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The Sunbeam Motor Car Company dates back to 1905, even though the first Sunbeam car built dates back to 1902. The British company soon developed a reputation for building good quality sporting cars. Sunbeam dabbled in motor racing and built a number of successful racing cars and land speed record cars. Unfortunately the advent of the first World War was the beginning of the end for Sunbeam. The company was taken over by Darracq in 1920 and whilst they kept building Sunbeam motor cars the end was imminent. Sunbeam was placed into receivership in 1934 and sold to the Rootes Group.
Rootes started building cars under the Sunbeam-Talbot brand in 1936, producing a number of different models through until 1954. It was in 1953 that Rootes decided to brand their new open sports car – the Alpine – as a Sunbeam rather than a Sunbeam-Talbot. In 1959 Sunbeam introduced a ‘new’ smaller sports car that was also called an Alpine. This car was a great success and in excess of 67,000 examples were built spanning five series through until 1968. The Alpine was a well regarded sports car, but it was quintessentially a small engined British sports car that had more show than go.
Rootes believed their car could be a ‘world beater’ if it had a bigger, high performance engine. Negotiations with Ferrari for them to build a special engine for the Alpine failed and a deal was ultimately done with none other than Carroll Shelby to fit a Ford V8 into the Alpine. The Sunbeam Tiger was born. Shelby completed the development of the car and he was planning to build them, like he did with Cobras, but that wasn’t to be. The Sunbeam Tigers were built by Jensen in the UK with Shelby receiving a royalty for every car built. The Tiger entered production in 1964 and it was very well received in period. In total just over 7,000 Tigers were built spanning 4 years of production through until 1967. The Sunbeam Tiger Mk1 was powered by a Ford 260 cu in V8 engine and this model accounted for the majority of Tiger production. In an attempt to further improve the performance of the car, Sunbeam introduced a Tiger Mk2 in 1967 which was powered by a Ford 289 cu in V8. Rootes was taken over by Chrylser in 1967 who would not allow the Tiger to be built with a competitor’s engine. Production was ceased after only 633 Mk2’s had been built. The majority of the Sunbeam Tigers that were built were delivered into the USA.
Perhaps the best known Tiger of them all belongs to Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, in the spy comedy series Get Smart.
Oldtimer Australia is delighted to offer for sale a 1964 Sunbeam Tiger Mk1. This early Tiger was a North American delivered car from new that found its way to Australia in 2016. There is an import approval on file dated 19th July 2016.
The car’s early history is not known, however, there is a file with many old receipts and other documentation on file dating back to 1990. There is a Washington state title from 2012 (in the same name as the owner in 1990) and a Californian state title from 2016 that is signed over to the current owner. At the time of sale on the 6th July 2016 the odometer was at 54,879 miles.
There is documentation on file from the previous California based owner stating that the car was a long term keeper for him and it was only sold due to his ill health. Prior to sale it is noted the car’s cooling system was upgraded, which included fitting a new high volume water pump, new radiator hoses, the original 4 blade fan was replaced with a 5 blade fan and the radiator cleaned and checked. At this time new tie rod ends were fitted, the steering rack refilled, the generator & voltage regulator replaced and a new slave cylinder installed.
The car received a rolling restoration from 2005 through until 2014 and as a result the car presents beautifully today. According to the data tag in the engine bay this Tiger was originally finished in ‘carnival red’, the colour of the car today. The paintwork is in excellent condition, retaining a high gloss and strong depth of colour. There is the odd minor blemish evident, but you have to look hard! All of the exterior trim, including the chrome, lenses, badges and the glass are in very good condition, though there is some very slight tarnishing on some of the chrome. The wheels are also in very good condition and a real feature on a Tiger! They are shod with Toyo tyres all round.
Inside the cabin, the contrasting black interior is in excellent condition. All of the upholstery is unmarked and there are no rips or tears. The dash is also very good and all of the Jaeger instruments and the controls are crisp and clean. The soft top is also in excellent condition. The engine bay and boot are also extremely clean and very well presented.
So what’s it like to drive? It’s a blast! You turn the key and the growl from under the bonnet is totally unexpected, even though you know it’s a Tiger. This car is kind of like a Morgan Plus 8 in this regard. The big V8 soon settles into a smooth idle and after letting things warm up it is ‘good to go’. Your immediate impressions are really positive. You can certainly feel the weight in the front of the car, but in saying that it is well balanced. After a few miles you realise that this is a very well sorted car that is ready to be used. It is surprisingly tight on the road and with that big V8 up front you just want to ‘give it the beans’! The engine pulls strongly, the gearbox is good (though shifting requires a firm hand until it warms up) and the car handles and stops as you would expect. The ‘rawness’ of this car is quite intoxicating.
The car looks really good with the hard top fitted, and whilst it is a two person job, it is light and easy to remove/refit. Similarly, the soft top is easy to raise and lower, once you know how!
The car is listed on the Australian and New Zealand Tiger Register and the previous owner(s) were members of the California Association of Tiger Owners.
Accompanying the car is a rare factory hard top, all the original parts (including the steering wheel, cam covers and exhaust manifold), a history file and a Sunbeam owner’s handbook. There is a spare wheel, jack and a wheel brace in the boot.
Today the odometer reads 55,233 miles.
Not surprisingly Shelby got it right and these ‘junior Cobras’ are ‘good news and offer great value for money’. Now here’s an opportunity to join Agent 86 behind the wheel of a very cool car!
0417 828 569
Last Updated: 28th Apr 2020