Cars of Coolhaven

An exploration of extraordinary cars in an ordinary neighborhood

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Sunbeam Chamois MkII / Hillman Imp

January 27th, 2008 by Rolph · 2 Comments

Now this is a rare find in Rotterdam. In fact, I think I never ever have seen one of these cars before, well, at least not consiously aware of it. The Sunbeam Alpine, being the vintage British, slick and slender sports car with a group of admirers, is a more ‘common’ car to spot, but still not all that easy. And you probably would have to go to the UK to up the odds a bit. The Chamois was completely unknown to me. It is a rear engine car with a back window that can open. I have no idea why, but it is obvious that I am immediately in love!

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Oddly enough, searching the internet you don’t get much on this car when searching on ‘Sunbeam’. Sure, you get the car history, and nice pictures of the Alpine, Rapier and the odd Tiger are to be found, but what kind of Sunbeam is this?! The Dutch Motoring Department has to help me out, and gives me another search engine term: Chamois. Now we are getting somewhere, apparently the Sunbeam Chamois is an ‘expensive’ version of the Hillman Imp. The Imp being the direct competitor of contemporary Mini. But who or what is Hillman, and why is it a Sunbeam? Let’s see if I can summarize the whole history:

***takes a really deep breath*** So, from 1888 we have the Sunbeam Car company that manufactured (first) bicycles, motorbikes and (finally) cars. We have John Marston of John Marston Company who owns the Sunbeam Car company. The bikes and bicycles manufacturing separate from the car producing as early as 1905. We have ourselves a first World War in which Sunbeam builds airplane engines as well. In 1920, the company merges with the (then) recently merged French Talbot-Darracq, forming STD Motors. This company builds itself some quite nice cars, and importantly: racers. In 1934, they go bankrupt. Rootes Group buys the still successful Talbot portion, leaving Sunbeam and Darracq for William Lions (the Jaguar Williams Lions, yes) to buy. Rootes carries the Hillman brand as the basic car brand, and will carry Sunbeam as the sporty versions. At the last moment, Rootes also buys Sunbeam. Yet another World War, and in 1964 Rootes Group is almost bankrupt as well and is looking for a partner. Chrysler buys a portion of the company, thereby rejoining the brands Sunbeam and Tarbot again. ***inhales forcefully***


All thanks to some nice Wikipedia pages, such as the Sunbeam Car Company page, the Hillman Imp page, and of course Rootes. Normally I like to combine sources, but this was complicated enough already 😉 Lots more info on these pages, of course. Another nice site is this Hillman Imp overview. In Dutch, this is a nice Rootes Group owners club site with some pictures and schemes. I could not find dedicated Sunbeam Chamois pages, though. Anybody who has some nice source on these cars, I am willing to learn, so please share!

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Tags: Oldies · Sunbeam · Ugly cars

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jan // Jan 28, 2008 at 10:57

    You could have asked me. The car was made in Scotland (which is quite uncommon) and wasn’t really bad, but against the Mini it was nowhere.

  • 2 tony // Jan 29, 2008 at 22:26

    IN Rotterdam joh? Nog nooit zien rijden. Het is een foeilelijk ding, maar leuk om de foto’s te kunnen kijken. Dat opklap achterraam is inderdaad wel cool, daardoor kun je waarschijnlijk makkelijk spullen achterin leggen. Want in de achterbak zit natuurlijk die 45 graden gekantelde moter.

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