1965 Sunbeam Tiger
Fully restored 20 years ago and only 15,800 miles since; rebuilt 5.0 V8 engine with forged pistons, uprated camshaft, Holley carb and Edelbrock manifold; 5-speed Borg Warner gearbox; Powr-Lok LSD; uprated suspension; current owner 20+ years; very nice indeed
A muscle car version of the 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 (good for a top speed of 120mph and a 0-60mph time of 8.6 seconds), although dealers offered modified versions with up to 245bhp for an additional $250. 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 700 in LHD for the American market, and survivors are increasingly sought after today.
This lovely 1965 Tiger MkI has had just four owners from new and has been in the current ownership for at least 25 years but has spent some of that time slumbering in the vendor’s garage waiting to be restored. A former development engineer at Rover, it wasn’t until he retired that he finally got round to the job, commencing the work in 1998 and spending the next five years getting it into the lovely condition you see today.
A long-standing member of the Tiger Club and a serial owner/restorer of these fine cars, he did most of the work himself so there are no invoices to document the process but the car speaks for itself and the vendor has summarised the key aspects of the build in notes on file.
Modified to MkII specification and beyond, the car is powered by a fully rebuilt 302ci (5-litre) V8 with forged pistons (bored 0.030"), uprated camshaft, screw-in rocker studs, roller rockers, 600 cfm vacuum secondary Holley carburettor, Edelbrock inlet manifold and Mallory distributor. This is mated to a 5-speed Borg Warner gearbox with a new diaphragm clutch and a Salisbury Powr-Lok limited slip differential with a full Double S stainless steel exhaust system. A new wiring harness has also been fitted along with a new alternator. We are told that the engine is so flexible that the car will pull away from a standstill in 5th gear, although this is not to be recommended as it won't do the clutch any good!
To handle all this extra horsepower, the suspension has been uprated with stiffer springs front and rear and Koni shocks all round. The braking system is all new and uses silicone brake fluid and Mintex 171 front brake pads which are very effective indeed. The car rides on the original 6"-wide Minilites shod with a matching set of Yokohama 185x70x13 tyres.
The bodywork is in excellent shape (including a MkII style front grille) and the car is as good underneath as it is up top, the only defect we noted being some minor microblistering to the paintwork here and there, although it is still perfectly acceptable, especially when you consider that it was painted 20 years ago. The same goes for the interior which was expertly retrimmed with a refurbished walnut dashboard, new seat covers, Britax safety harnesses, new black wool carpets, new PVC tonneau cover and a new mohair soft top, all remaining in very good order today.
Since the restoration was completed in 2002, the car has flown through the MOT test every year and has been in regular fine weather use, covering some 15,800 trouble-free miles. Starting promptly and running beautifully as we have moved it around on site, with a notably sweet-sounding engine and good 75psi oil pressure, it was treated to fresh oil and coolant shortly before the auction and has an MOT until 14th June 2021 with no advisories recorded.
Being offered here at an attractive guide price, this is one of the most appealing Tigers we have offered: if you have ever hankered after one of these charismatic V8 bruisers, this is an opportunity not to be missed!
For more information contact James on 07970 309907 or email email@example.com
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