to have impressed the race scrutineers!), it was used in sprint events and even an auto-test.

The car is understood to have remained in Scotland for sometime, with our vendor having been contacted by a few previous owners through the 'Sunbeam Lotus Owners Club', who recall 'CTA 410Y’ fondly. By the early 1990s, it was owned by a Mr Alistair Wilson and by c1995 the owner was a Mr Adrian Wright, who told our vendor "CTA 410Y had a good solid shell and the motor pulled strongly."  By 2002, the car was owned by a Mr Douglas Gracie and then a Mr Alan Dunlop, both based in Scotland (an old V5C confirms). As part of the car's history file there are a few old UK tax-discs for it (1996, 1998 and 2001), plus some fascinating period photographs of it from previous owners and our vendor's research.

In 2021, CTA 410Y was spotted for sale in Portugal (but never registered there) by our vendor (a veteran of classic cars, both in overseeing their restoration and historic racing/rallying). The Portuguese seller/owner had two Talbot Sunbeam Lotus examples, one a Group 4 car and this one he bought from the UK with the intention of doing more rallying but couldn’t justify both. He was a keen enthusiast and rally driver and very knowledgeable about this marque. Our vendor made enquiries and liked that this car had obviously been restored, prepped for fast-road/rally-use and appeared solid throughout. The deal was done and the little Sunbeam returned to the UK in 2021.

According to the advert by the Portuguese owner, it is understood to still retain both its original ZF 5-speed dog-leg gearbox and 2,174cc twin-cam engine (indeed, the rare and sought-after Dell'Orto carburettors are still in situ), and quite possibly the Agra Engineering head (given the performance of the engine, but this is not confirmed). For peace of mind, our vendor took the car to specialists Maulden Garage for a complete mechanical refresh, spending some £2,089 (invoice January 2023), including a full service and an upgraded cambelt and pulley kit (with tensioner), a Hi Torque starter motor and consumables. The car is said to perform and drive extremely well, being road-registered (with a V5C) and an ideal candidate for sprints, rallies or indeed further historic rallying. Our vendor has eyes on finishing a Datsun 240Z project, so sadly CTA 410Y must be sold. An entertaining and capable car with some interesting provenance, in an eye-catching livery, and at a very accessible guide price.

Friday 24th February - Saturday 25th February | 10.00am GMT     310 Entries | Stoneleigh

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