Talbot Sunbeam Profile

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Talbot Sunbeam General Information

If you want to know how to create a World Rally Championship winning car, here is your story!

In the late 1970s the British Hillman (Rootes Group) and French Simca companies have been taken over by Peugeot and renamed Talbot (why this made sense see makes story). They had a motorsports department called Peugeot Talbot Sport UK. Their director Des O'Dell was undoubtably one of the most outstanding characters in rallying ever, acting to his own, brilliant mind anyway. He described the Peugeot take over of his company as "I have a new wallpaper in my office, nothing else has changed". Des was well respected within Peugeot, Talbot may have been based in Coventry including two factories, but in the new layout Peugeot-Talbot UK was basically just an importer. Therefore Des found it hard to be taken serious when he wanted to built his own car and fight for the WRC title with it. The way he pulled the project through will forever stay unique in the entire rallying scene.

A brand new Talbot car at the time was the Sunbeam. Already the name was promising. It was always clear the confusion with too many brand names had to stop, but for this new crazy car Sunbeam was revived, now Sunbeam as a model name, even though until only about 2 years earlier Sunbeam still was Rootes’ sports brand. Until 1976 we still had a Sunbeam Avenger, unforgotten the Sunbeam Rapier coupé and the Sunbeam Alpine Tiger V8, and in history there were even several models called Sunbeam-Talbot. Now we suddenly had a Talbot Sunbeam, Sunbeam as the model name.

But despite this promise, the result was surprising: The Talbot Sunbeam was an about 106 sized hatchback with rear wheel drive! We are talking 1978, the days had long started that nobody would make a compact car without FWD any more. Even the successor to the legendary Mk2 Escort was to be FWD. Already in 1975 nobody at Ford would have had it cross their minds to make the Fiesta anything else but FWD, even already the larger 1960s Peugeot 204 and Simca 1100 were FWD…. But Peugeot was desperate for a small car for the just bought, struggling Talbot brand. To save money and time they based the new car on a shortened platform of the fun handling Avenger. Totally against any trend the car was even shorter than the Golf, never mind Escort etc, yet RWD. That the tailgate was simply the complete, huge rear window made it even lighter. Everyone went FWD and here all the sudden is a brand sparkling new Mk1 Fiesta or 106 sized car with RWD, based on the platform of a car that was already known to be more fun than sensible since a decade.

Not surprisingly Des O'Dell was bitten by the bug that this was the perfect base for a fun car, an Escort beater, if only its strongest (TI) version had a little more than the 1.6 litre 105BHP engine we already know from the old Avenger. If you want to be insane, you want to be insane proper, so it needed a bigger engine.

When Des presented his ideas, Peugeot France told him "ask Peugeot Talbot UK for a BRC program first and we see where we can go from there" and Peugeot Talbot UK insisted Des' ideas were stupid, expensive and would never work anyway. So there was shaking heads across the directory boards. But Des, the unusual character he was, then raped his private bank account, travelled with his own money to Lotus in Norfolk, who had for their Esprit an engine similar in some aspects to Peugeot's 505 2.2 litre engine. He took the Lotus engine into his workshop, grinded off the Lotus letters and shouted the directory board: "Look what I have found in our shelves!". But the directors still insisted he should see a doctor. So Des' next step was to fit the Lotus engine into a Sunbeam chassis, take the thing to the Bagshot military ground and strengthen rear axles and transmissions until nothing would break anymore. Then he called the directors into his office, presented once again his ideas and the directors still insisted it was never going to work, to which Des O'Dell's reply was: "Well, the car that's never going to work sits ready to go in my workshop, fancy a ride?".

It must have been a convincing ride, the Peugeot Talbot directors gave him permission and prepared the production of the cars needed for homologation immediately! The car that had never been but for this one man became a huge story, far more than the minimum homologation numbers have been sold (thousands, hence it could even run in group2) and Des proudly referred that the cars the body guards used on the Prince Charles versus Lady Di wedding were his Sunbeam Lotus!

