Compared to the Series I car, the Sunbeam Rapier Series II had the same independent front coil and wishbone suspension with semi-elliptic leaf springs and a live axle at the back. The rear drum brakes were shared as well. The major changes, though, included a larger 1.5-liter engine, bigger brakes up front, recirculating ball steering, floor shift and a newly available convertible body style.
The Rapier Series II also looked fairly different from its predecessor. The radiator was changed, and the tail fins were more pronounced. The larger engine increased the top speed to 91 mph, and 0-60 mph dropped to just over 20 seconds. Leather trim and overdrive were added to the options list.
In September of 1959, a Series III model was introduced with an oblong rear number plate valance and different front side grilles. For the interior, there was a new walnut-veneered fascia and better seating. Under the hood, the engine had higher compression, a new camshaft and a new cylinder head. The 0-60 time plummeted to 16.5 seconds and top speed increased to 93 mph. The British magazine Motor Sport was impressed enough to suggest that “If you can’t afford a Mercedes, buy a Sunbeam!”
April of 1961 brought a facelift in the form of the Series IIIa, which also had a 1.6-liter engine and a better clutch. Performance did drop a bit, however.
The Rapier’s success in motorsports continued. A Series II Sunbeam Rapier took victory in the 1958 RAC rally, and Rapiers finished higher than any other British car in the 1958, 1959 and 1960 Monte Carlo Rallies.
The charms of the Series II and III are many and various. They are entertaining to drive and mechanically robust. The Series IIIa is slower than the Series III, but the engine is regarded by many owners as more robust and offering more torque.
Problems facing any would-be owner include alloy heads that are prone to suffering from gasket problems, water damage on the convertible versions and worn synchromesh on the gearbox.