“Motor Sport” Tests Another Modern British Car. Some Impressions of The Sunbeam-Talbot “80” Sports Saloon
Recently we availed ourselves of an opportunity to cover nearly 470 miles in a 1949 Sunbeam-Talbot “80” saloon. This Sunbeam-Talbot emphasises very emphatically that for the average motorist in this country a large engine constitutes an unnecessary extravagance. With a four-cylinder o.h.v. unit of only 1,185 c.c., for which 47 b.h.p. at 4,800 r.p.m. is claimed, brisk performance is allied to generous accommodation for five persons.
We did not submit the car to stop-watch timing, but the needle of the speedometer — this speedometer is a vast affair forming part of a rather elaborate steering-column surround — went to beyond the 80-m.p.h. mark, at which we estimate that the true speed was approximately 70 m.p.h., while an indicated 60 m.p.h. was the regular cruising gait, say, 55 m.p.h.
The”80″ engine has the comparatively short stroke of 95 mm. and allows indicated maxima in the indirect gears of 25, 31 and 50 m.p.h. before violent valve bounce sets in. The engine is extremely smooth for a “four,” so that the normal user will change up as early as 8, 15 and 28 m.p.h., respectively. Indeed, it is possible to run down to 5 m.p.h. in the 5.22-to-1 top gear, equivalent to about 350 r.p.m. Naturally, bearing in mind the car’s weight, 26 1/4 cwt. laden, and its engine size of under 1,200 c.c., noticeable acceleration cannot be said to commence until 15 to 18 m.p.h. in third, or 25 to 28 m.p.h. in top gear is reached, and an indefinable “stickiness” in the running is apt to intrude if 20 m.p.h. or less is maintained on the highest ratio. However, this engine is more game than some 2-litre “fours” and has the additional advantage of being so smooth and quiet as to encourage gear-changing with the new left-hand steering-column lever which actuates really good synchromesh on the three upper ratios. Reverse has a proper selector, occasianally overridden by brutal handling, the lever-movement is conveniently short, but spring-loading to the top of the gate would constitute an improvement. The gears are quiet and the car is silent on the over-run.
The new Sunbeam-Talbot, indeed, retains that refinement which has characterised all these cars from the time when the Rootes Group conceived the idea of a hotted-up Hillman Minx engine in a new chassis.
The body is silent both structurally and in respect of wind-noise. The controls work smoothly and lightly, the minor controls taking the form of pleasant push-buttons (for fog-lamps, panel lighting, starter and roof-lamp), and the car somehow contrives to ride smoothly, as a high-grade vehicle should. Incidentally, it also coasts very easily indeed. Further, the driving position and placing of the controls is admirable, visibility through the “opticurve” windscreen is good (although the bonnet is quite long and the near-side front wing is normally invisible), and the car’s appointments have obviously been carefully thought out.
The clutch is light and reasonably smooth, the throttle action light, while the Lockheed 2LS 9-in, brakes are powerful and unobtrusive, and they pull the car up progressively or can be used for a crash stop on slippery surfaces with hardly any deviation from straight-ahead. There is, however, a trace of fade at times. The central pull-up hand-brake works well, but so quiet is the engine that, especially as the effective clutch-movement is small, care is needed to effect an entirely “professional” start from rest. The steering, heavy at low speed, is light when under way.
Good features are: a large, lockable luggage locker with tools carried in the lid; solid bumpers; controls for self-cancelling direction-indicators, and dimmer well placed on the boss of the sprung three-spoke steering wheel; a useful flood-lit cubby hole with lid; deep if rather low-set door pockets; an adequate rear-view mirror; a shallow shelf behind the rear seat; an ash-tray in the floor for the front-seat passengers; footrests for rear-seat occupants; good lamps; sliding roof; and levers in place of handles for actuating the windows in the front doors. The last-named, unfortunately, necessitate placing the door handles rather close to the occupants’ adjacent shoulders. There are dual screen vizors, with a mirror in the passenger’s. The seats, leather-upholstered, are really deep and comfortable. The bucket front seats can be brought together as a bench if required and the driver’s has an adjustment for squab and cushion, effected by a sort of ship’s-handwheel beneath it. The grouped instruments are calibrated in metric as well as British readings and comprise an accurate fuel-gauge marked in gallons, clock, 90-m.p.h. speedometer, ammeter, warning light, and an oil gauge normally showing 63 lb./sq. in. The horn-note is rather pleasant, but no trip mileometer is provided. The interference-suppression for the radio seemed poor and didn’t do justice to the H.M.V. set installed, and we prefer a roof aerial to the sidelocated extensible aerial fitted. The screen wipers work quite well and have a control conveniently adjacent to the steering wheel; other buttons operated the two ventilator doors and the bonnet release.
