1956 MK1 Sunbeam Rapier Rally Car RPS

 Price £50,000


Rally Preparation Services is thrilled to offer for sale this exceptional and extremely rare Mille Miglia Eligible MK1 Sunbeam Rapier Rally Car.

First announced to the motoring press in October 1955 at the London Motor Show with its distinctive and signature Audax body styling. The MK1 Sunbeam Rapier was designed by the Rootes Group working closely with the Raymond Loewy design organization. French born Loewey settled in the USA in the late 30’s where his period designs spanned from the original Shell logo, the Coca Cola vending machine design and even the interior design of both Concorde and NASA’s Skylab!

Loewey was highly regarded in the automotive world as the designer behind many great looking cars, especially the striking Studebaker Starliner, a car quoted as “one of the most beautiful cars ever made” in fact the crossover from the US market cars can easily be seen with the Rapier and other Rootes Group cars of the era. In total, a mere 7,477 units were made of the MK1 Sunbeam Rapier.

Late in 1956 after much international rallying the Rootes competition department decided to upgrade the engines fitted to the production cars to the better R67 engine, along with a different inlet manifold and optional extra Zenith Carburettors giving more horsepower, faster acceleration, and better top speed. In fact, British rally driver Peter Harper renowned for his expert driving skills in slippery and icy conditions achieved a successful fifth place finish in the 1958 Monte Carlo Rally in a MK1 Sunbeam Rapier.

This charming Primrose Yellow and Pearl Grey car was first registered in May 1956 and is believed to be one of the very earliest Sunbeam Rapiers left in existence, and what makes it even more special, one of only 12 left on the road today. Still running with its period original specification, the same spec used by both Peter Harper and Sheila van Damm – multiple Alpine Rally Coupe des Dames winner in the 1950’s. In fact, the Rootes factory debuted the models sporting ability in May 1956 just seven months after official launch by entering and preparing two cars the Mille Miglia, one for Harper and one for Van Damme, their cars being almost identical to this car – Harper went on to finish 1st in the Special Touring Class for cars with engines of 1,300 – 1,600cc. Then in 1957 Peter Harper tackled the Mille Miglia once more in a factory entered Rapier and placed a brilliant 2nd in class.

This car is the only Rapier to have been granted entry twice in the modern Millie Miglia…automatically eligible this car last took part in this prestigious event more recently in 2017. Immaculately kept the car has been looked after, loved and kept completely in keeping – from the original styled bonnet scoop, the works styled bucket seats and the hanging cushion pad on the driver’s side, a fancy works innovation so the driver didn’t bang their knee constantly!

The paintwork, the interior trim and the brightwork is exceptional and speaks testament to the re-commissioning and absolute attention to detail this car has been subjected to along the way. A history file comes with the car.

Ideal for either a fresh assault in the footsteps of the works drivers on the Mille Miglia, the Monte Carlo Historique and many other rallies across Europe or simply as a Sunday driver for trips out in the Cotswold’s or maybe along the French Riviera or as its just one of a dozen cars left driving it could be part of a collection, this smashing little car is a well-kept piece of British history.

The car is currently with RPS’ sister company, the SASCo storage facility and available for inspection.

All viewings and test drives welcomed by appointment at Rally Preparation Services.

All enquiries please contact us on mail@rpsrally.com or telephone +44(0)1993 358009.

  • Date of original registration May 1956.
  • Mille Miglia eligible.
  • Fiva eligible.
  • Rootes Archive Centre Trust Certificate.
  • Original bonnet.
  • Front and rear seats.
  • Rear axle.
  • Spare gearbox.
  • Engine block from donor car.
  • Various chrome trim and quarter lights.


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