The Powerful 1965 Sunbeam Tiger MK-I Sports Car

The 1965 Sunbeam Tiger MK-I is a classic and it's rare. Only 7,083 were built from 1964 to 1967. The Sunbeam Tiger I came with a 260 cubic inch Ford V-8 and a four speed manual transmission. The Sunbeam Tiger produced by the Rootes Group, a UK automaker founded in 1913 by Sir William Rootes, was small and powerful and was probably one of the better sports car values during the 1960's. The 1964 Sunbeam Tiger had a base price of about $3,500.

sunbeam tiger

1965 Sunbeam Tiger MK-1

An interesting side note was that the Rootes Group also built several other automobiles including the Talbot, Hillman, Humber, and Singer.

The Carroll Shelby Touch

The case with Sunbeam was that they had a popular sports car in the Alpine which was introduced in 1959  but it wasn't a powerful sports car. The company was well aware of the work of Carroll Shelby with the small AC Cobra and the Ford V-8. Shelby's 1962 Cobra was really the inspiration for the Sunbeam Tiger which itself was essentially a powerful Sunbeam Alpine. Shelby developed a sports car in America that some at the Rootes Group wanted as well.

There were two prototypes constructed using Sunbeam Alpine shells. One was built by Carroll Shelby and the other by Ken Miles. Shelby's car, after a drive by Rootes Group executives around Los Angeles, was shipped to England.  Lord Rootes after taking a test drive himself made the almost instant decision to proceed with production which was a bit out of character for him. Shelby's prototype unlike that of Miles used a four speed manual transmission.

sunbeam tiger mk 1

Rear view of the Tiger MK-1

Carroll Shelby's hand in designing the Sunbeam Tiger is not nearly as well known as is his work with the AC Cobra and the Ford Mustang.

The biggest challenge of how to fit a large and powerful engine into a small British car body. The Sunbeam Tiger ended up being a sports car with twice the power of a Sunbeam Alpine with only about twenty-percent more weight. That's a huge distinction between the two somewhat similar yet far different Sunbeam models.

It was reported that Carroll Shelby desired to produce the U.S. version of the Tiger himself but his close ties with Ford kept all production in Britain.

The Sunbeam Tiger II

The Sunbeam Tiger II came out in 1967 and it held a larger Ford 289 cubic inch V-8 delivering 20  horsepower. The Sunbeam Tiger II also had some design changes which included unique headlight trim, an egg-crate grille, and lower body striping.

The company was having difficulty about the time that the Tiger II came out and the smaller Rootes Group was ultimately purchased by Chrysler. The Tiger II was the last Sunbeam Tiger model built since Chrysler was not going to promote an automobile with a Ford engine and the Chrysler engine was just too big for the Tiger body.

1965 Sunbeam Tiger II Specifications

As mentioned above, the Sunbeam Tiger I was produced with a 260 cubic inch Ford V-8 engine. That engine delivered 164 horsepower. The more powerful Sunbeam Tiger II which was introduced in 1967 had the Ford 289 cubic inch V-8 putting out 200 horsepower. The Tiger MK-1 was rated with a top speed of 118 MPH.

Transmissions on all Sunbeam Tiger's was a four speed manual.

Brakes were front wheel disc and rear wheel drum.

The Sunbeam Tiger MK-1 dimensions included a wheelbase of 86.0 inches, a length of 156.0 inches, a width of 60.5 inches and a height of 51.5 inches. Curb weight was about 2,565 lbs.

You may also enjoy the AutoMuseumOnline stories on the links below...

The Sporty 1959 Triumph TR3A

The 1959 MG / MGA Convertible

The Powerful 1974 MG / BGT V-8

A good book available regarding the automobiles produced by the Rootes Group is...Cars of the Rootes Group/ Hillman, Humber, Singer, Sunbeam, Sunbeam Talbot (Marques & Models) by author Graham Robson.

The Sunbeam Tiger Collector Car

sunbeam tiger carroll shelby

Another view of the 65 Sunbeam Tiger

As mentioned above, the Sunbeam Tiger, both the MK-1 and MK-2, did not have the publicity that the AC Cobra and Ford Mustang had in regards to their Carroll Shelby connection. Carroll Shelby was the master of fitting a powerful V-8 engine into a small British car body.

Because of this a case can be made that the Sunbeam Tiger might be one of the best 1960's sports car collector values.

As of this writing, asking prices for original restored Sunbeam Tigers in mint condition start in the high $20,000 range into the museum quality $70,000 plus area. High priced models should have a certificate of authenticity from the Sunbeam Tiger Owners Association. Prices vary greatly due to originality and overall condition. The later Mark II Tigers that were made near the end of production are even rarer. One restored original model was advertised for $150,000.

1965 sunbeam tiger interior photo

View of the interior and dashboard on the 65 Sunbeam Tiger

A few of the Sunbeam associations and clubs include the one mentioned above, the Sunbeam Tiger Owners Association which dates back to 1969, the California Association of Sunbeam Tiger Owners, the Pacific Tiger Club from Washington State and the Sunbeam Tiger Owners Club in the U.K. Associations and clubs such as these usually offer forums and technical tips for Tiger owners.

 

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.