1965 Sunbeam Tiger MkI
Current owner 35 years; rolling road tuned Ford Motor Sport 302ci engine; 5-speed Borg Warner gearbox; Salisbury Powr-Lok LSD; uprated cooling and suspension; only 2,500 miles since full restoration and in wonderful condition throughout
A muscle car version of the Rootes Group’s Sunbeam Alpine Roadster, the Tiger was dreamed up not in Ryton-on-Dunsmore but on the West Coast of America.
Inspired by the success of Carroll Shelby’s AC Cobra which saw a big American V8 shoehorned into a dainty British roadster, Rootes Group’s American Competitions Manager, Ian Garrad, persuaded Shelby to weave the same magic with the humble Alpine. The result was the Thunderbolt, a Shelby-designed prototype which was shipped back to England for further development by the boffins at Rootes.
The fruit of this collaboration was the Sunbeam Tiger which was launched in 1964 with a 4.2-litre Ford V8, later to become a 4.7-litre in the MkII version of 1967. Hand-built by Jensen in West Bromwich, the Tiger was a totally different animal to its Alpine lookalike with extensive structural modifications to accommodate the size and power of the V8, a Panhard rod to better locate the rear axle and more precise rack-and-pinion steering.
Underbonnet space was so limited that some of the spark plugs were only accessible from inside the car via a hole in the bulkhead, the fuel pump was relocated to a compartment under the rear seats and the battery was in the boot.
At first the Tiger was only available in left-hand drive for the American market, the 260ci engine producing a relatively modest 164bhp which made it good for a top speed of 120mph and a 0-60mph time of 8.6 seconds. The right-hand drive version was not launched to the British public until the Motor Show of March 1965. A more powerful 289ci MkII version followed in 1967 although this was only ever available to the US market and just 633 were produced.
By the time Rootes Group’s new owners, Chrysler, pulled the plug on the project in late-1967, only 7,083 Tigers had been made in total, all but around 856 in LHD for the American market, and survivors are increasingly sought after today.
First registered in March 1965, this Sunbeam Tiger MkI has been in the current ownership for around 35 years. A retired motor engineer with much experience of the model, our vendor spent many years slowly restoring the car, enlisting professional help where required.
The bodywork was restored in 2005/06 by Hope Classic & Restoration Ltd of Doncaster at a cost of £5,514, the labour rate at the time being £27.50 per hour so you can imagine how much more it would cost today. They did a fine job and it still looks wonderful over 15 years later, with gleaming Ford Midnight Blue paintwork.
Under the bonnet lurks a more powerful Ford Motor Sport 302ci V8 engine (4,948cc) which was fully rebuilt, dyno sheets from Hi-Tech Motorsport of Kidderminster showing that it was producing 233bhp and 257lb/ft at 3,700rpm when rolling road tuned in 2015. This is mated to a 5-speed Borg Warner gearbox and a Salisbury Powr-Lok limited slip differential.
Other goodies include: uprated aluminium radiator and feathering fan; uprated front road springs; Spax adjustable dampers front and rear and ventilated front disc brakes. All other components were renewed or rebuilt as required, including a new clutch; clutch and brake master cylinders; Lockheed brake servo; alternator and wiring loom. The car rides on period 13” American Racing alloy wheels shod with Yokohama tyres at the front and Falken at the rear.
The interior was fully retrimmed with blue seat covers, Sabelt safety harnesses, top quality carpets and a blue mohair hood.
Since the restoration was completed in 2008, the car has only covered around 2,500 fine weather miles (as shown by 11 old MOTs), the odometer currently showing 68,492 miles. Although it no longer needs one, it has a current MOT valid until May 2023 with no advisories recorded.
Starting promptly and running beautifully as we have moved it around on site, with good 60psi oil pressure, this expertly rebuilt and uprated Tiger is in wonderful condition throughout and now only needs an enthusiastic new owner who can give it the more regular exercise it deserves.
For more information contact James on 07970 309907 or email [email protected]
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