For those enamored with well-built British cars, there couldn’t be a better example of a postwar sports tourer. In 1948 the Sunbeam Talbot 90 was launched by the Rootes Group amidst considerable fanfare. Tuned 90s were subsequently entered into various rallies to garner valuable publicity – with considerable success.
But actually the car was very popular with the buying public anyway, for its innate build quality. There was a rather pallid junior version of the 90 that wasn’t, lasting just two years (the Sunbeam Talbot 80, with a Hillman Minx engine).
But the 90 went on to become an established success story. The last of the Sunbeam Talbots was a solid, graceful car built on a massively strong chassis using many Humber components. The body was a modern four-door saloon envelope with vertical grille, sweeping front wings, flat sides and a nicely rounded shape. In keeping with a habit caught from America, the early models had a column gear change, though a floor change and overdrive option appeared later. This was a stable, well-behaved vehicle with excellent road manners.
The MK I with its none-too-impressive sidevalve engine derived from a prewar Humber came with the choice of the saloon or a pleasing two-door drophead coupe. Improvements were made to the Mk II, which appeared in 1952. A larger overhead-valve engine was fitted and the somewhat basic suspension was much improved. Thin air inlets appeared on each side of the radiator grille and the headlights were raised. The final revamp came in 1952 with the MK IIA, whose tuned engine and higher top speed required bigger brakes, which were cooled by pierced wheels.
Around 20,000 of these upstanding machines were manufactured, so there’s always a chance of enjoying a rewarding spin in this great postwar British classic.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1948 (until 1954)
1,944 cc or 2,267 cc Straight Four
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 85 mph (137 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 20.2 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Although production of the Sunbeam Talbot 90 officially ceased in 1954, it effectively continued for another three years in the near-identical form of the Mk Ill, which carried a Sunbeam Supreme badge.