Sunbeam Tiger Hardtops & Rally Cars

Recently I have made a couple of posts about the Sunbeam Tiger cars.  I was looking at some other Sunbeam Tigers that I have seen before when I realized that I should have shown some photos of these cars when fitted with the available hardtop.  These hardtops were available for street cars and were required for the Sunbeam Tiger rally cars.  The Sunbeam Tiger Mk. I shown below with the hardtop was seen at the 2013 Lime Rock Historic Festival.

Sunbeam Tiger Mk 1 1966 (1)

Sunbeam Tiger Mk. I With Hardtop Fitted

Evidently there were several after-market manufacturers of the hardtops for the Sunbeam Tigers and Alpines.  To me they are all similar, but no doubt there are some small differences between them.

Sunbean Tiger Mk 1 1966 (5)

This Hardtop Looks Like It Is Permanently Attached

One of the original Rootes Works Sunbeam Tiger rally team cars is owned by Jeremy Holden in the UK.  This particular car competed in the Monte Car Rally and other major rallies in the mid-1960s.  Even though the car has an English registration number, the car has left-hand drive.  This car is in great shape and has just received a complete rebuild and fitted with the latest rally equipment such as the GaugePilot.  As can be seen, this car has a hardtop as all rally cars in that era were required to be fitted with a hardtop.

Sunbeam Tiger Rally (1)

A Rootes Works Team Sunbeam Tiger Rally Car 

Several months ago Jeremy competed in the Tour Britannia rally event in Ireland with the Sunbeam Tiger rally car as shown below.  Note how the front-hinged hood is slightly open at the back.  Over the years I have been told by several Sunbeam Tiger owners that overheating can be an issue with these cars when driven with some vigor.  I assume that the hood is raised slightly to help allow some heat to escape from the engine bay.

Sunbeam Tiger Rally (2)

Sunbeam Tiger Rally Car In The 2015 Tour Britannia Rally In Ireland

The hardtop is a great way to extend the season for these sports cars and I know from my recently departed MGB, which I had fitted with a hardtop for all season daily driving to the train station, that winter driving was much better with the hardtop.  Also, removing the convertible top from the car can create substantially more storage space in these cars behind the seats.

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Gary Hamilton’s “Barn Find” Triumph TR8

My friend and sometime rally driver, Gary Hamilton was recently looking around for a convertible sports car when he became aware of a Triumph TR8 that had not been driven since the late 1990s.  This car could be considered a “barn find” as it was in longer term storage in a garage about 30 miles from my house and in danger of getting lost behind various other items sharing the storage.


Triumph TR8 In Deep Storage

Gary took a look at the Triumph, decided that he wanted to buy it, and then negotiated a fair deal with the owner.  Gary took a chance because he was unable to be sure that the engine was free.  The remainder of the car was in an acceptable condition and the car does not appear to have rust of any consequence on the chassis.  The wheels were frozen when the deal was made and they have since freed up after the flatbed ride to Gary’s garage.  Gary has also reported that the engine is free although there is some strange impact damage to the standard SU carburetors.


The Triumph TR8 Sees The Light Of Day

I think that the Triumph TR8 cars have some upside value potential and I told him that as he was contemplating the deal.  The V8 engine gives the TR8 a certain cache that buyers will be attracted to.  The standard 3.5 litre Triumph TR8 V8 engine came from Triumph in a low state of tune, producing only 133 horsepower.  Over the years versions of this engine have produced more than 200 horsepower when Buick/Oldsmobile used this engine.


Dash Looks Fine But The Radio Is Missing

The interior just seems to need a good cleaning.  By the way, the seats look fine in the TR8 – much better than the “tartan” seats in the TR7s.


The Seats Appear To Be In Good Shape

The car was originally a green color, but it was painted red at some point in its history. As a starting point, Gary gave the car a good cleaning on this one side and the color has come alive.


The Standard Triumph TR8 Decals Were Not Replaced After The Paint Job

Overall, I think that Gary has got a good car here which he bought at a good price.  He is taking steps to replace the twin SU carburetors with a four-barrel carburetor which will improve the breathing and fuel delivery.  This new carburetor could add 20 horsepower to the car.  This is a fairly commonly modification to the Triumph V8 engine.


A Triumph TR8 Fitted With A Four-Barrel Carburetor

I look forward to going for a ride in this Triumph TR8 when Gary gets it sorted out and on the road.  I think that it will be a good lively car.

