Sunbeam Rapier

The Sunbeam Rapier is an automobile produced by Rootes Group from 1955 to 1976, in two different body-styles, the "Series" cars (which underwent several revisions) and the later (1967–76) fastback shape, part of the "Arrow" range.

The first generation Rapier was the first of the "Audax" range of light cars produced by the Rootes Group, in this instance as part of their Sunbeam marque. Announced at the London Motor Show in October 1955, it preceded its Hillman Minx and Singer Gazelle counterparts which were not introduced until 1956.

A four-seat, two door hardtop coupé – designated Series I with the introduction of the Series II in 1958 – it was different from the Sunbeam Mark III, the car it would eventually replace. Although designed "in house" by the Rootes Group, it was inspired, via the Raymond Loewy design organisation, by the new-generation Studebaker coupés of 1953.

Sunbeam Rapier Fastback coupé

By 1967 Rootes' "Arrow" range was ready. As well as the Hillman Hunter, the range also included a new generation of Sunbeam Rapiers, with fastback coupé bodies and a sporty image. Like the earlier Series I to Series V models, it was a two-door pillarless hardtop.

The Arrow Rapier – or Fastback, as it came to be known – launched in October 1967, was a four-seat coupé based on the chassis of the Hillman Hunter Estate. Although the Rapier used the tail lamps and rear valance from the Hunter Estate, the rest of its superstructure was unique.

The Rapier used the Rootes four-cylinder, five-bearing 1,725 cc (105.3 cu in) engine, which was tilted slightly to the right to enable a lower bonnet line, in common with the other Arrow models. With its twin Stromberg 150CD carburettors the engine produced 88 hp (66 kW; 89 PS) at 5200 rpm. Overdrive was standard with the manual gearbox, and Borg-Warner automatic transmission was an optional extra.

The Fastback Rapier continued almost unchanged until 1976, when it was discontinued without a replacement. During its lifetime it formed the basis for the more powerful Sunbeam Rapier H120, introduced in October 1968 and identifiable by its boot-lid spoiler and polished sill covers: it shared its Holbay Engineering-tuned 110 hp (82 kW; 112 PS) engine (with twin Weber carburettors) with the Hillman Hunter GLS. The Rapier was also the basis for the slightly cheaper but similarly bodied, single-carburettor Sunbeam Alpine Fastback introduced in October 1969.

Rapier running gear (though not the estate chassis) was also used in the Humber Sceptre MkIII, Hillman GT and Hillman Hunter GT models from the Arrow range.

Between 1967 and 1969, the Rapier was built at Ryton-on-Dunsmore, but from 1969 until its demise in 1976, it was built at Rootes' Hillman Imp factory at Linwood in Scotland. In all, 46,204 units were built (including Rapier, H120 and Alpine versions).

Maximum speed of the Rapier was 103 mph (166 km/h) and it could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) from rest in 12.8 seconds.

In the United States, the Rapier was marketed as the Sunbeam Alpine GT.

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