Published on: Jan 20, 2016 @ 21:16 Originally Published in: 2015 (old website) (C) Jay Auger - website owner & author Notice: Any form of duplication methods (including but not limited to copy/paste of text and screen capture) of the website's content is strictly forbidden.
In 1979, following the creation of the Talbot brand out of the defunct Chrysler Europe, Rootes and Simca companies, parent company PSA decided that the new division needed much publicity from motorsport to boost its image. This led to the development of the Group 4 Sunbeam-Lotus rally car and its surprise claim to the 1981 World Championship (WRC) manufacturer title. However, the Sunbeam was not expected to be reused for the upcoming Group B regulations. Talbot thus had already started devising a different prototype to compete in the new category.
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Introduced in 1978, the front-engine / front-wheel drive Talbot Horizon was aimed to be the brand’s “world car” with exports across Europe and North America to compete with the likes of the upcoming Ford Escort MkIII. In 1981, the Horizon would be the choice of Talbot team boss Des O’Dell as a base for the marque’s future Group B rally contender.
The new regulations would open the doors to even more specialised designs than before while also reducing production costs – requiring only 200 examples to be made for homologation. As such, O’Dell was contemplating his own version of the then newly launched Renault 5 Turbo by using the same overall recipe of a mid-engine / rear-wheel drive layout in a former front-wheel drive economy car.
Building a prototype often called for reusing the engine from the outgoing rally car since it was already developed and proven – providing a near instant proof of concept. Hence Talbot, in conjunction with Lotus, would install the previous Sunbeam Lotus slant-four type-911 engine behind the front seats of the Horizon.
The Horizon’s chassis allowed for the powerplant to be installed longitudinally. In its initial design, the Lotus type-911 engine, whilst normally aspirated, was capable of delivering a respectable 250 BHP in competition spec.
However, the Lotus engineers had an extra ace in their sleeves and are said to have fitted one of their type-910 turbocharged engines from the iconic Turbo Esprit model into a second Horizon prototype – augmenting the engine’s output to a fiercer 300 BHP. The turbo’d Horizon sported a small, unassuming “turbo” badge on its rear hatch.
Some initial testing is said to have been performed by wily swede Stig Blomqvist before the 1981 RAC Rally held in November. David Lapworth was the only other driver known to having tested the Lotus Horizon prototype. He fondly recalled:
“It had around 300 bhp and weighed very little, so understandably it was very quick in a straight line – once you’d got over the turbo lag. But going around corners was interesting!”
Not much else is known about the true specifications or running gear of the prototypes, which most likely were one-off Lotus creations paired with modified Sunbeam, Horizon or Esprit parts.
At a press conference held in London soon after the end of the 1981 rally season, parent company PSA announced the creation of Peugeot Talbot Sport (PTS) to spearhead both companies’ motorsport activities into the new FISA Group B regulations. Team leader Jean Todt laid out the new strategy which outlined the creation of a specialised four-wheel drive car at Peugeot for a full-on WRC programme aimed at winning the top honours. The Talbot Horizon prototype’s development was immediately halted but would serve as a technical stepping stone to the famous world-conquering Peugeot 205 Turbo 16.
Albeit its surprise claim to the 1981 WRC manufacturer’s championship, Talbot would subsequently be relegated to catering to the Group B entry-level rally car market with the Samba Rallye. The little Samba turned out to be very competitive in its B/9 class but it obviously never could compete for the top honours – soon being overshadowed and outsold by other Peugeot “GTi” offerings.
Taking the subsequent major successes of the 205 T16 into account, it is quite apparent that Peugeot Talbot Sport took the appropriate decision when abandoning the Horizon – while it ironically also robbed the world of what could have been an exciting homologation special.
|Production||1981||# built: 2
||located middle longitudinal|
|Displacement||2174 cc||WRC x1.4: 3044 cc|
|Output power – torque||
|Materials||block: aluminium||cylinder head: aluminium|
|Type||L-platform, steel monocoque chassis with roll cage, 5 door hatchback, arch extensions, vented hood|
|Front suspension||wishbone, torsion bar, anti roll bar|
|length: 155.9 in (3960 mm)||width: N/A||height: 55.5 in (1410 mm)|
|wheelbase: 99.2 in (2520 mm)||front track: N/A||rear track: N/A|
|Rims – tires||–||–|
(C) Article by Jay Auger – website owner & author
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