1965 Sunbeam Tiger Mk1
(Featured on 27th June 2011)
Make: Rootes Group
Model: Sunbeam Tiger
Sellers original description:
Sunbeam Tiger Mk1
Painted in Ferrari Rosso Corsa with Full Black Vinyl Interior, Soft and Hard Tops (the latter painted in Rolls Royce Ivory) 4 Speed Manual Gearbox, Period Radio, Bullet Style Wing Mirrors, Seat Belts.
289 cubic inch Ford Engine sourced from a 1967 Mustang, Carmona 13? Alloy Wheels, Koni Shock Absorbers with Uprated Front Springs, Rear LAT tramp bars, LAT Bonnet, Holley 600 CMF Carburetor with Edelbrock Manifold, Marrory Distributor, Remote Oil Filter and Brake Servo, Electric Cooling Fan, Halogen 44 Headlights, Full Stainless Steel Exhaust System, Battery and Fuel Isolation Switch, Motolita Steering Wheel.
The Sunbaem Tiger was based on the Alpine which started production in 1959. The car made extensive use of components from other Rootes Group vehicles and was built on a modified floorpan from the Hillman Husky estate car. The running gear came mainly from the Sunbeam Rapier, but with front disc brakes replacing the saloon car’s drums. The suspension was independent at the front using coil springs and at the rear had a live axle and semi elliptic springing. The Girling-manufactured brakes using 9.5? discs at the front and 9? drums at the rear.
The West Coast Sales Manager of Rootes American Motors Inc., Ian Garrad, realised that the Alpine’s image was that of a touring car rather than a sports car, and he set about changing its image, using the recent success of the Shelby Cobra as a guide. He and Rootes’ Western Service Manager Walter McKenzie measured up several V8 engines and determined that Ford’s new 164 hp 260 cubic inch Windsor V8 engine would fit nicely between the frame rails. Sunbeam asked Carroll Shelby to produce one functional prototype on a budget of $10,000. Shelby’s prototype was fabricated by Shelby employee George Boskoff, and the result was judged to be good enough to send to England for production evaluation. Seeking reassurance everything would fit, a second Series 2 Alpine was handed to Ken Miles. Ken Miles (a talented racer and fabricator in his own right) had just been employed by Shelby America. Using his own shop facilities, he managed to install a 260 cubic inch V8 and two-speed automatic into the Alpine in less than a week, at a total cost of US$600. Having served its feasibility study purpose, Ken Miles’ prototype was kept by Rootes Motors Inc. Los Angeles for some time then eventually sold to a private buyer.
After doing extensive engineering studies Rootes Group subcontracted development and pre-production testing to Jensen, located in West Bromwich, England. Jensen went on to manufacture the Sunbeam Tiger. Production reached 7,085 cars over three distinct series. The factory only ever designated two, the Mark 1 and Mark 2; however, since the official Mark 1 production spanned the changeover in body style from the Series IV Alpine panels to the Series V panels, the later cars are generally designated Mark 1A by current Sunbeam Tiger enthusiasts. The Mark 2 production totaled just 536 cars, and these Tigers, with the 200 BHP 289 cu in (4.7 L) engine, are rare today. Both the Miles and the Shelby prototypes have survived, along with a number of other historically significant Tigers.
Production of the Tiger only lasted from 1964 until Chrysler purchased Rootes Group in June 1967. Chrysler could not be realistically expected to sell a car with a Ford engine, but had no suitable engine of its own with which to replace it: Chrysler’s small-block V8 engines had the distributor positioned at the rear of the engine, unlike the front-mounted distributor of the Ford V8. Their big-block V8 had a front-mounted distributor, but was significantly larger. It was impossible to fit either engine into the bay without major, and expensive, revisions, thus the Tiger was canceled. The Tiger was arguably more practical and commercially successful than the AC Cobra that inspired it, but road and track performance was completely subordinate in comparison. It did however succeed as a car that increased the sporting cache of the Sunbeam brand.
This car has been subject to a full body restoration during 2010. It was carried out at Wayne Green Body Repairs of Bury St Edmunds. Wayne specialises in body restorations of classic Ferraris as well as 60s classics such as the Tiger. He took 9 months to complete the Tiger renovation which was taken down to the bare metal and lead loaded where required. When he primed the car, he completed a prelim top coat immediately to prevent any moisture ingress. It was re-painted in Ferrari Rosso Corsa. The restoration has been done to a very high standard with an excellent paint finish. The car is fitted with an original equipment hard top which was also re-painted and re-trimmed during the restoration. The paintwork is Rolls Royce Ivory White and the interior has been trimmed in perforated Ivory cloth. The Ivory soft top is in good condition and has been thoroughly cleaned and rear screen polished during our preparation to bring it back to the same standard as the rest of the car. The front and rear bumpers are new stainless steel items (although the marked originals are available with the car) and really finish the car off very well. The exterior is very hard to fault and she presents just as well in the metal as she does in our photograph shoot.
Wheels Tyres and Brakes:
This Sunbeam Tiger is fitted with a set of unmarked Carmona Mini-Lite Style 13? alloy wheels. These have a set of brand new Goodyear 185/70/R13 tyres on them. The car is fitted with a remote servo for the brakes which is mounted “rally style” in the front passenger footwell. Not only does this up-rated unit give superior braking but it means that you can actually get to the spark plugs on the passenger side of the engine, making routine servicing a great deal easier. The brakes are all in good condition with plenty of ‘meat’ left on the friction parts.
Engine and Transmission:
This Mk1 Tiger would have originally been supplied with a 260 cubic inch Ford Windsor engine, but this was changed to the 200 BHP 289 engine in 1988. Originally from a 1967 Ford Mustang this unit transforms the performance of the Tiger making it a seriously quick and responsive sports car. We have, as with the rest of the car, checked through the running gear and it all seems to be in very good condition. The engine starts from cold very easily with no choke required and warms through quickly dropping the idle when at operating temperature. There is no blue smoke from cold and during test drive has had no cooling issues. Recently the car has had a new water pump, hoses and electric fan which will help its reliability no end. The engine bay is painted matt black and the components have been lightly detailed making sure that you are not disappointed when you lift the bonnet in the pub car park.
The four speed gearbox is slick with all four gears (+ reverse) engaging cleanly. The clutch is relatively light with no slip even under hard acceleration.
Interior and Equipment:
The seats and door cards are trimmed in period black vinyl and are all in very good condition. The carpet set was replaced during the restoration with high quality black carpets. All the electrics and gauges work as they should and the whole interior well finished feel to it.
Having driven a few Alpines in the past (an wished they had a bit more grunt) we were very excited to get our grubby mitts on this Tiger. One of the worries about installing a heavy V8 in a relatively light car though is that you make it unbearable to drive, but the in the Sunbeam’s case it really has made it a better car. The engine is mounted low and quite a way back in the chassis which makes for good weight distribution and sharp handling. There is no doubt that this has been helped by the up-rated suspension which controls the body roll and rear tramp under heavy acceleration. In all the Tiger lived up to all our expectations and drew more than a few admiring glances round the Oxforshire countryside.
There is a good history file that accompanies this Tiger including MOT’s back to 1988 when the car showed 8,354 miles on the odometer, Log book history (supplied by the DVLA) back to the first of 8 total owners, and bills and invoices showing that the car has been very well looked after over the last 24 years. The current MOT runs to November 30th 2011 and is sold serviced up to date.