In memoriam : Talbot Horizon LD

Keith Adams

A look at some of the less likely extinct cars in the UK, according to data supplied by the brilliant How Many Left? website based on DVLA data.

3: Talbot Horizon LD – died out in 2003.

Talbot Horion Ultra - wearing the aero kit added also to the LD model

Talbot Horion Ultra - wearing the aero kit added also to the LD model

Ah, you’re thinking, so AROnline‘s In Memoriam series is already running out of steam to such an extent that we’re now relying on having to pick model variants instead of ranges. Maybe you’re right but, in the case of the Talbot Horizon LD, we reckon it’s justified.

Older readers might remember the Talbot Horizon – a car so rattly that you’d hear it coming long before you saw it and so susceptible to rust that it was already fizzing the moment it left Poissy or Coventry. Mind you, it was the tappet rattle which most people will remember with something less than affection – the Simca 1294, 1442 and 1592cc engines all suffered from the dreaded rattle and, no matter how hard servicing dealers tried to rectify the problem, they never quite succeeded.

However, in 1982 Peugeot shoehorned in a new engine that clattered instead of rattled and, in the process, ushered in the brilliant 1905cc XUD engine – a power unit that would go on to introduce a new generation of drivers to the varied joys of diesel power, be it in their Citroen BXs, ZXs and Xantias; or their Peugeot 309, 405 or 306s. It was a truly gamechanging engine and one that went on to sell in its millions – and Talbot got it first in its middle-aged Horizon LD.

Actually, the Horizon wasn’t a bad car – it was clean looking (thanks to a certain Roy Axe), it was roomy and economical. All that really let it down was those engines and comedy low-geared steering. Surreptitiously, PSA answered those criticisms with the LD. The diesel lump was torquey and delivered plentiful performance (for its day), while the production engineers got all sensible and gave it standard fit power steering. In a stroke, they created the perfect Horizon – and one that proved that there was life in the car, despite fearsome younger rivals such as the Escort Mk3 and Vauxhall Astra/Opel Kadett coming along and bloodying its nose.

Unfortunately, it was too little too late. Yes, it went on to sell pretty well in its homeland, but the Horizon LD wasn’t enough to convince customers or PSA’s management itself that there was a future for the marque. The Talbot name was already doomed and the Horizon LD would live on two more years until its replacement, the Talbot C28 Arizona (sorry, Peugeot 309) was launched.

Apathy soon followed with the result that the pool of Talbots was pretty much eradicated from UK roads by the turn of the 21st Century. The last Horizon LD clattered into a scrapyard back in 2003, killing the breed forever in the UK. That’s a genuine shame because the model was, if nothing else, significant for proving that diesels could be even better than their petrol counterparts – even if they were actually rather average.

Posted in: In Memoriam
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

41 Comments on "In memoriam : Talbot Horizon LD"

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  1. Mike Humble Mike Humble says:

    I will never forget my first driving experience of the Horrorizon.

    The car concerned had come in for MoT work and, although I cannot remember how many items needed sorting, the Tester’s scribble filled the sheet.

    The negative points incuded a nasty, clunky gearchange, a breathless engine (petrol), the cornering capability of a cow on roller-skates and disgusting long spindly column stalks.

    That said, it had a nice ride, good brakes and I will never forget lifting the bonnet and chuckling at the expansion tank which looked, to me, like a re-cycled gherkin jar.

    Might I be right in recalling that the Horizon in question was a “Summertime Special” limited edition?

  2. Simon Woodward says:

    Chrysler should have resurrected the ‘Singer’ name for the Tip Tap Horizon – it sounded like one! I was never a fan.

  3. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    The diesel Horizon followed diesel Golfs and Kadetts in establishing a newly acceptable reputation for diesel-engined family cars which eventually led to the preponderance of diesels in the market today.

    Up to then, anything with an oil-burner had been regarded as hopelessly noisy and slow – and the performance figures for the likes of mid-1970s Mercedes and Peugeot diesels reflect that – a 0-60mph time of 28 seconds for the Merc 200D!

    The Golf diesel really was different, though. I remember that, back in about 1980, George Bishop joked in CAR Magazine that he’d like a diesel-engined Golf convertible, as if to suggest such a thing was unthinkable. George, you were ahead of your time, mate!

