The story of Colin McRae’s first rally car

A 17-year-old Colin McRae made his name in this soon-to-be-sold Sunbeam

McRae Sunbeam 1

This Chrysler Sunbeam is the very car Colin McRae used to make his rallying debut.

It must be.

It must be because, when his parents Jim and Margaret went away on holiday in September 1985, Colin – then a month past his 17th birthday – definitely didn’t mention anything about doing the Kames Stages in a Chrysler Avenger while they were away…

So, the Sunbeam was actually the car Colin used for his second ever rally. And for a good few thereafter.

“It was a good car that Sunbeam,” said Jimmy. “It was well used.”

And even before the would-be 1995 world champion set foot into the 1600cc-engined car, it had provenance. Former Toyota team manager and Subaru sporting director George Donaldson drove that very car on the 1985 Swedish Rally.

Regular DirtFish podcaster and reporter GD said: “I’d borrowed the car from a friend of mine, Bruce McKenzie. Bruce sold the car to Jimmy not long after we’d used it.

“The seats and belts were mine, but I had to borrow an engine from another friend and I bought a limited-slip differential. Barrie Lochhead (close friend of the McRae family) fettled it for me – it was a real communal effort!

“That was actually the third time I’d done the Swedish. The previous two attempts were in a Mini 1275GT. We retired from the event in 1985, but I do remember running quite high up [in the classification].

“One abiding memory from the rally is walking out early in the morning to collect the car from parc ferme. The car was covered in frost, but there was this red Sunbeam looking quite pleased and proud of herself – sitting alongside some fairly serious Group B cars.”

Later that year, McRae would step aboard and drive the Sunbeam on the Crail (Kingdom) Stages and then the Galloway Hills.

The Snowman Rally (the traditional opener to the Scottish season) was the first of nine events in 1986.

Seeing Colin making progress, Jimmy was keen to get a gauge on where his son was in terms of pace.

I only told you to touch the bumper! Ian Grindrod

“Ian [Grindrod] was co-driving for me at the time,” said the five-time British champion. “I entered Colin on the Snowman and then asked Ian if he’d sit with Colin. That Sunbeam was the first proper rally car Colin had – him and Big Barrie [Lochhead] worked away on it, there was a lot of fond memories in that car.

“Anyway, Ian said yes, aye, he would co-drive. I remember it was a snowy event and Colin caught some cars on some of the stages. There was one car in particular that wouldn’t let them past, so Colin asked Ian what to do…

“The reply was: “We’ll just give him a wee push at the next junction…” Colin pushed him off the road.

“A bit worried about it when they got to the end of the stage, Colin told Ian he was going to tell him he’d been told to do it. Ian said: “I only told you to touch the bumper!”

That very Sunbeam – the car that launched Colin McRae’s rally career – will go under the hammer at Silverstone on Friday. Further details are available here.