But Des' headaches weren't over here. While he kept an eye on young Finn Henri Toivonen, Des decided that for 1979 it was best to have an experienced driver in the car to help development, while Henri on a Talbot contract would be loaned out to Ford to wreck a few of them fast Escorts. So Des signed Tony Pond, who wrote off one Sunbeam after the other rather than helping getting further with the project, while young Henri’s Escorts stayed alive. For 1980 Tony Pond was duely replaced by Henri Toivonen and Guy Fréquelin was also invited into the team. It was only a limited program, but the big turning point came on the RAC 1980. This event had no doubt one of the strongest entries ever in any WRC event, Talbot only entered 3 cars, yet the result was a Talbot 1-3-4! This event as well turned Henri Toivonen into the youngest WRC event winner for decades! It was now that everybody within Peugeot Talbot took Des very serious indeed. Although budget and program were not as big as that of the opposition and never mind cars like the Audi Quattro, Renault R5 Turbo and occasional Porsche 911 and Lancia Stratos were around, the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus became a convincing manufacturer WRChampion 1981! It is impossible to explain this title, Des O'Dell and his Peugeot Talbot Sport UK “importers” operation turned the whole rallying World upside down. In example they travelled to South America with 1 rally car and 5 mechanics, borrowed equipment and vans from Peugeot's Argentinian factory and that was enough to win the Argentinian WRC event, followed up with 2nd place in Brazil!

The end for the Sunbeam came in a graceful manner as well. With the groupB supercars hitting the scene the Sunbeam's successes wouldn't have lasted forever. The Peugeot 205 T16 program indeed was inspired by the Sunbeam Lotus, its go ahead even decided down in San Remo 1981, the very event where Talbot won the title. To create their groupB supercar, Peugeot relied strongly on the brains, the engineers and managers behind the 1980/81 Sunbeam program, to the demise of the Sochaux based 504 team. Regular Sunbeam navigator Jean Todt was appointed as the man in charge to build up a brand new sports department that since was developing and running cars as i.e. 205 T16, 206 WRC, 307 WRC, 207 S2000, 208 T16. Even Corrado Provera, who as the then Peugeot Talbot marketing director decided rallying was the way to go for the 205 marketing, he is an original Talbot man!

Just to finish it all off, Des O'Dell was fully aware that the Sunbeam had reached its peak and had no future, but he wouldn't close the chapter without leaving his mark once more in his typical style. The press was shouting "what now for the Sunbeam, the future is 4WD!". Des announced he had designed a 4WD Sunbeam and was ready to show it. You should have seen the press' faces when they turned up only to find the Sunbeam was 4WD because Des had screwed 4 wheels onto the rear axle! Well, they asked for 4WD, not 4x4!

Talbot Sunbeam Related Content

Talbot Sunbeam Evolutions

Model & Evo. (Activity)
Talbot Sunbeam Lotus (79-83) 245/7000 256/6000 3829.1628.1395 1015 (4.1) RWD (2415)
Talbot Sunbeam TI (78-84) 140/5800 167/4700 3829.1603.1395 920 (6.6) RWD (2415)

