Concepts and prototypes : Chrysler Sunbeam

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Project R429 RWD was given the green light in January 1976, and the challenge had been set; design a supermini set of clothes for the Avenger floorplan. Here are some of the Whitley styling team’s first thoughts on the subject.


Conservatively chosen

10 Comments

  1. My first car was a Talbot Sunbeam. The top drawing and the bottom one look very stylish ,much more sothan the actual finished model.

  2. The middle drawing looks like its using the Avenger face lifted front end and taking a glass line more in keeping with the Avenger.

    This would suggest they were considering it as a direct replacement for the Avenger two door.

    I think its was a mistake to shorten the wheelbase, better would have been to keep the wheelbase those few inches longer which would have done wonders for the space and followed through with a four door (Avenger front with a modified rear door glass line) and a Solara like notch back to replace the Avenger.

  3. @2 But that wouldnt have given the company the super-mini it needed. Remember this was the era of the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Chevette. The trend and sales potential was in small hatchbacks. There was no need for Chrysler UK to cobble together an Avenger replacement when the Horizon was already on the er horizon. That of course being cobbled together from bits of old Simca.

  4. The Sunbeam was a brave attempt by a company in trouble to produce a small hatchback to rival the Fiesta. It did succeed for a time, as the Sunbeam was bigger than the Fiesta and had a wide range of options, but by the start of the eighties its rwd and ageing Avenger and Hillman Imp based engines were counting against it. However, there was always the 122 mph Lotus Sunbeam that could outrun a 3 litre Capri to make the range interesting.

  5. Of all the Chrysler cars of that era, the Sunbeam was my least favourite. I preferred the Horizon / Alpine & Solara. I would have thought the Sunbeam was more like Chrysler’s answer to the Chevette, as it was also RWD

  6. @ Hilton D, the Sunbeam was developed in a hurry as Chrysler needed a rival to the Fiesta, Fiat 127, Renault 5, three door Chevette and Volkswagen Polo. Logically, the Sunbeam should have been fwd like most of its rivals, but Chrysler was in trouble by the mid seventies and it was far cheaper to develop the Sunbeam from the Avenger. Also it provided Linwood with another four years of work.

    • Thanks Glenn… that’s useful. As you indicate, at least the car helped employment in Scotland for a while. A great shame Linwood no longer exists, as many of our other British car factories. I suppose we should be pleased we have Nissan, Honda & Toyota nowadays.

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