20 February 2021

More than an old car #165: Sunbeam MKIII

Currently trying to cover the backlog of cars that I have and it's really not easy to have a quick turnaround time. However, I will try my best to bring you intriguing snippets of car history, such as this 1955 Sunbeam MKIII!

The Sunbeam Motor Car Company Limited was first established in 1888 by John Marston for his bicycle manufacturing business, and began motor car manufacturing in 1901. During WW1, it had a hand in producing aircraft engines and bomber planes. In 1934, the Sunbeam brand was sold to the Rootes Group, which had also acquired London-based car manufacturer Clement-Talbot. Both firms were combined and subsequent cars were produced under the Sunbeam-Talbot brand.

The Sunbeam-Talbot 90 was launched in 1948 and adopted features from the pre-war 2-Litre, while featuring the aesthetically pleasing 'Streamstyle' design with 'Opticurve' curved windscreen. It was available in both 4-door sedan and 2-door convertible coupe; the convertible coupe body shells were completed by Thrupp & Maberly coachbuilders (which also had a hand in designing some Rolls-Royce cars). 

In 1954, the MKIII version was launched at the Olympia Motor Show. The 'Talbot' part of the name was dropped and the car was officially known as the Sunbeam MKIII. External difference included a revised larger front side grilles incorporating the side lights and 3 portholes near the rear of the hood (as seen in the picture). Internally, the front seats were changed to include a new back rest and a centre arm rest enclosing the handbrake. Interestingly, the rear view mirror also had a clock fitted within it. The MKIII was fitted with a 2267 cc i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 150 km/h with an acceleration of 17.4 seconds [0-60 mph]. It was 4267 mm long and weighed 1367 kg, with a fuel consumption of 12.8 litres/100 km

Production of the MKIII ended in 1957 with about 2,250 made in the UK and Australia, although the drophead coupe was not made after 1955. Therefore, it is evident that this unit was one of a select few worldwide that had survived until recently. Why 'recently'? The very house which this neglected rarity was in was sold recently in an online auction for S$3.4 million, in just 8 minutes. As such, the various abandoned cars inside were removed and its fate is unknown, though it is believed that it is currently impounded by the traffic authorities. Whether it can be registered again, exported or (horrors of horrors!) scrapped is up in the air. 

I had known of its existence some years back when pictures of it surfaced online, and was able to track down the location. Based on stories that I have heard from others, this house, along with a few others were owned by 2 brothers. It seemed that both of them were into collecting classic cars: I have seen the houses and all the vehicles are in disrepair. One of the brothers passed away and the other one is currently living in the UK, allegedly on the run from creditors. 

The car had been deregistered in 2019 probably because it did not report for its biannual inspections. As to how the car ended up in the house, I am inclined to believe that it could be an original Singapore car that changed hands during the 70s. The MKIII coupe was sold here in 1955 by Lyons Motors Ltd, retailing for £1,198 at that time. A review in the local news praised its comfort and performance especially when the Laycock de Normanville overdrive was engaged, along with features such as two-speed windscreen wipers and a heater clearing the screen of mist in less than a minute. However, side visibility was somewhat impaired by the thick pillars.

This unit featured a two-tone Dove Grey/Claret exterior colour with Ascot Grey upholstery. However, the ravages of time have led to overall neglect and a restoration project may be a major strain on one's resources and sanity. While it would have been cool to have it grace the roads again, I'm not sure if anyone may ever see it. In the meantime, just enjoy this snapshot that I have which proves of this rarity's existence here! 

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