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Dates For 2016 Historique Monte Carlo Rallye Announced

The dates for the  2016 Historique Monte Carlo Rallye have been announced.  The rally will start on January 27, 2016 and end on February 3 in Monaco.

logo RMCH 2016

For 2016 the starting cities for the 2016 Historique Monte Carlo Rallye are as follows:

  • Bad Homburg
  • Barcelona
  • Glasgow
  • Oslo
  • Reims

As was the case last year, there will be 14 competitive regularity stages.  The entry process will be open on August 24, 2015 and entries will be closed on November 9, 2015.  A typical field for this rally is about 300 cars.

Car 142

For more information about the 2016 Historique Monte Carlo Rallye check out the web page of the Automobile Club de Monaco at the following address:

The Historique Monte Carlo Rallye is a very challenging rally which would be fun to take part in.  Watch here for more information.


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Sunbeam Tiger Mk. II

This post is a follow-up to my recent post about the Sunbeam Tiger Mk. I.  At the end of 1966 Rootes dropped the Mk. I model and began to produce the Sunbeam Mk. II.  The main difference between the Mk. I and Mk. II Sunbeam Tigers is that the Mk. II had the Ford 289 cubic inch V8 engine, while the Mk. II had the 260 cubic inch version of the same engine.  These engines had the same engine block, so the switch from one engine to the other was not particularly challenging.  By the end of 1966, the 260 cubic inch V8 engine had virtually disappeared from the domestic Ford engine line up, so in addition to the performance advantage of the 289 over the 260 engine, Sunbeam and their Tiger builder, Jensen, might simply have run out of 260 cubic inch engines.  The larger 289 cubic inch engine reduced the Sunbeam Tiger 0 to 60 miles per hour time by about 1.4 seconds.  The two cars had the about the same top end speed.

Sunbeam Tiger (7)

Sunbeam Tiger Mk. II

Visually, the main difference between the Mk. I and Mk. II was the egg-crate grille on the Mk. II.  I like the this egg-crate grille much better than the single bar grill on the Mk. I models.  In addition, previous badges that said “260” were changed to say “V8″.

Sunbeam Tiger (1)

This Particular Car Has Been Painted And The Factory Side Stripes Were Deleted

If you look carefully at the advertisement shown below you can see the side stripes that were also added to the Sunbeam Tiger Mk. II.  This advertisement also shows painted headlight bezels, but the particular car shown in this post has chrome bezels.  The chrome bezels look good on this blue car.

Sunbeam Tiger 289 Ad June 1967

June 1967 Sunbeam Tiger Mk. II Advertisement

A clue to the future of the Sunbeam Tiger is presented in this advertisement from the June 1967 issue of Canada Track & Traffic.  Note that in the bottom right corner Rootes Motors (Canada) Ltd. is noted as being a “Chrysler Corporation Associate”.  In June 1964 Chrysler had 30% control of Rootes, but by 1967 Chrysler had increased their ownership of Rootes to 100%.  This ultimately doomed the Sunbeam Tiger.

Sunbeam Tiger (4)

The Rear End Has Been Cleaned Up By Deleting The “Sunbeam” Name from The Trunk Lid

Rootes also cleaned up the rear end and made some subtle changes to the interior.  They realized that the original Sunbeam Alpine design was looking a little old, but Rootes, and particularly with the Tiger, lacked funds to make major changes.

Sunbeam Tiger (5)

I Find This Sunbeam Tiger To Be Quite Appealing

When Chrysler gained full control of Rootes, the Chrysler management were very uncomfortable with the Sunbeam Tiger as it used Ford engines.  Chrysler had its own small block V8 engine, the 273 cubic inch engine that was used in Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracuda, but it just would not fit into the Sunbeam Tiger engine bay.  As a result, Chrysler pulled the plug on the Sunbeam Tiger at the end of June 1967.

Sunbeam Tiger (2)

Dimensionally The Ford 289 V8 Is The Same Size As The Ford 260 V8

The Ford 289 cubic inch V8 engine used in the Sunbeam Tiger Mk. II produced 200 horsepower, which was not particularly high for this engine.  Many of the Ford 289 cubic inch engines used in the Ford Mustangs yielded significantly more power.

