Friday, June 26, 2009

1969 Sunbeam Rapier (Alpine)

When you scroll down to the pictures in this eBay listing the first picture you see is of an attractive woman leaning over a car. I'm not sure what the point is. Does the seller really believe someone is going to look at that picture think "Damn. I have no idea what this car is, it needs a ton of work and appears to be of little value, but maybe if I buy this car a woman who looks like her will be attracted to me."?
Bad news for anyone thinking that way... That's not going to happen.

Maybe she comes with the car. That would be cool... if she's a trained Rootes mechanic. If not, I'd rather get a box of NOS parts instead. (Which probably says something about me... Some psychological help may be in order here.)

Anyway, the picture is unnecessary. While the car in its present state is not nearly as attractive as the woman, it is still cool enough.

I've always liked the Sunbeam Rapier (which was sold as the Alpine in the US). From the side it obviously looks like a mini Plymouth Barracuda. (By the time this car was designed, Rootes was owned by Chrysler. The designer of the car, Roy Axe, claims he did not copy the Barracuda and the the two cars were designed independently. I find that hard to believe, but it doesn't matter, it turned out to be a nice looking car.) The nose looks a bit like a Jensen Interceptor. The interior was in the best British tradition; wood, leather, and useful chrome ringed gages. It's a nice place to be.

The 1725cc engine was used in other Rootes cars, notably the Sunbeam Alpine roadster. I owned two of those. The engine, while not as smooth or free revving as I like, has some power and is very durable. Mechanically, very little went wrong with cars made by Rootes. (The Rapier H120 came with a Holbay Engineering tuned engine - including twin Weber carburettors - and was very quick. Find one of those engines - good luck with that - and drop it in this car and you'd have something special.)

The car listed on eBay is in need of a complete restoration. But, the good news is, it spent it's life in Arizona and is rust free. That's a big deal to a person like me who lives in New England, because Rapiers are rust prone cars. The bad news is that having spent its life in the Arizona heat, the interior is shot and any exposed rubber parts will most likely need to be replaced. Still, it's a lot easier to find a rusty snow belt car with a good interior than it is to find a rust free body, so this car is a great start.

This is one of those cars that no matter how cheaply you buy it, the amount of money you put into it will be more than the car is worth. The Rapier is not an investment. It's a good looking, unique, fun car to drive. You probably won't attract a woman like the one in the picture with it, but who cares? Maybe instead you'll attract a woman who appreciates old British cars, who doesn't mind getting her hands dirty and wants to help you restore the car. Now that would be cool...

Click here to see the eBay listing for this 1969 Sunbeam Rapier (Alpine).

Click here to find the Sunbeam Owners Club website.

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