The Sunbeam Allegro.

The Sunbeam Allegro (From Sunbeam Owners Club, New Zealand) ,by Alan Walton.

Recently I was asked by Sid Mosdell about the Sunbeam Allegro. Apparently, Ian Gerrard had fielded a few inquiries from Sunbeamers who were not aware of the genesis of this rather special Sunbeam Rapier.

This is an interesting story, perhaps more so for NZ Sunbeamers because we are lucky enough to have an Allegro replica within the club - Dave Craw's Sunbeam Allegro 289 replica. Quite obviously the club has lost some of its collective knowledge. The Allegro story was told in the 1983 Spring/Summer edition of Sunbeamania (SOCNZ's magazine). So, here is the story now, with a few interesting tid-bits gleaned from Dave Craw, and from examining his car during the 1996 Dunlop Targa NZ.

In 1969/70, a UK company, Forward Engineering, took two brand new Sunbeam Rapier Fastback bodies from the Rootes production line. The first was a standard Rapier trimmed and fully painted. The second car was a H120 shell which was supplied in primer. The first car was fitted with a standard Tiger II engine and gearbox with normal carburation. The H120 shell was fitted with a 271bhp version of the Ford 289ci V8. This engine had fully gas-flowed Weslake-Gurney cylinder heads, solid lifter cam and breathed through two Carter AFB 4-barrel carburetors. The engine swap was fairly simple, although Forward Engineering quickly realised that the standard production car's front anti-roll bar would actually have to pass through the V8's sump! In order to side-step this problem a new anti-roll bar was made and fitted. The Rapier's steering box also caused a few problems and its position was altered without affecting the car's steering dynamics. The bodyshells were stiffened with modifications to the bulk-head and frame that was purpose built. Fully strengthened front suspension units were specially built, and spring and damper rates were reset. This was necessary to counter the extra weight of the cast-iron V8. The rear of the shells were also reinforced around the spring mountings and provision was made for radius arms above and below the rear axle. The rear axles themselves were modified Aston Martin 4HA Salisbury units, both fitted with a 2.88 'Power-Lok' LSD. Rear axle location on the first car was by Watts linkage, the second car was fitted with a Panhard rod. Front brakes on both cars were modified Tiger units, whilst rear brakes remained as standard Rapier drums, although harder linings were fitted.

Motorsport magazine tested both cars - the first was found capable of 120mph, the second managed a blistering 151mph! Whilst the first car kept its standard Rapier badging, the second car was fitted with a nameplate which read : 'Allegro 289'.When last heard of, the first car was owned by a Volvo designer in Sweden and the second car was thought to have remained in the UK.

Dave Craw has been using his Allegro replica for classic race events since he built it in 1984, and its performance, and excellent handling during the 1996 Dunlop Targa New Zealand was a surprise to everyone.

Dave has recently fitted air-conditioning to his Allegro replica, which also boasts electrically operated windows. If you ever get the opportunity to examine Dave's car you just have to take a look at the rear suspension. Even the normally taciturn Penn McKay was agog when he checked it out during Targa!

Alan Walton

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