In the 1976s, the sustainability of the now outdated design with rear-wheel drive and rear engine came under pressure. For years, the concept of the Hillman Imp and badge engineering derivatives had been in production. Chrysler UK saw the need for a modern constructed car in the compact class, which also had to succeed the Imp. It started in XNUMX with the development of the Chrysler Sunbeam.
Not only the obsolescence of the Imp design was an important reason to develop a new compact. Because Chrysler was in difficult financial weather, the arrival of a new car accessible to the general public was necessary. Chrysler was given a helping hand to keep the factory in Linwood, Scotland, running. It was Britain that provided tens of millions of pounds of state aid for the development of a new car “Made in Scotland”.
Cost efficient challenge
Development started in January 1976. Ryton was the location for the engineering of the technical part. The design was created at the Whitley Studio in Coventry, where Roy Ax was in charge. The designers were instructed to use as many British parts as possible and to be cost-efficient with the development budget. The challenge was great. The technical basis was borrowed from the rear-wheel drive Avenger. Another condition attached to the project was that the design had to be ready for production in a short time. The contractors succeeded in this aim.
Ready in a year and a half
The public was already acquainted with the result on July 23, 1977. The Chrysler Sunbeam was enthusiastically received by those interested. They greeted an optically almost new and well-finished car with proven Chrysler UK technology. The Sunbeam also stood on an 8 cm shortened platform of the Avenger. The lines were sharp and sporty and what definitely caught the eye was one of the design features of the Sunbeam: the completely glass third door.
Direct choice from three implementation levels and engines
After the introduction, the prospective buyer was immediately available three versions (LS, GL and GLS). The same number of engines was also available, with the small OHC 928 cc engine (with Imp design features) being reserved only for the LS. The existing 1295 cc Avenger engine with underlying camshaft was available in the Chrysler Sunbeam in LS and GL trim levels. The 1598 cc (also known from the Avenger and with underlying camshaft) was reserved for the extremely luxuriously equipped GLS. In 1978 the TI followed, the sporty rounding up. It also knew the 1598 cc, but instead of 80 HP it generated a power of 100 HP.
Klapper: the Lotus Sunbeam
The hit in the series came on the market in 1979. The Sunbeam Lotus was introduced at the 1979 Geneva Salon and was equipped with, among other things, a 2172 cc Lotus power unit (depending on use, the power varied from 150 HP to 250 HP), a stiffer suspension and an anti-roll bar. The Sunbeam Lotus was never produced for private use as Chrysler. After Chrysler's name change to Talbot – as a result of the takeover by PSA in 1978 – the Lotus did become available to the public.
The last Sunbeam
Unfortunately, the takeover of Chrysler UK by PSA meant the end of the sympathetic Sunbeam models within a few years. Linwood – as it was called – would no longer be profitable in the long run. Nevertheless, the 1977 model received a final facelift. Until it was succeeded by the French Talbot Samba in 1981, the Sunbeam still held up, but after a production number of around 200.000 copies it was over with this attractive compact. And not only that: the name Sunbeam also disappeared permanently in the history books. And with that came an end to a brand name, which from 1905 had been inextricably linked to illustrious British cars.
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