Rapier made a point

Sunbeam Rapier, 1960

THE term badge engineering in which a car manufacturer utilizes a platform design to give interpretations of different marques it owns is not new.

Back in the 1950s and 60s that big hitter of British car making the Rootes Group became masters of the game and did it all in the best possible taste.

A case in point was the Sunbeam Rapier which was launched in the mid-1950s but really came into its own in the early 1960s.

Like its Singer Gazelle counterpart, the Rapier was similar to the Hillman Minx, that doyen of the middle class British driveway.

I remember because my first car was a 1958 Minx, a car I was so proud of that I polished it nearly paintless on Sunday mornings.

But the Rapier was something quite special and was the most opulent of the Rootes mid-saloon and convertible derivatives.

In 1963 one of these sleek two-doors would have cost the potential buyer £876.12.1 and was more expensive than the perky Riley 1.5 and more modern MG1100.

What you got for the money was a solid, stunningly good looking saloon or convertible which just made a statement that you enjoyed your driving with a touch of class.

Inspired by the styling of the Studebaker Hawk of the time, the Rapiers became the favourite of the enthusiastic drivers who enjoyed its 90mph plus top speed and easy cruise of 80mph.

Usually seen with white-wall tyres, the 1963 Rapier was lower than previous models and featured smaller wheels. The 1.6 four-cylinder engine was linked to the wheels via a four-speed gearbox with floor-mounted shift with the option of de Normanville overdrive.

The car was so good that it was progressively updated until the mid1960s.

Its walnut dash and controls which harked back to the quality days of old were sadly missed.

As with the rest of the Rootes brands such as Humber, the Sunbeam Rapier later became a happy memory as the whole of the mainstream UK car manufacturing industry crumbled to dust.


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