Sunbeam Tiger (3)

Th Sunbeam Tiger Mk. II Interior Is Mostly Unchanged From The Mk. I

I was surprised to learn that Rootes never sold the Sunbeam Tiger Mk. II in England.  Seems strange for an English car not to be sold in England.  There were about 571 Sunbeam Tiger Mk. II cars produced during its brief production run making them much more rare than the Mk. I models.

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Sunbeam Tiger Mk. I

One of the collector cars that has increased in value significantly in recent years is the Sunbeam Tiger.  The Sunbeam Tiger was the idea of Ian Garrad, who was the West Coast Manager for the Rootes Group.  Garrad saw the successful of the Ford Cobra and he thought that Rootes might be able to have similar success by putting an American V8 engine into their existing two-seat sports car, the Sunbeam Alpine.


Sunbeam Tiger Mk. I

In order to put this idea into action, Garrad then approached Carroll Shelby to build such a car.  Shelby managed to put the small block Ford V8 engine, then at 260 cubic inches, into the Sunbeam Alpine, thus birthing the Sunbeam Tiger.


The Minilite Wheels Are An After-Market Addition

After Shelby built the Sunbeam Tiger prototype and did the basic engineering, the Rootes group entered into a contract with the Jensen company whereby Jensen would build the Sunbeam Tiger.  Jensen was a right-sized company that could build significant quantities of cars, but fell short of the needing a huge production line orders to be profitable.

Sunbeam Tiger Ad

1965 Advertisement In Canada Track & Traffic

The advertisement, shown above, for the Sunbeam Tiger seems like it would have been very effective.


The Back Fins Were A Result Of A Late Fifties American Influence On The Original Sunbeam Alpine Design

The March 1965 issue of Canada Track & Traffic had a road test of the Sunbeam Tiger Mk. I.  Of course at that time it wasn’t known as the Mk.1 because no one knew that there would be a Mk. II.  The data below comes from that road test article.

Sunbeam Tiger 65 Road Test

March 1965 Sunbeam Tiger Road Test from Canada Track & Traffic

The Sunbeam Tiger is essentially a Sunbeam Alpine with a Ford V8 engine.  I was curious about the weight differential between the two cars, therefore I looked at Richard Langworth’s book “Tiger, Alpine, Rapier” to see that a 1964 Sunbeam Alpine Mk III reportedly weighed 2,155 pounds, while the road test above notes that the Tiger weighed 2,660 pounds.  It is interesting that Langworth’s book noted the “unladen” weight of the Tiger was 2,525 pounds.  depending upon the numbers used it seems that a Sunbeam Tiger weighed 400 or 500 ponds more than an Alpine.  I am surprised by the large weight differential.


The Sunbeam Tiger Mk I Was Powered By A 260 Cubic Inch Ford V8

The Sunbeam Tiger Mk. I engine produced 164 horsepower in a rather low state of tune with only a two-barrel carburetor with a 8.8:1 compression ratio.  This was the engine that is most commonly thought of as the engine in the Falcon Sprint.  It is evident that this Tiger engine had considerable horsepower potential.

Sunbeam Tiger 65 Monte

This Sunbeam Tiger With The Crew Of Peter Harper & Ian Hall Finished 4th Overall, First In Class In The 1965 Monte Carlo Rally

The Sunbeam Tiger had some modest rally success.  Sunbeam Tigers won their class in five major rallies – the 1964 Geneva Rally, the 1965 Monte carlo Rally, the 1965 Scottish Rally, the 1966 Tulip Rally, and the 1966 Acropolis Rally.  Many said that the Sunbeam Tiger was too nose heavy for rallies.  Given the increased weight over the Sunbeam Alpine, mostly at the front end due to the engine, this nose-heavy handling comment might have some validity.


The Wood Grained Dash Looks Great, But Some Early Tigers Had A Black Vinyl Dash

The Sunbeam Tiger Mk.1 and a later derivative, the Sunbeam Tiger Mk. 1a was manufactured from June 27, 1964 to December 9, 1966.  During this time a total of 6,495 cars were built.  The Sunbeam Tiger was not as successful as the Rootes Group had hoped.  One reason often given is that the Sunbeam Tiger was not sufficiently different visually from the Sunbeam Alpine.  However the Sunbeam Tiger Mk. 1 was successful enough to begat the Sunbeam Tiger Mk. II in late 1966.  More on the Sunbeam Tiger Mk. II in the upcoming weeks.

