1965 Sunbeam Tiger Mk 1 Roadster
|Engine||V8, 302-cid (see text)|
Thanks to the success of AC’s brutal Cobra, the Anglo-American sports car was already a well established concept by the time the Rootes Group made the decision to build a V8-powered derivative of its pretty Alpine sports car. Indeed the Cobra’s creator, legendary Texan Carroll Shelby, was heavily involved in developing the initial prototype for Sunbeam, shoehorning Ford’s small-block V8 under the bonnet with dramatic results. The first Tigers used the 260-cid bent eight combined with a four-speed Top Loader transmission and the Alpine’s chassis was beefed-up to cope with the additional power. The bodyshells were stiffened, rack and pinion steering adopted and the suspension revised, while Jensen of West Bromwich - already building their own Anglo-American GT cars - were subcontracted to build the Tiger to avoid disrupting production of the Alpine. First offered for sale in 1964, the Tiger’s performance was on an entirely different level to the relatively pedestrian Alpine – and most other British sports cars of the day - and the Sunbeam received a warm reception from the motoring press and public alike. With 164 horsepower on tap, the 0-100 km/h dash took a fraction over nine seconds on the way to a top speed of 200 km/h. A revised Mark II model was introduced in 1967 with the larger 289-cid V8 but sadly the model was dropped in 1968 when Chrysler took a controlling interest in Sunbeam and quickly put an end to production. The Tiger enjoyed a successful competition career, both in rallying and on circuits across Europe and America, with Brian Lister developing the unique Le Mans fastback coupes for an all out attack on the French endurance classic. In all there were just 6495 Mark I and a further 571 Mark II Tigers built and surviving examples enjoy a cult following in America, Britain and here in Australia. More than just an affordable Cobra alternative, the Tiger has a unique character, combining effortless performance with plenty of creature comforts and a surprisingly roomy cabin. Not surprisingly, the Tiger has huge potential for tuning and many have been turned into successful track or historic rally machines over the years.