Shortly after the formation of Talbot in 1979, PSA decided to go on all-out attack; setting aside the brand as the company’s premier motor sports division. In 1981, the Talbot Horizon Group B was set to replace the Sunbeam Lotus – then the Quattro happened…
Here’s what we know about this intriguing riposte to the Ford Escort 1700T, Opel Ascona 400 and Renault 5 Turbo.
Talbot Horizon Group B: Tilting at the Quattro
Following the creation of the Talbot marque out of the remanants Chrysler Europe in 1979, parent company PSA decided that the new brand needed a high-publicity boost to its image. The result was a two-tier venture into motor sport. In Formula 1, PSA became the Ligier team’s title sponsor, rebranding it as Talbot, while using tuneful (if rather elderly) V12 engines in place of the Ford Cosworth DFVs that Ligier had previously campaigned with.
In rallying, Talbot put its finances behind the Sunbeam-Lotus project, which had already been under development during the Chrysler era. The Formula 1 project was a spectacular failure, and Talbot F1 cars graced the world’s circuits for barely two seasons. The Talbot Sunbeam-Lotus was, in contrast, a stunning success, scoring a memorable win on the Lombard-RAC Rally in 1980 and thus breaking years of Ford dominance.
However, the Sunbeam was not planned to remain in production after 1981 and, following the introduction of the mid-engined Renault 5 Turbo, Talbot knew it needed to work on a similarly spectacular car.
Work on the Horizon takes place in Hethel
Des O’Dell and Lotus began work on a silhouette Horizon, identifying that the development of a similar concept to the Renault’s was the way forward. Using the same 2174cc Lotus slant-four engine, now developing 250bhp, located behind the front seats, the Horizon Group B was the result, and it has to be said, an exciting looking proposition it looked.
However, only two prototypes were built before PSA canned it. That was probably no bad thing, given that, within PSA, Citroen and Peugeot were also – independently – developing their own rally cars.
In 1981, Audi exploded onto the rally scene with its Quattro and all competing rally teams immediately realised that they would need four-wheel drive in order to remain competitive in the future. Peugeot took over the project and, by 1984, it had produced the mid-engined, four-wheel-drive 205 T16 as a riposte to the Quattro.
Talbot’s rallying efforts were banished to history…
With thanks to Declan Berridge for the pictures and information.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics 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 unfeasible adventures all across Europe.