    There was also a bit if a trend to launch new engines in ageing models, with the Horizon LD being a prime example. Similarly, the 1.3 Family One engine of the Kadett/Astra was launched a few months earlier than in the Ascona and Manta (although not in the UK, where we had the 1256cc Cavalier), replacing 1.2 litre versions of the same in Europe. A Manta 1.2 must have been incongruous!

    The diesel Horizon was a big improvement on the petrol-engined ones and a decent car in its own right but, as you say, the Talbot reputation was terminally damaged by 1982 – only two years after the marque was re-launched! I can’t say I fancied the styling very much – heavy looking and dull. Not one of Roy’s better efforts.

  4. Andrew Elphick says:

    Don’t forget PSA could have invented Dacia/Skoda a decade (or two!) early, with practical, plain noisy cars (diesel’s…). The Horizon LD even had its own page in the rear of the brochure resplendent in that awful pale yellow hue.

    Imagine a Shelby GLH with the cancer-causing lump and a dump valve!

    Then again, maybe not…

  5. Richard 16378 says:

    Did PSA consider making a diesel-engined Alpine/Solara?

  6. Simon Woodward says:

    @Andrew Elphick
    I had forgotten about the Shelby version – he had a stab at the AC3000 ME about the same time. I found a Lotus Group B-developed car earlier – I’ll put on FB with a link.

  7. Hilton Davis says:

    I remember the rattle of the Horizon’s engines. That was a shame really – when they were switched off, the car didn’t look bad and the interior trim was reasonably inviting. It was just that tappet rattle on tickover or when one drove past you.

  8. KC says:

    Hilton Davis :
    I remember the rattle of the Horizon’s engines. That was a shame really – when they were switched off, the car didn’t look bad and the interior trim was reasonably inviting. It was just that tappet rattle on tickover or when one drove past you.

    You could also say exactly the same thing about the Chrysler Alpine – a decent looking car spoilt by a very rattly engine. You don’t have to look far to see why Chrysler disappeared from the UK.

  9. Simon Hodgetts says:

    …and why they should stay away.

  10. Richard 16378 says:

    I had thought Chrysler’s sale of its European operations was due to problems in their home market.

  11. Robert Leitch says:

    Could it be that the demise of the last Horizon diesels was hastened by the healthy demand for XUDs in Citroen BX and Peugeot 405 taxis?

  12. Engineer says:

    Jonathan Carling :

    The Golf diesel really was different, though. I remember that, back in about 1980, George Bishop joked in CAR Magazine that he’d like a diesel-engined Golf convertible, as if to suggest such a thing was unthinkable. George, you were ahead of your time, mate!

    I recall George uttering the same words!

  13. Will says:

    I remember diesels in the early 1980s. My dad had an XUD in a BX. In those days, diesel pumps were away from the main 4star/unleaded, in a corner (a bit like LPG/hydrogen today.) where vans, buses and lorries would fill up.

    I had an XUD in a ZX – it was a very reliable but slow engine. I was later given an XUDT ZX estate which proved how, with a turbocharger, diesels could really (just about) keep up with petrols.

    Let’s remember too that Rover also used the XUD – it was fitted to the R8 200 and also sold in Europe as the Honda Concerto diesel.

    The engine could also be found in Suzuki 4x4s, LDV vans and Toyota Corollas. It seemed a good plugin solution for manufacturers who realised they needed a decent diesel in their range.

    The XUD is survived by its HDi offspring as fitted midway through the life cycle of the 406 and Xantia. The HDi is like an XUD but is a common rail injection unit with too many electrics to be a basic diesel and all sorts of emissions-based trickery (EGRs, FAPs, cats) to drain the wallet in Banger Valley.

  14. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    Just a note from Pedants’ Corner – there was never a 1592cc Horizon, but there was an 1118cc version.

  15. Richard 16378 says:

    I did wonder about Horizon LD’s being ‘robbed’ of their engines, though it normally happens with sporty versions of undesirable models.

    The bangernomics community seem to like XUD-engined models as they are often cheap but are ‘not too agricultural’ diesels.

  16. Tony says:

    Well, to think that the Chrysler Horizon was ‘Car of the Year’ in 1978!

    The wheel arches were far, far too wide but, in my opinion, it was still a pretty car when it arrived.

  17. KenS Ken Strachan says:

    Is that really Julie Andrews in the picture? “The hills are alive with the sound of diesels…”

  18. Nick Graves says:

    Actually, there are photos of the Horizon clay in Roy Axe’s book and it was quite pretty.

