The automobile featured in this article is the 1964 Sunbeam Tiger Series I. The Series I models were built with a Ford 260 cubic inch V-8 engine.
The Sunbeam Tiger was built from 1964 through 1967. The Series II Tiger model was built during the last model year and came equipped with a Ford 289 cubic inch V-8. Both the Series I and Series II were high performance versions of the popular Sunbeam Alpine.
The Sunbeam Marquee
The marquee Sunbeam goes back a long ways. Not unlike many of the very early automakers, the Sunbeam name was associated with bicycles before venturing into automotive production. As time went on the British company was involved with more than bicycles and cars. They produced motorcycles and and during World War One, aircraft engines trucks and ambulances.
Changes of Ownership
The original company goes back to 1877 with a bicycle factory. The first automobile with the Sunbeam name appeared in 1901. In 1905 the Sunbeam Motorcar Company Ltd was established as a separate entity from the other businesses of John Marston. Marston continued on with the bicycles and motorcycles.
After the war in 1919 Sunbeam merged with Talbot-Darracq to form Sunbeam-Talbot which was generally referred to as STD Motors. This arrangement lasted until the middle of the Great Depression in 1935 when the company went into receivership. STD was then purchased by the Rootes Group.
By the early 1960's the company was in financial trouble again and after some failed mergers the Chrysler Corporation in 1964 purchased thirty percent of the company. This made sense for Chrysler since they were attempting to enter the European market. As it turned out the merger with Chrysler eroded the Sunbeam brand and the last Sunbeam models were produced between 1967 and 1976.
Many said that Chrysler tried to make the Sunbeam a Chrysler car and the Sunbeam brand took a hit. Another factor was that Chrysler was said to have a problem with a Ford V-8 sitting in one of their cars. The problem was that no Chrysler V-8 would fit the tight confines of the Alpine’s engine compartment. This marked the last days of the Sunbeam Tiger.
The Involvement of Carroll Shelby
The man who put a Ford V-8 into an AC Cobra was also to have a hand in what Sunbeam produced with their Tiger model.
Carroll Shelby powered up the AC Cobra by fitting a Ford V-8 onto the AC chassis which he imported to the U.S. Sunbeam appeared to be quite curious about what Shelby was doing since the AC and the Sunbeam Alpine were similar cars.
The Shelby Cobra of 1962 was the inspiration for the Sunbeam Tiger. While the Sunbeam Alpine was doing well in America, the company desired a car with more power to appeal to the younger American market. After test drives of two prototypes put together by Shelby, the Rootes Group hired Carroll Shelby, the originator of the Shelby Cobra, to design their Sunbeam Tiger based on the Alpine. Shelby took out the Alpine's four cylinder engine and put in a small block Ford V-8. Production of this new model began for the 1964 model year.
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1964 Sunbeam Tiger Series I Specifications
As mentioned above the Sunbeam Tiger Series I was built with a Ford 260 cubic inch V-8 engine producing 164 horsepower. It was a high performance version of the Sunbeam Alpine and could do Zero to 60 in 7.8 seconds. Top speed was claimed to be 117 MPH.
Transmission per Carroll Shelby was a four speed manual.
Front suspension included independent coil springs with rear suspension consisting of a live axle and semi-eliptic leaf springs.
Brakes on the Sunbeam Tiger were front wheel disc and rear wheel drum.
Dimensions for the Sunbeam Tiger include a wheelbase of 84.0 inches, an overall length of 156.0 inches, a width of 60.5 inches and a height of 51.5 inches. The car's curb weight was 2,564 lbs.
Only 7,085 Sunbeam Tiger Series I vehicles were produced.
A Sought After Collector Car
When Sunbeam Tiger production ended in 1967 there were only 7,085 built. This in a large way made this V-8 classic British sports car a popular collector car today. It's also the car seen on the old television show "Get Smart".
Asking prices for the Sunbeam Tiger as of this writing might begin in the $35,000 range and head significantly up from there. Originality is a key determinant since some of these sports cars have had engine modifications. A fully restored original Tiger model with no rust will have a higher asking price.
Original unmodified cars are getting rarer and rarer every year. It's actually easier to modify an automobile than to keep it in it's original condition and as a result more collectors it seems put more value on originality.
(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)