SUNBEAM RAPIER COUPE

(Autocar 12 octobre 1967)


New coupé Sunbeam Rapier replaces 12-year-old design and completes rejuvenation of Rootes medium-sized cars. Structure based on already familiar Hillman Hunter shell, with completely distinctive two door saloon styling and radically different interior layout. 88 bhp 1,725 c.c. engine identical with Humber Sceptre's, but Alpine close-ratio gearbox mated with standard overdrive, and low, 4.22 rear axle ratio. Optional automatic transmission for the first time on a Sunbeam Rapier. Radial ply tyres standard, unique in the Rootes " Arrow " series. Long range, 15-gallon fuel tank. New car 40Ib lighter than previous Rapier.

Sunbeam Rapier description
Just over a year ago, the revitalized Rootes group announced the new Hillman Hunter, after a lengthy development period, and set in motion a complete rationalization of their medium- sized saloon ranges. In the intervening 12 months, the complete Minx-Super Minx-Gazelle range of cars has been replaced by new cars evolving from the Hunter, and with the release the new Humber Sceptre in September, it became clear that the days of the good old Sunbeam Rapier were numbered. Paradoxically enough, the original Rapier had been the very first variant of the then medium-sized Rootes to appear (way back in 1955) and the new car has been the last of the Arrow variants to appear. But the wait has been worth while. The new Rapier has probably the most satisfactory cocktail of Rootes 1,725 engines, transmissions and suspension layouts, and has really distinctive body lines not unconnected with those of the Barracuda (a member of its parent Chrysler group).


Sunbeam Alpine Fastback coupé

Plymouth Barracuda 1965

Close ratio gearbox
Some enthusiastic Rootes engineer must have spent some time surveying his transmission choices, for the Rapier has a very pleasing set coupled with a Laycock overdrive on top and third. The choice of an engine was simple; it had to be the 88 bhp (net) unit released for the Humber Sceptre, common also to the long-running Sunbeam Alpine except for details of manifolding and air-cleaners. To make full use of the overdrive top that is such a restful cruising gear on other Rootes cars, it was decided to fit a lower 4.22-to-1final drive ratio, together with the close- ratio all-synchromesh gearbox that has been confined to the Alpine since the 1965 motor show. Overdrive top, at 3.39 to 1, will certainly be a useful performance gear in this lighter Rapier, though direct top and overdrive third gears are still uncomfortably close together, and there are five effective speeds to choose from. If the alternative Borg-Warner Type 35 automatic transmission is chosen, the rear axle reverts to a 3.7 ratio. Like the Humber Sceptre, the Sunbeam Rapier has a steering column adjustable for length, which adds even more to the number of permutations possible in driving position. Lockheed front disc brakes are identical with those of all other Arrows, but there is a brake servo as in the Humber Sceptre Minor suspension changes from the sporting Sceptre include thicker and stiffer rear leaf springs, and slightly firmer damper settings all round. Dunlop SP41 tyres, 155-l3in. are standardized on the Rapier, which is therefore the only medium-sized Rootes car so equipped; they are not even optional on other models. One other mechanical item showing attention to detail is the big 15-gallon fuel tank, which should help the range to be well in excess of 400 miles; all other Arrows have 10-gallon tanks.

Distinctive body styling
The Rapier is unique in having the only substantial modifications to a basic Hillman Hunter bodyshell yet seen. The new car, though a full four seater, looks much more like a racy 2+2 coupé. Though styled by own staff, it has obviously been influenced by current Chrysler thought, and there is a passing resemblance to the FIAT 2300S Coupé. The two-doors style includes such useful items as rear quarter windows than can be wound down completely out of sight, and is much less like the Hillman Hunter than would at first be expected. Naturally, Rootes engineers started with the structural basis of a Hillman Hunter, particularly regarding front and rear suspension mounting positions, scuttle assembly, and wheel arches. The 15-gallon fuel tank has involved in the design of a new luggage compartment floor and reinforcement panels. Apart from this basis, every skin panel is special to the Rapier, and the engineering of the fastback bodystyle is completely new. Allowed to let themselves go a little, Rootes stylists have presented a car just 5in. longer than all the saloons, though the roof is an inch lower than the Hunter's, and 2in. lower than the previous Rapier's.
Inside the car, there is a new facia and instrument panel worthy of the Rapier as a sports saloon, with a full battery of clearly-marked round instruments in front of the driver, and a Kienzle clock in the centre of the panel. Full face level ventilation, with adjustable " eye-ball" nozzles is retained, with provision for air extraction in the rear decking panel. Front seats can be fully reclined if necessary, are adjustable through fine limits, and can be tipped forward (after releasing a catch) for rear seat passenger to alight. There is no provision for three passengers at the rear, with the back rest firmly bucketed to discourage this. All seats are covered with breathing, stretching Amblair pvc. The boot is cavernous at 19 cu. ft., up 13/4 cu. ft. from the Humber Sceptre and has the spare wheel under the floor in a cradle, rather than tucked up behind the rear seats as on the Hillman Hunter.
Access to the wheel is by winding down the cradle on a ratchet operated by the jack handle. Because the re-styled body has involved considerable tooling changes, the new Rapiers are only just beginning to appear in any numbers, but deliveries should start during the London motor show period.

©VEA