    Chrysler US insisted on the boxy, full-width front and the Prince Charles-like ears were added for standardisation with the US model, adapted for US ‘tastes’.

    However, since the US model had McPherson struts and a different powertrain, the rationalisation was pointless anyway. Chrysler was, by then, a basket-case.

    I reckon that to bring the Chrysler name back in the UK instead of buying the dealers a few Lancia shields and other stuff seems short-sighted.

  19. Glenn Aylett says:

    Had anyone other than Talbot introduced a diesel model which didn’t sound like a bus and have the performance of one, then they would have been hailed as producing a really advanced car.

    However, as the name Talbot was involved and the car was launched in the middle of winter, then, apart from the routine What Car? and CAR tests, the diesel Horizon attracted little attention. By this time Talbot was down to 4.5 per cent of the market, its models were notorious for rust and poor quality and Peugeot was losing patience with the loss-making brand whose cars were heavily discounted to move stock.

    Yes, I will admit I was a passenger in one of the first LDs and, apart from being noisy at idle, the engine was a revelation compared with the Simca-based petrol cars. Here was a car that was as quiet as its petrol-engined rivals when warmed up, could compete well on the motorway and could do well over 50mpg on the open road. Additional attributes were the typical Talbot low pricing and value for money and a spacious interior.

    However, had, say, Ford got in on the act first, then everyone would have hailed the car as a marvellous achievement. Unfortunately, as it was, Talbot sales were minimal – even if the LD was a far better car than the petrol-engined Horizons.

  20. Will says:

    @Nick Graves
    Chrysler’s recent comeback with the likes of the 300C must seem like the lesser of the two evils compared to the collective memory in the UK of rusting-in-the-showroom Lancias.

    Lancia is a shadow of its former self. Apart from the small Ypsilon and the intiguing new Delta (for which there are no rallying plans), it sells a re-badged Fiat Idea. The next Thesis a re-badged version of the new 300C and the next MPV is a re-badged Grand Voyager.

    The Horizon wasn’t a bad looking car in my opinion – it had crisp Golf-like styling while the wide stance giving it presence and space. It performed better in the US where it was a “world car” in the same way that the Escort Mk3 was.

    A European version of the Dodge Omni 024, with proper Euro-lights, tuned engines and suspension would have made for an interesting prospect – that might have been Chrysler’s answer to the Volkswagen Scirocco just as the Horizon was their answer to the Volkswagen Golf.

  21. Tim Collis says:

    I have quite fond memories of my old Talbot (formerly Chrysler) Sunbeam – it was a rather revolting shade of baby-sick yellow and, I think, a 1.3-litre. The engine was rattly although I am not sure whether it was one of the Simca engines mentioned above, presumably so.

    It was quite pokey though and, although middle-aged for the 22 year old I was then, I found it great fun to drive and it ran reliably without any problems for a number of years. However, in the end the sills started to go and I part-exed it. I was, for this reason, quite sad to see the demise of Talbot although I agree with comments that their cars were generally pretty awful.

  22. Glenn Aylett says:

    My old man had two Alpines. I will admit they were rattly, the build quality was below par and the trade hated them when he traded in the last one in 1987 for a Peugeot 305. However, as Tim points out, the cars were quite mechanically solid and our two were no less reliable than other cars of the time.

    Had Talbot abandoned its Simca engines for Peugeot ones, tightened up on the quality and had far better rustproofing, then models like the Horizon and Alpine would have sold far better as they were good cars otherwise. Not many family cars made in 1981 could boast electric windows, a trip computer and a radio/cassette.

  23. Mikey C says:

    @Tim Collis
    The 1.3 Sunbeam had the Hillman Avenger engine, so that’s an English rattle and not nasty a French rattle. 🙂

  24. Ross A says:

    The Peugeot 309, which replaced the Horizon, was also a car that moved diesel hatches up a gear in my book. I used a J-reg NA Diesel and the transmission package, the interior package and the handling were perfect. I loved the feel of the thing especially since, in those days, Peugeot were the masters of interior ergonomic design – it just felt right.

  25. Tim Collis says:

    @Mikey C
    Thanks Mikey, I did wonder. I thought it might have been different to the Simca engines.

    My friends at the time and I used to tamper with all of our cars, back in those days (before the computers took over). We ‘upgraded’ my Sunbeam to a GLS by salvaging a GLS dashboard and replacing my standard non-revcounter version – we even got all the instruments to work! I did a few other mods and even put a GLS badge on it.

