December 15 – BDU 222Y
The last works Talbot Sunbeam Lotus rally car produced is about to begin a new chapter in its long and illustrious history. Since rolling out of the Peugeot Talbot Sport Competitions Department in Coventry in September 1982, BDU 222Y has competed at every level from club sprint right up to World Rally Championship – and now it is going back to its original minder.
Jim Little was responsible for building and maintaining many of the Talbot works rally cars in the early 1980s, and is Britain’s leading authority on the iconic vehicles. Now the Carlisle-based engineer is preparing to welcome the very last factory rally Sunbeam into his workshop for a full rebuild before shipping the car off to its new home in the south of France.
There’s a further twist to this story, though. The car’s new owner is a close associate of Guy Fréquelin, who piloted the very same Sunbeam to eleventh overall on the 1982 rally. In fact, former Citroen World Rally Team boss Frequilin was best man at the buyer’s wedding!
The deal came about when the French gentleman walked into Little’s workshop in summer 2009 to enquire about purchasing an engine for a Sunbeam Lotus. He overheard a conversation about BDU 222Y, asked if this was the same car driven by Fréquelin, and set in motion a line of enquiry that resulted in him purchasing the car from previous owner David Barlow.
The deal will see Jim Little fully restore the car and convert it back to left-hand drive. Although the vehicle will be extensively rebuilt, Jim believes BDU 222Y is one of the most original, complete and unmodified works cars he has ever seen.
BDU 222Y was one of the lightest and most highly developed Sunbeam Lotuses, built to Group B+ specification. It made its competitive debut on the 1982 Manx International Rally at the hands of Guy Fréquelin, going on to contest the RAC Rally later that year. It contested the Spanish Championship and a handful of World Championship rounds the following year under the care of Jim Little, before being converted to right-hand drive and shipped to Ireland for Robin Lyons to use in 1984 and 1985.
Scotsman Stewart Robertson of Dalbeattie acquired the Sunbeam in 1986, using the car to great success in the Scottish Rally Championship. Late in 1988, David Barlow – now perhaps better known as the founder of the Brick and Steel 205 Ecosse Challenge – took ownership of the car and competed on a wide range of rallies before garaging the car in 1993. It was then subject to a lengthy restoration project before the sale to its new French owner was rubber-stamped in early December 2009.
“This was the most expensive and enjoyable rally car I ever bought,” recounts David Barlow. “It has been with me for 21 years and there was a tear in my eye as I left it with Jim. But I know it is just entering the next exciting phase of its life.”
*Photographs courtesy of Jim Little, please do not reproduce.