The Rapier Fastback H120
The Roy Axe-styled fastback Rapier was introduced in October 1967 as a
replacement for the 1955-1967 `Series Rapier. It was built initially at Ryton,
near Coventry, England, production later moving to Scotland.
The original Rapier was a two door coupe sharing its basic mechanical
components with the contemporary Hillman Minx. It built up a formidable
reputation as a rally car through the 1950s and early 1960s.
The fastback followed similar practice by being based on the Hillman Hunter
floorpan, suspension and drivetrain. It was powered by Rootes 1725cc four
cylinder engine with twin Stromberg 150CD carburettors and an alloy head. It
was available with either a Borg-Warner automatic or a manual gearbox with
Laycock de Normanville overdrive.
A Holbay-tuned version, the H120, was unveiled in October 1968. The H120
featured a redesigned cylinder head and twin Weber 40DCOE carburettors. The
H120 is easily identifiable by its Rostyle wheels, go-faster stripes and
From October 1969 a third variant, the Alpine, was introduced. The fastback
Alpine took its name from two earlier models: the 1953-55 `Mark Alpine and the
1959-1968 `Series Alpine (See following link:
fastback Alpine was a de-tuned model intended to slot in under the Rapier in
the Sunbeam range. It had a single Stromberg 150CD carburettor and less
A one-off Fastback convertible, believed to be presented to
Prince Rainier & Princess Grace of Monaco. The car is believed to be in a
Monte Carlo museum now.
All Sunbeam fastbacks sold in North America were badged as Alpines. For the US
market the Alpine was called the Alpine Coupe, while the Rapier was known as
the Alpine GT. Strangely the H120 does not appear to have been sold there.
In 1970 production was transferred from the Ryton plant to Linwood in Scotland
in order to make way for the Hillman Avenger.
The Alpine ceased production in 1975, although the name lived on with the
Simca-based Chrysler Alpine. The Rapier followed in April 1976. A total of
46,204 fastback Sunbeams were built.
Many Fastback Rapiers have not survived, making the Rapier a rare but inexpensive
classic car to own. Reviews and write-ups on the Rapier in 1967/8 were
very good when models began to appear on the road, and the car was competetively
priced at £1200 against other sports tourers of the time, such as the BMW 1600
Coupe and Rover 2000. The Rapier was the last addition to the 'Arrows' range
(The Minx / Gazelle / Hunter / Vogue / Sceptre / Rapier models,the Minx being the
cheapest and the Rapier the most expensive - see 'Other Rootes Group Models').
Being a pretty heavy car, the Rapier has nippy acceleration - it's 1725 c.c.
engine producing 94 B.H.P, and 88 B.H.P at the wheels. It's fuel consumption
figures were very respectable for it's day , only using 1 gallon of petrol
every 30 miles or so, more than matching the BMW and the Rover 2000 of the
same day. It's interior fittings were very luxurious, with overdrive being a
standard fitting to the Rapier range.
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