Recently Viewed


Car Tales: Put A Tiger In Your Tank, The Sunbeam Tiger

‘What is so fascinating about classic cars is that they form part of our cultural history, often telling a great story.
‘And the really greatest examples were instantly identifiable as such the moment they appeared: the Ford Mustang, the XKE, the Chevrolet Corvette, for example.
1966 Sunbeam Tiger for sale
‘And – though lesser known – the Sunbeam Tiger, a splendid example of which we presently have at Beverly Hills Car Club, an exciting and desirable 1966 Sunbeam Tiger, available in its factory color code #100 Mediterranean Blue with a black interior. The vehicle comes equipped with a 4-speed manual transmission, strong V8 engine, wood steering wheel, soft top, and front-wheel disc brakes. It is an excellent and well-taken-care-of 1960s’ classic that is mechanically sound.
‘More niche than such British rivals as the MGB or the Triumph TR4, the Sunbeam Tiger was a 2-seater power-packed version of the Sunbeam Alpine. Hotted up? Mega-hot!

Buyer / Seller Questions? 310-975-0272

‘How did this happen? First, naturally, we must look at the Alpine, a product of the UK’s significant Rootes Group. Rootes owned a number of household brand names: Hillman, Humber, Singer, Sunbeam, Talbot, Commer, and Karrier, all under the control of its 60 per cent owned subsidiary, Humber Limited. By the company’s peak in 1960, Rootes had six manufacturing plants in the UK.
1966 Sunbeam Tiger side view
‘The Alpine Mark 1 derived from the sexy and stylish Sunbeam-Talbot 90 saloon car. Just under 1600 of these Alpine Mark 1 cars were built.
‘Then came the Alpine Series I to V, with production beginning in 1959. A 2-seater sports convertible based on the then current Hillman Minx, the Alpine was in production until 1968, with a total production of circa 70,000.
‘Yet by the early 1960s Rootes had appreciated that for the Alpine to have greater success internationally, it required considerably more power. At first there were talks with Ferrari – the cachet of the Italian supercar brand name was at the heart of these – to redesign the engine. But they soon failed.
‘Then, at the instigation of Formula 1 racing champion Jack Brabham, a connection was made with Ford through Carroll Shelby’s West Coast-based Shelby American operation – Shelby had done a Ford V8 conversion for the British AC Cobra.
1966 Sunbeam Tiger rear view
‘Even better, it was found that the Ford 260 V8 would just fit into the Alpine’s engine compartment. It was pretty tight, but it worked.
‘By the end of April 1963 a trial version of what would become the Tiger – working titled at the time as the Thunderbolt – was being test-driven on Los Angeles roads. Ian Garrad, Rootes West Coast sales manager, and John Panks, director of Rootes Motors Inc. of North America, tested an early version of the car and were so impressed that Panks wrote a glowing report to Brian Rootes, head of sales for the Rootes group: ‘We have a tremendously exciting sports car which handles extremely well and has a performance equivalent to an XX-K Jaguar… it is quite apparent that we have a most successful experiment that can now be developed into a production car.’
1966 Sunbeam Tiger interior
‘The development of what would become the Sunbeam Tiger – twice as powerful as the now apparently rinky-dink Alpine – had taken place without the knowledge of Lord Rootes, the Rootes chairman. At first he was not pleased.
‘Yet when the prototype was shipped to the UK, and he had personally driven the car, this car manufacturing boss was extremely impressed: Lord Rootes personally contacted Henry Ford II and ordered 3000 Ford V8 engines, the largest order Ford had ever received for them.
‘Moreover, Lord Rootes ordained that the Sunbeam Tiger – as it became known – should be unveiled at the 1964 New York Motor Show, only eight months away – a remarkably speedy development compared with the three to four years that was often the launch time for a new vehicle.
‘And the Sunbeam Tiger was given a further unconscious boost by an intriguing synchronicity. That same year, 1964, Esso gasoline started to sell itself via an endearing tiger cartoon character that had been developed along with the tagline, ‘Put a tiger in your tank.’ The Esso tiger was seen throughout Europe, the Far East, and Australia.
‘Put a tiger in your tank? Put a Tiger in your driveway.
‘The task of putting together the new Sunbeam Tigers fell to Jensen in West Bromwich in the English Midlands. They completed 300 Tigers a month, all of which initially were only for sale in the USA, where the car was an instant hit.
1966 Sunbeam Tiger engine
‘This blending of a US engine with British manufacturing was a marriage made in heaven. ‘No combination of an American V8 and a British chassis could be happier,’ decided the UK’s Motorsport magazine in 1965.
‘But a downside was on its way. Under-capitalized, Rootes from 1964 onwards was taken control of in stages by the Chrysler Corporation, who finally bought total control in 1967.
‘However, Chrysler did not have a suitable engine to replace the Ford V8.
‘With just over 7,000 built, the reign of the Sunbeam Tiger king of the freeway forest came to an end.
-Alex Manos, Owner
Sunbeam Tiger buyer Alex Manos

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

19 + seventeen =


Sell us your car

Pick up from any USA location - Any condition - Top $$$ Paid


Hand Wave

Chat With Us!

Beverly Hills Car Club is ready to talk right now about buying or selling classic cars!

–Owner, Alex Manos

Chat bubble
Chat Now