In 1956, Kenneth Howes and Jeff Crompton were commissioned to redesign the Alpine, with the aim of building a sports car for the American market. Howes had worked for Ford, and the car looked a bit like an early Ford Thunderbird. Between 1959 and 1968, around 70.000 pieces were produced in four series of this Alpine. The production ended shortly after the acquisition by Chrysler in 1968.
From kitten to Sunbeam Tiger
The Sunbeam Tiger was a spin off from the elegant Alpine and could never be born again. Apparently the idea of putting a V8 in a slender British sports car was pretty obvious in times that weird ideas still quite obvious.
The Sunbeam Tiger is the high-performance version of the British Sunbeam Alpine Roadster and co-designed by the legendary American Caroll Shelby. The model with a thick V8 in the front is produced from 1964 to 1967 and there are only such an 7.500 made. Critical minds state that at least as many Alpines are provided with a V8 somewhere in their lives outside the official paths. But the real start was set by the legendary Caroll Shelby.
Shelby was known for his creation of the AC Cobra and hoped to win a contract from the Rootes Group to build the Sunbeam Tiger in America.
Instead, the Sunbeam Tiger production was outsourced to Jensen in England and Shelby received royalties for every car that ran off the band. There were two models over time, the 1 series with an 4.3 liter V8 and the 2 series with an 4.7 liter V8. The owner of the Rootes Group achieved some success with the car in rallying and for two years the Sunbeam Tiger was the record holder in the quarter-mile in the USA.
Not with a shoehorn, but with a hammer
Apparently, the engine compartment of a front model was once slashed at Shelby with a tailor-made sledgehammer to accommodate the Ford V8. Jensen later built Alpines to simply grind out to Tigers through the middle tunnel and weld a wider one into it. In short: The first Tigers were structurally over-motorized. Popping!
The Sunbeam Tigers were therefore a 'work in progress'. The copy that we show in the May issue of AMK is a wonderful example of this: owner Frank Maas made his Sunbeam Tiger into the car it could have been. This was done with a lot of craftsmanship and by means of an exquisite network.
Real Sunbeam Tigers are now very expensive. And even the expensive ones are often not pure. Sunbeam Tigers apparently allowed themselves to be adjusted / upgraded very easily to the taste of their owners or the technical developments over time. This is important to know if you value factory originality.
So if you want to score a Sunbeam Tiger one day; do not get him from the shelter, but go to a specialized big cat lover. And don't make the mistake of thinking that Jaguar enthusiasts love all big cats.
Oh yes: So first buy the May number from AMK.
Then you know what the options are. Or better yet: Take up such an extremely competitively priced subscription Auto Motor Klassiek. Then you get the magazine a week before it is in the kiosks. And so you see all the advertisements sooner than the single number of buyers.
And that can turn out to be fun even in these digital times!