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Ton-up Rapier made its point

Ton-up Rapier made its point

Ian Johnson, 2017-10-05

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THE arrow design that was a swansong of the old Rootes Group was one of the most underestimated ranges of British cars.

The project evolved from the old 1950s Hillman Minx, that pride of the British motorist which was produced in a number of variations resulting in the Arrow range of the 1970s which included an absolute beauty of a car, the Sunbeam Rapier fastback coupe and Alpine models.

When the Arrow design was unveiled in 1967 sharing the stage with the new generation Hillman, the Hunter, was a line-up of cars under the Sunbeam Rapier badge sporting rakish fastback bodies.

Like the previous Rapiers, these featured pillarless hardtop looks.

Based on the chassis of the Hunter estate, it was a thoroughly modern design and cast off the shelf-life-expired styling of its predecessor.

Although the Rapier used the tail lamps and rear valance from the Hillman Hunter Estate, the rest of its superstructure was unique.

Under the bonnet was the familiar Rootes four-cylinder, five-bearing 1,725cc engine, which had to be tilted slightly to the right to fit in with the lower bonnet line, in common with the other Arrow models.

Featuring twin Stromberg carbs the engine could punch out 88bhp. Overdrive came as standard with manual transmissions and a Borg Warner auto box was an option.

The Rapier's performance was excellent for its time with 103mph on the cards and a 0-62mph sprint of 12.8seconds.

The British market loved it and the car continued until 1976 when the more powerful Rapier H120 appeared.

The Rapier was also the basis for the slightly cheaper but similarly bodied, single-carburettor Alpine fastback of 1969.

A total of 46,204 examples were produced at Ryton-on-Dunsmore in the Midlands and Linwood in Scotland.

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