The Sunbeam Rapier has improved out of all recognition since its introduction many years ago, mainly because the Rootes Group has not been slow to incorporate improvements which have been prompted by several seasons of strenuous and frequently successful rallying. A full report on the series was published in Motor Sport for March 1960.
Last April this excellent British sports saloon was taken a stage further, to IIIA form, by the adoption of an 81.5 x 76.2 mm. power unit having a capacity of 1,592 c.c. In making this change Rootes have not lost sight of the fact that it is desirable not to exceed 1,600-c.c. if a car is to remain appropriate for International competition work, as B.M.C. have done in recently increasing the engine size of the M.G.-A. to 1,622 c.c.
The Rapier thus remains eligible for the popular 1,300-1,600 c.c. class while being endowed with even better performance than it formerly possessed. Apart from the increase in swept volume the settings of the Zenith carburetter have been revised and minor engine alterations made, while the Alpine clutch is used and the front anti-roll bar is now of 3/4-in. dia.
It is not top speed but torque in the middle speed range that is noticeably improved. The very welcome overdrive supplementing third and top gear is more useable than ever, and the Sunbeam Rapier accelerates just that much better than before. The power unit is apt to be a bit noisy and harsh when working hard.
The Rapier remains a well-appointed, handsome car of convenient size, appealing particularly to the vintage-minded, for it rides solidly, has firm rather than light steering, an excellent if heavy floor gear change, and bodywork with good seats that is free from rattles. Some draught enters if the side windows are opened wide. It feels as if it will outlast lesser machines, it is definitely a man’s car, and the Lockheed brakes, disc at the front, deserve the highest praise. I recently enjoyed 800 miles in a Rapier IIIA, fuel consumption coming out at an overall 24-1/2 m.p.g. under very varied conditions. The brown and white two-tone colour scheme aroused the family’s admiration and Rootes’s service I know to be second to none. At £1,060 1s. 8d. this overdrive, disc-braked, 95-m.p.h. Sunbeam Ranier is a highly commendable British product. – W. B.