Random Talbot Sunbeam Photos

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Talbot Sunbeam Results

This is an unofficial Car Results list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego hh:mm:ss
37th. 1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain I. Freestone . UNKNOWN #107 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
37th. 1985 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Jarvis G. Stewart #137 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
50th. 1985 WRC Rally of Great Britain I. Freestone . UNKNOWN #101 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
32nd. 1984 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo P. Gardère D. Giraudet #108 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
41st. 1984 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Jarvis G. Stewart #103 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
67th. 1983 WRC Swedish Rally P. Gardère D. Giraudet #89 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
6th. 1983 WRC Rallye de Portugal A. Zanini J. Sabater #10 [UNKNOWN] 7:50:29
15th. 1983 WRC Rally of Great Britain D. Keating B. Harris #57 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
5th. 1982 WRC Rally of Finland A. Laine R. Virtanen #14 [UNKNOWN] 4:31:04
8th. 1982 WRC Rally of Great Britain S. Blomqvist B. Cederberg #6 [UNKNOWN] 8:17:14
11th. 1982 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Fréquelin J. Fauchille #13 [UNKNOWN] 8:26:36
14th. 1982 WRC Rally of Great Britain C. Lord J. Millington #62 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
51st. 1981 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo P. Gardère D. Giraudet #103 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
2nd. 1981 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo G. Fréquelin J. Todt #16 [UNKNOWN] 9:58:49
5th. 1981 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo H. Toivonen F. Gallagher #8 [UNKNOWN] 10:11:42
2nd. 1981 WRC Rallye de Portugal H. Toivonen F. Gallagher #9 [UNKNOWN] 8:36:37
6th. 1981 WRC Rallye de Portugal G. Fréquelin J. Todt #3 [UNKNOWN] 9:17:22
2nd. 1981 WRC Tour de Corse G. Fréquelin J. Todt #2 [UNKNOWN] 14:42:34
4th. 1981 WRC Acropolis Rally G. Fréquelin J. Todt #6 [UNKNOWN] 13:50:44
1st. 1981 WRC Rally Argentina G. Fréquelin J. Todt #2 [UNKNOWN] 14:22:52
2nd. 1981 WRC Rallye do Brazil G. Fréquelin J. Todt #1 [UNKNOWN] 9:48:11
8th. 1981 WRC Rally of Finland S. Blomqvist B. Cederberg #9 [UNKNOWN] 4:19:09
16th. 1981 WRC Rally of Finland H. Enomaa J. Ahava #31 [UNKNOWN] 4:37:06
18th. 1981 WRC Rally of Finland T. Jouhki A. Nevalainen #46 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
10th. 1981 WRC Rallye San Remo F. Ormezzano . UNKNOWN #19 [UNKNOWN] 8:33:47
2nd. 1981 WRC Rallye San Remo H. Toivonen F. Gallagher #11 [UNKNOWN] 8:09:15
3rd. 1981 WRC Rally of Great Britain S. Blomqvist B. Cederberg #14 [UNKNOWN] 8:43:36
13th. 1981 WRC Rally of Great Britain C. Lord E. Waldron #44 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
3rd. 1980 WRC Rallye de Portugal G. Fréquelin J. Todt #16 [UNKNOWN] 9:17:04
16th. 1980 WRC Acropolis Rally C. Cyprianou A. Longinos #29 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
9th. 1980 WRC Rally of Finland H. Enomaa J. Ahava #38 [UNKNOWN] 4:50:22
4th. 1980 WRC Rallye San Remo G. Fréquelin J. Todt #5 [UNKNOWN] 10:39:29
5th. 1980 WRC Rallye San Remo H. Toivonen A. Lindqvist #16 [UNKNOWN] 10:40:27
1st. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain H. Toivonen P. White #16 [UNKNOWN] 8:17:33
3rd. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Fréquelin J. Todt #10 [UNKNOWN] 8:31:24
4th. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain R. Brookes P. Bryant #13 [UNKNOWN] 8:32:16
4th. 1979 WRC Rallye San Remo T. Pond I. Grindrod #11 [UNKNOWN] 13:05:22
13th. 1978 WRC Tour de Corse J. Jacquemin D. Jacquemin #41 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
9th. 1978 WRC Rally of Great Britain H. Toivonen J. Korhonen #44 [UNKNOWN] 9:27:23