    I was considering replacing this car with a Horizon and almost bought one. However, the lady over the road had one that burst into flames for no discernible reason. Luckily no one was hurt, but it did put me off.

  26. Phil Simpson says:

    Comfy seats, shame about the dash!

  27. KenS Ken Strachan says:

    American Horizons started out with 1715cc Volkswagen engines. One cheeky Volkswagen Dealer got hold of a Plymouth Horizon and parked it on his forecourt with the bonnet/hood open. A sign in the engine bay read: “You can buy the engine from Plymouth or come to us for the whole car!”

  28. Graham Ariss says:

    @Richard 16378
    They did and it was sold in France and Spain.

    The truth is the last Horizons, along with the Alpine and Solara (renamed Minx and Rapier in the last days), with the five-speed box and much better rust-proofing were good honest motors – the Horizon was even better if you got the the GLX version which was fitted with power steering.

  29. Chris Baglin says:

    Why is the woman in the picture putting a plastic bag over her head?

    Talbot Horizons weren’t that bad, surely?

  30. Paul says:

    Hardly a bad car and it beat the Mk3 Escort and Astra to the market by 2 years. The 1950s Simca Engine let it down. Pity they couldnt have made the Avenger units work sideways.

  31. francis brett francis brett says:

    Ford took a leaf out of the horizons book by giving the MK5 escort 4.2 turns lock to lock!

  32. Yorkiebusdriver says:

    I actually have diecast mnodels of a Horizon, Solara, Alpine, and Arizona! When you think though, the cars were developed on a budget of bugger all, they weren’t that bad, but by the end, the competition was light years ahead. Ford brought back that familiar tappetty noise though with the ‘HCS’ ohv 1.1/1.3 lumps for fans of castanets 🙂

  33. didierz65 didierz65 says:

    The 1592cc was fitted on Spanish Horizons, not sure about uk.

  34. Tall Bott says:

    One has appeared!

    With 14k on clock, UK car.

    See eBay this week, it’s at Martin Howey classics

  35. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    Bloody interesting find thank you. I’ve found his ad, too, on Car and Classic at this link.

    I suppose the seller thinks he’s clever by saying this: ‘You are looking at and reading about the last one now. What the experts and anoraks did not know was that an elderley gentleman who bought this Horizon brand new in May 1984 had tucked it away around 20 years ago with just 14,000 miles on the clock. And here it is, complete with original V5, handbook, guarantee and service book!’

    So because this car didn’t appear on the SORN system (it will have been taken off the road before SORN kicked in), it was shown as ‘lost’ by the DVLA. So, of course us ‘Anoraks’ wouldn’t know about what some little old blkok has tucked away in his barn. How would we?

    Misguided seller aside, that’s a great find – I’ll follow its progress on eBay with interest.

  36. Richard Davies says:

    Only recently I was mulling if any of these had somehow gone “off the radar” or had been imported.

    I wonder if there are any RHD SEAT Malagas tucked away in barns, supposedly the only one in the UK is an LHD personal import.

    RHD Renault 14’s are getting thin on the ground, I’ve heard of a few collectors importing LHD examples.

  37. Peter Thomson says:

    I have just put a 1981 Horizon 1.1LS back on the road. I have to say I was hoping it would clatter like I thought I could remember them, however it is very quiet, particularly inside. It is fun to drive although the steering is quite heavy at low speeds. The seats are supremely comfortable and the ride is excellent.

  38. Glenn Aylett says:

    I spotted a French registered Horizon on the A69 earlier this year. However, this is the first time I have seen a Talbot since 1997. The last one I recall was an Alpine used as a cheap hack for someone at work and this had to be scrapped when the parts became too difficult to find at MOT time.

  39. Richard16378 says:

    I remember there used to be a well worn Horizon parked near to my college, which I attended 1994-6.

    In those days it was still easy to see late 1970s cars, but even 5 years later they were hard to spot.

  40. John Martini says:

    Horizon was first car I ever owned, back in the late 70s. Even then it was riddled with rust lol. Remember taking it to a garage and asking did it need much work?The mechanic said were do you want me to start! By the time of it’s 6th birthday it was heading for the knackers yard. Although I’ve had quite a few cars since, I still remember my 1100 GL with affection.

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