SUMBEAMS ON THE RISE

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Hi Stuart, Further to the letter by Harry Boys regarding Sunbeams, please find attached photos of a Sunbeam Talbot Alpine which I restored during the 1990s. It was a real barn find in a shed in Nelspruit. As can be seen from the photos, a complete chassis-up restoration was done. It is the only engine that I have ever come across with aluminium conrods – of massive structure, but extremely light. To do away with the cumbersome column gear change, I fitted a Rapier (fastback) overdrive gearbox. Although there is more than 20 years’ difference between the Rapier and the Sunbeam, it was a direct fit onto the Alpine bell housing.

Before completion, I sold it to a gentleman in Johannesburg who already owned a restored Sunbeam Talbot Alpine. We have been in the Cape since 2006 and I have never come across a running example at any motor show – there must be very few of these cars in South Africa.

Also included are a few photos of cars that I have owned. The later Alpine is a 1961 model which was in our family from 1975 to about 2014. What is interesting is that I bought the car for R750, newly resprayed and with a brand-new 1725cc five-main-bearing crank engine (not rebuilt, a completely new engine). When Chrysler discontinued the Husky LDVs, they had excess engines which they needed to dispose of, hence the engine change. As a young married couple, we had lots of fun in this car; it was also my wife’s daily transport to work in Pretoria.

The Volvo was born as a 1959 544 1600cc, which I later converted to a B20 with a modified 2-litre engine and disc brakes. This car was used in the Total LM Classic Rallies, etc. The disc brakes were fitted after the drums overheated while going down Long Tom Pass during a rally. The Pontiac Firebird was a 1967 model and was as smooth as silk. I eventually sold it to someone in Camps Bay. Today I cringe when I look at the price that these cars are fetching compared to what I sold them for!

SUNBEAM-ALPINE-TALBOT-2.jpg SUNBEAM-ALPINE-TALBOT-3.jpg SUNBEAM-ALPINE-TALBOT-4.jpg VOLVO-544-1959.jpg

Warm regards,
Roelf Marais

Thank you, Roelf, fascinating notes on some of the cars that you’ve had and restored. I’ve never heard of aluminium conrods before – my basic technical knowledge has me thinking they’d become brittle over time as aluminium work hardens. But clearly this was not the case as the car already had decades of use under its belt by the time you got your hands on it.

We also haven’t forgotten Harry’s request for a Sunbeam story and are working on getting a range of cars together. I was initially only going to focus on the Alpine and Tiger sports cars but when I stumbled across a Rapier fastback at a garage near Bloem in May, it became apparent that there was so much more to the Sunbeam brand. The Rapier owner saw this car advertised in Pretoria, flew up from Cape Town and bought it. He then jumped straight into the driver’s seat and headed for the Knysna show. We met him while he was on his way down and caught up with him again as he cruised into the show.

By the time you read this, I will have had my first real Volvo 544 experience – I’m heading for the Durban Concours in one belonging to Tom Campher Motors. I’ll be using the old road so I will be aware of any overheating brake issues down Oliviershoek Pass.

I’ll report back.

  • Stuart

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