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2015 Great Race Cash Awards

The 2015 Great Race is a very competitive car rally, but it is also a very lucrative car rally as well.  The Great Race people awarded almost $150,000 to the teams that finished at or near the top of their class.  Doug and Howard Sharp who were the Overall winners won a total of $50,000!  Very impressive!


Doug Sharp (holding check) & Howard Sharp Won The 2015 Great Race (Hemmings photo)

The following is a summary of the prize winners at the 2015 Great Race.

Cash Prizes And Additional Awards For The 2015 Great Race

1st Place Overall (Grand Champion) $40,000 Howard Sharp & Doug Sharp 1916 Hudson Pikes Peak Hillclimber
2nd Place Overall $ 5,000 Jody Knowles & Beth Gentry 1932 Ford Cabriolet
3rd Place Overall $ 4,500 Dave Reeder & Sawyer Stone 1932 Ford Victoria
4th Place Overall $ 4,000 John Hudson & Scott Hudson 1940 Chevrolet Master
5th Place Overall $ 3,500 Steve Hedke & Janet Hedke 1964 Studebaker Daytona
6th Place Overall $ 3,000 Jean Ann Martin & Gary Martin 1964 Chevy Nova
7th Place Overall $ 2,500 Jonathan Klinger & Davin Reckow 1917 Peerless “Green Dragon”
8th Place Overall $ 2,000 Jeff Fredette & Eric Fredette 1933 Ford Pickup
9th Place Overall $ 1,500 Louise Feeney & Jim Feeney 1936 Ford Police Car
10th Place Overall $ 1,000 Dave Haverty & Steve Pusey 1937 Ford Coupe
Overall Total Awards $67,000
1st Place $10,000 Howard Sharp & Doug Sharp 1916 Hudson Pikes Peak Hillclimber
2nd Place $ 5,000 Dave Reeder & Sawyer Stone 1932 Ford Victoria
Grand Total, Grand Championship Division Awards $15,000
1st Place $10,000 Jody Knowles & Beth Gentry 1932 Ford Cabriolet
2nd Place $ 5,000 John Hudson & Scott Hudson 1940 Chevrolet Master
3rd Place $ 4,000 Steve Hedke & Janet Hedke 1964 Studebaker Daytona
4th Place $ 3,000 Jean Ann Martin & Gary Martin 1964 Chevy Nova
5th Place $ 2,000 Jeff Fredette & Eric Fredette 1933 Ford Pickup
Grand Total, Expert Division Awards $24,000
1st Place $10,000 Jonathan Klinger & Davin Reckow 1917 Peerless “Green Dragon”
2nd Place $ 5,000 Dan Epple & Brad Epple 1934 Ford Pickup
3rd Place $ 4,000 James Goode & Lou Goode 1965 Chevrolet Corvette
4th Place $ 3,000 Jim Collins & Craig Stephens 1960 Fiat Multipla
5th Place $ 2,000 Bill Croker & Carolyn Croker 1936 Packard 120B Coupe
Grand Total, Sportsman Division Awards $24,000
1st Place $ 7,500 Trevor Stahl & Josh Hull 1932 Ford Speedster
2nd Place $ 3,000 BR Whisenant & M Whisenant 1966 Ford Mustang
3rd Place $ 2,500 Duane Haas & Schramm 1971 VW Beetle
4th Place $ 2,000 Peter LaMountain & Bill Sacramone 1964 Chevy Impala SS
5th Place $ 1,500 Joe Perkins & Larry Read 1939 Buick CP
Grand Total, Rookie Class $16,500
Spirit of the Event Brian Goudge
Best Lunch City Albuquerque, NM
Best Overnight City Kirkwood, MO
Best National Anthem Singer Olana Romero, Tucumcari, NM
Best Color Guard Coors Cowboy Mounted Color Guard – Amarillo, TX
Our Best Friend Joe Rossi
Best Dressed Jerry & Joe Schmidt
Best of Show – Race Car 1932 Ford Dirt Track (Stahl/Hull)
Best of Show – Classic Car 1936 Packard (Breault / Keeney)
Best of Show – Overall 1970 Toyota 2000GT (Norihisa Morita)
Never Say Die Award, sponsored by the Automobile Driving Museum Car #67 Yoshiaki Ninomiya & Reiko Ninomiya
Champion Oil Award Howard Sharp & Doug Sharp
Team Japan Presents – Our Best Friend Wandering Troubadours of Finland – Car #30 & #73
Team Japan Presents – Samurai Helmet Car #122 Mike Weaver & Charles Metcalf
Team Japan Presents – Trip to Tokyo for Grand Champions Howard Sharp and Doug Sharp

It is interesting that the Spirit Of The Event Award was given to Brian Goudge, who is the “master of ceremonies” of the start/finish line.  Usually awards of this nature are given to one of the competitor teams, but I believe that all of the competitors would say that this was an inspired and well deserved choice.