Talbot Sunbeam Retirements

This is an unofficial Car Model Retirements list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego Reason
Ret. 1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Jarvis G. Stewart #154 [UNKNOWN] SS99 engine
Ret. 1984 WRC Rally of Finland T. Brise N. Hunter #32 [UNKNOWN] SS9 suspension
Ret. 1984 WRC Rallye de Portugal J. Woodner B. Harris #15 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?
Ret. 1983 WRC Rally of Great Britain J. Woodner V. Reese #25 [UNKNOWN] SS14 crash
Ret. 1983 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo C. Lord K. Gormley #16 [UNKNOWN] SS13 crash
Ret. 1983 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo P. Gardère D. Giraudet #252 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?
Ret. 1982 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Fréquelin J. Fauchille #13 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?
Ret. 1982 WRC Rallye de Portugal G. Fischer . UNKNOWN #11 [UNKNOWN] SS9 ?
Ret. 1981 WRC Rally of Great Britain H. Toivonen F. Gallagher #1 [UNKNOWN] SS19 engine
Ret. 1981 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Fréquelin J. Todt #4 [UNKNOWN] SS52 crash
Ret. 1981 WRC Rally of Great Britain R. Brookes M. Broad #17 [UNKNOWN] SS6 crash
Ret. 1981 WRC Rallye San Remo G. Fréquelin J. Todt #3 [UNKNOWN] SS20 engine
Ret. 1981 WRC Rally of Finland H. Toivonen F. Gallagher #6 [UNKNOWN] SS39 distributer
Ret. 1981 WRC Rally of Finland H. Väänänen T. Tuominen #27 [UNKNOWN] SS13 ?
Ret. 1981 WRC Rally of Finland O. Tabatoni M. Cadier #86 [UNKNOWN] SS6 crash
Ret. 1981 WRC Rally of Finland H. Toivonen J. Paajanen #37 [UNKNOWN] SS16 ?
Ret. 1981 WRC Rally of Finland T. Mäkelä J. Korhonen #22 [UNKNOWN] SS35 brakes
Ret. 1981 WRC Acropolis Rally H. Toivonen F. Gallagher #11 [UNKNOWN] SS22 wheel studs
Ret. 1981 WRC Tour de Corse H. Toivonen F. Gallagher #9 [UNKNOWN] SS5 steering
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain O. Tabatoni M. Cadier #118 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?
Ret. 1980 WRC Tour de Corse G. Fréquelin J. Todt #2 [UNKNOWN] SS14 crash
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally of Finland H. Toivonen A. Lindqvist #12 [UNKNOWN] SS11 crash
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally of Finland G. Fischer H. Gottlieb #17 [UNKNOWN] SS8 differential
Ret. 1980 WRC Acropolis Rally G. Fischer H. Gottlieb #32 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?
Ret. 1980 WRC Rallye de Portugal H. Toivonen A. Lindqvist #20 [UNKNOWN] SS25 rear axle
Ret. 1980 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo G. Fréquelin J. Todt #18 [UNKNOWN] SS4 crash
Ret. 1980 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo G. Fischer H. Gottlieb #25 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?
Ret. 1980 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo P. Gardère . UNKNOWN #165 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?
Ret. 1980 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo G. Casanova M. Neri #150 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?
Ret. 1979 WRC Rally of Great Britain T. Pond I. Grindrod #17 [UNKNOWN] SS41 crash
Ret. 1979 WRC Tour de Corse J. Nicolas J. Todt #4 [UNKNOWN] SS3 crash
Ret. 1979 WRC Tour de Corse G. Casanova G. Andreani #11 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?
Ret. 1979 WRC Rallye San Remo J. Nicolas J. Todt #4 [UNKNOWN] SS25 engine
Ret. 1979 WRC Rally of Finland P. Toivonen J. Korhonen #31 [UNKNOWN] SS21 ?
Ret. 1979 WRC Rally of Finland H. Enomaa J. Ahava #32 [UNKNOWN] SS10 ?
Ret. 1979 WRC Acropolis Rally C. Cyprianou . UNKNOWN #17 [UNKNOWN] SS57 suspension