1977 saw the aged Avenger replaced by a small two door, rear wheel drive, hatchback that Des O’Dell, Talbot’s Competitions Director, immediately saw the potential of, especially with it being powered by a Lotus sourced 2.2 litre twin cam 16 valve engine. The car achieved homologation under the Group 4 rules in April 1979, and straight out of the box the car proved competitive but experienced too many DNFs.
In 1980, the car was homologated into Group 2, and Talbot planned a select campaign of events culminating in an attack on the RAC Rally, with the works drivers consisting of a young Finn by the name of Henri Toivonen and a more experienced Frenchman Guy Fréquelin. Talbot decided to hedge their bets on the RAC Rally, choosing to install a more powerful Big Valve Head to Henri’s car, while Guy ran the normal specification engine. In addition Russell Brookes privately entered a lower spec ex-Tony Pond factory built right hand drive car, in his customary Andrews Heat For Hire livery.
At the start of the rally, no-one was really expecting any notable success for the Talbot team, but by the end of the first day Toivonen was up with the leaders. By mid morning on the second Toivonen found himself first overall, due in part by other competitors experiencing some bad luck and making mistakes, but not one to miss the opportunity he swiftly pulled out a strong lead.
As the finish in Bath approached, Henri held a five minute lead over second placed Hannu Mikkola, with the Sunbeams of Guy and Russell lying third and fourth respectively. Russell had led Guy Fréquelin since the start, but a final night of punctures for Russell and some superb driving saw Guy leapfrog Brookes to take third place. Despite not being registered for the Team competition, the event saw Henri become the youngest ever winner of a World Championship Rally, and Talbot their best result since 1968. As history has shown the Sunbeam was the last two-wheel drive car to win the RAC.
Is the car driven by Guy Fréquelin/Jean Todt on the 1981 Monte Carlo, Corsica, Sanremo and Lombard RAC rallies, securing 10 fastest stage times and winning 34 World Championship points, enough to help secure Talbot the 1981 Manufacturers title.
In 1982 the car was painted in the Peugeot Talbot Sport livery and developed into the ultimate lightweight spec including single battery, no oil cooler, single exhaust, ventilated rear compartment before gaining homologation into Group B.
The car was presented to Des O’Dell in July 1985, in recognition of his services to Peugeot Talbot Sport, and displayed in the Museum of British Road Transport for many years. The car was purchased by its current owner in 1999, who has since demonstrated it on WRC events in Spain and Germany. In 2011 the car underwent some light restoration which included an engine rebuild (the first since the early 1980s) by original Talbot personnel. At the same time was returned to its original livery in time to feature on the Lotus Cars stand at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
Engine : Normally Aspirated, Four Cylinder, DOHC, 16v, 2.2ltr,
Power : 240BHP