21 March 2013

Sunbeam Venezia among rarest of designs

lightweight two-door: Despite Italian-styled coupe’s short life, value of this early-’60s car remains modest

 

The grille and headlights of the Sunbeam Venezia look very familiar; and should be, because the car was based on a Humber Sceptre sedan but it was badge-engineered as a Sunbeam product.
 
The Rootes Group signed off and approved production of the Carrozeria Touring of Milan-styled Venezia in 1961.
 
The finished product was launched two years later with great fanfare from a gondola in St. Marks Square in, you guessed it, Venice!
 
The front end certainly does not have the same appeal as the rear end, which is a lot more subtle and reminiscent of an Alfa Romeo 2600 Spider or a Maserati 3500 GT.
 
Actually, it is almost identical.
 
In building this car, Touring used the same Superleggera construction technique with a tubular framework and handmade aluminum exterior body panels just as they did with the Lamborghini 3500 GT, Maserati 3500 GT and Aston Martin DB4/5/6 series coupes.
 
The lightweight two-door, four-seat sports coupe was powered by the Rootes’ 1592 cc, 4-cylinder engine mated to a 4–speed Laycock de-Normanville overdrive transmission. The front-wheel drive disc-braked coupe was capable of 160 km/h.
 
It has been reported that there were plans to build a V8-powered convertible in England at the Jensen factory in West Bromwich, but nothing ever came of it.
 
The Venezia was very short-lived (1963-1964), somewhat reminiscent of the Anglo-Italian Triumph Italia.
 
The reason was simple — with a price tag of $4,000 US, the buyers were simply not there. Consequently, only 203 examples were ever built, and of those only seven right-hand-drive examples were delivered to the U.K. market. A mere 26 examples are known to have survived today, making them rare.
 
Rare does not always equate to making something valuable, however.
 
I would estimate the realistic market value of a pristine example could possibly fetch as much as $30,000 US. The pluses would include rarity, Italian styling and a plush interior, but this is outweighed by the lack of availability of body panels of any kind and a common problem of the era, a variable build quality.
 
Following up on the ex-Sir Elton John Ferrari offered at an auction last week in England — it did not sell, meaning that the highest bid did not reach the set reserve of $137,000.

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