The Roots of Rootes

Page 5

The Last "Real" Alpine

In 1965 the Alpine and Rapier received the new five bearing 1725cc engine and thereby became the Series 5 models. There were few other changes.

Here comes some more "help" from the Americans!

Rootes also had plans for an Imp-based sports car called the Asp which would have tackled the Spitfire, Sprite and Midget. The Asp was a very attractive car, resembling a scaled-down, but modernised Alpine. Unfortunately Chrysler killed the project.

The French, Again!, and even more HELP form the Americans

In 1967, Chrysler took full control of Rootes. Ironically, in 1963 Chrysler had also taken control of Simca in France who in turn controlled Automobiles Talbot. Chrysler had unwittingly reunited Sunbeam, Talbot and Darracq.

More Tiger!, and Chrysler REALLY helps now!

The updated Tiger II with a 4.7 litre Ford V8 was launched in 1967. Unfortunately it was to be short lived. Chrysler did not like the idea of one of its products using a Ford engine so the car was scrapped. Plans for an all new Tiger with a Chrysler V8 came to nothing.

In 1970 the Rootes Group was renamed Chrysler UK. Singer, purchased by Rootes in 1955, was laid to rest. Production of all Sunbeams shifted to the Linwood plant in Scotland in 1970. Rootes had always concentrated on building cars of a higher quality than their competitors and charging a little more. Chrysler set about on a cost cutting exercise. Unfortunately the customers did not like this.

They also began to phase out the old Rootes marque identities in favour of the Chrysler identity. Not only was this harmful to customer loyalty, but it created an uproar within the workforce. Chrysler seemed to be heading for a fall.

The Stiletto was dropped in 1972. The Alpine was replaced in 1975 by a five door Simca-based hatchback called the Chrysler Alpine, also styled by Roy Axe. Production of all Sunbeams and Humbers ceased in 1976 and by 1978 the Hillman name had been phased out in favour of Chrysler.

Back in Britain, things were not looking good for Chrysler UK. In order to fund new model development they were forced to seek help from the British Government and the Chrysler Corporation. One of the results of this funding was Project 424, the Imp replacement. Chrysler managed to get the car onto the market after only 18 months development.

To speed up development and keep costs to a minimum, the new model was heavily based on the Avenger. Consequently when it appeared in 1977, it turned out to be much larger than the Imp. It was available in only one body style, a three door hatchback. Engines were the 1300cc and 1600cc Avenger units and the Imp unit enlarged to 930cc. Chrysler, like Rootes, realised the folly of not taking advantage of the heritage behind the Sunbeam name. However corporate policy dictated that the old marque names be phased out in favour of the Chrysler identity. Hence the new British baby car became the "Chrysler Sunbeam".

The French, "The Final Chapter"

In 1978 Peugeot bought Chrysler Europe. Peugeot wanted a new name for all their ex-Chrysler products. A search through their archives came up with such suggestions as Bugatti, Delage, Delahaye and Sunbeam. The rights to the Bugatti name have of course since been passed on to new owners.

And, by yon Bonnie Banks..

In 1981 the Linwood plant in Scotland, home to all Sunbeams since 1970, was closed and with it production of the Talbot Sunbeam ceased. This time it really was the end. The Sunbeam name was never again revived.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For the information in this section we wish to acknowledge the excerpts from The Supreme Sunbeam (AU)

Thank's for a much longer and detailed history on your site. Please visit them for a complete history and the entire story.

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