The Sunbeam-Talbot “80,” then, is a roomy, nicely-appointed car with far more refinement, emphasised by smooth, quiet running and effortless control, than the average family saloon possesses. It has a reasonable turn of speed and acceleration that is brisk enough once the car gets moving.
It handles well round corners, with under-steer characteristics, but in this age of i.f.s. one is conscious that the Rootes Group has retained normal 1/2-elliptic springing for this chassis. There is rather too much up-and-down movement over bad surfaces, when quite appreciable return-motion occurs through the steering-wheel. The wheels can be felt negotiating undulations and the more severe bumps (or tram lines) tend to deflect the car and provoke steering reaction. These was only about 1/2-in. play in the steering after 7,000 miles’ wear, but it is very indefinite steering in the modern manner, inasmuch as the wheel could be moved violently through an appreciable arc even at speed without the car answering the helm — rather as if connection between wheel and box were by a long length of hose. Such characteristics are by no means confined to the Sunbeam-Talbot, of course. The wheel requires three turns lock-to-lock and slightly higher gearing would have been appreciated, although there is adequate, if not full, castor action. The car rolls considerably when cornering, and a distinct drumming from beneath the body on rough roads intruded on the aforementioned silent running. Nevertheless, we found negotiation of fast corners enjoyable, even in the wet, but mild tailslides tend to develop rather unexpectedly. Tyre protests are not unduly pronounced. The lock is good; due to wing-overhang one tends to rub the tyres along kerbs when parking.
The engine asked no oil or water throughout, sent no heat or fumes into the car, and started very surely from cold, pulling away at once, thanks to the automatic choke. It never “ran-on” but was distinctly pink-prone on “Pool.”
As we have implied, it does its work not only like a lusty 2-litre, but in a most praiseworthy and unobtrusive manner. Yet one is reminded of its modest capacity on a very vital score — that of economy. Driving hard, we averaged nearly 27 1/2 m.p.g.
Externally, the Sunbeam-Talbot “80” is a handsome car, with its not-too-drastic frontal treatment, pull-out door handles, concealed door hinges and rear-wheel spats. The “streamstyled” sports saloon is priced at £695, or £888 16s. 1d. when purchase tax has been paid. — W. B.
The Sunbeam-Talbot “80” Sports Saloon
Engine. —Four cylinders, 63 by 95 mm. (1,185 c.c.), R.A.C. h.p. 9.8; 47 b.h.p. at 4,800 r.p.m. Compression-ratio 6.88 to 1.
Gear ratios. — 1st, 18.60; 2nd, 12.89; 3rd, 7.78; top, 5.22 to 1.
Tyres. — 5.25-16 or 5.50-16 Dunlop E.L.P., on bolt-on disc wheels.
Weight. — Without occupants but ready for the road, 23 1/4 cwt.
Steering ratio. — Three turns lock-to-lock.
Fuel capacity. — 10 gallons (range approx. 275 miles).
Wheelbase. — 8 ft. 1 1/2 in.
Track. — Front, 3 ft. 1 1/2 in.; rear, 4 ft. 2 1/2in.
Overall dimensions. — 13 ft. 11 1/2 in. by 5 ft. 2 1/2 in. by 5 ft. 0 3/4 in.
Speed. — Maxima in indirect gears (maker’s recommendation): — 1st: 20 m.p.h. 2nd: 30 m.p.h. 3rd: 50 m.p.h.
Makers. — Sunbeam Talbot Ltd., Coventry, England.