For more information about the Great Race go to their website at


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Early Corvettes Struggled For Success

At the recent Bay State Antique Auto Club show in Dedham, Massachusetts a fellow from Montreal was showing his 1954 Corvette.  This car stood out among the large number of Corvettes on display.  The 1953 and 1954 Corvettes were the Corvettes that got the marque underway.  These cars were not exactly successful in the marketplace, but it got enough support to get Chevrolet to build the 1955 Corvette and with that car, the car really started to take off.


A 1954 Corvette

In the early 1950s General Motors was looking for a way to improve their performance image.  Fords had the V8 engine, Hudson had the big 6-cylinder engine that was dominating NASCAR racing, Oldsmobile had the Rocket 88 V8 engine, and Nash had the two-seat Nash-Healey.  In addition, imported cars such as the MG and Jaguar were gaining a foothold in the USA.  Chevrolet thought that a two-seat sports car would be a good addition to the line-up, but to keep costs down it would need to be based on existing parts.


Corvettes Were General Motors First Foray Into Production Fiberglass Bodies

General Motors did not start out to build the Corvette with a fiberglass body, but due to the rather rushed production schedule and the small success that Chevrolet had getting the initial show models produced with fiberglass, they decided to stay with fiberglass for the production models.  All Corvettes since that time have had fiberglass bodies.


Note The Location Of The Exhausts

The first models suffered from body staining at the back as a result of the location of the exhaust outlets.  General Motors corrected this by adding exhaust system extenders to get the exhaust gases into the airstream coming over the trunk.  This dissipation of the gases solved this problem.


In 1953 And 1954 Corvettes Only Had The Blue Flame 6-cylinder Engine

As General Motors was trying to use available parts for the Corvette, the engine was the same 235 cubic inch inline six-cylinder engine that powered all other Chevrolet models.  However with a higher-compression ratio, three Carter side-draft carburetors, and a more aggressive camshaft design the engine produced 150 horsepower.  This was a significant over the standard version of this engine in typical Chevrolet models which produced 108 to 115 horsepower.  Towards the end of the 1954 model year some Corvettes were fitted with a more racy camshaft which slightly increased the output of the Corvette 6-cylinder engine to 155 horsepower.


The Corvette 6-Cylinder Had Three Single-barrel Carter Carburetors

In an effort to get even more power from the 6-cylinder engine, apparently about two dozen 6-cylinder Corvette engines were built with McCullough superchargers.

Chevrolet did not have a three-speed manual transmission that could handle the higher horsepower of the Corvette engine, as a result, all of the 6-cylinder Corvettes used the 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission – rather disappointing for a sports car in that era.  These early Corvettes were not particularly fast cars, accelerating from 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 11 seconds and with a top speed of about 105 miles per hour.


All Corvettes Were Fitted With A Floor Shift 2-Speed Automatic Transmission

Note the symmetrical nature of the Corvette dash.  In 2007, while working in Australia, I attended the Sydney Auto Show where I saw a right-hand drive 1954 Corvette.  The switch to right-hand drive looked very natural.


All 1953 And Most 1954 Corvettes Had A White Body With A Red Interior

All of the 1953 Corvettes were white with a red interior.  In 1954 most of the cars had these same colors, but late in the 1954 model year Chevrolet built some Corvettes in other colors, presumably to boost sales.


I Like The Headlight Treatment In These Early Corvettes

In 1953 Corvettes were introduced at a base price of $3,498  In 1954 Chevrolet reduced the base price to $2,774, by listing previously standard equipment, such as the automatic transmission as an option, while in fact there was no other transmission available.  In 1953 the Jaguar XK-120 cost about $250 less and was much faster.  This was one factor in dismal sales total of only 183 cars out of a production total of 315 cars in the 1953 model year.  In 1954 they built 3,640 Corvettes, but only sold 2,780 Corvettes.  As a result apparently Chevrolet had about 1,100 unsold cars in early January 1955.  As a result, you can see that Chevrolet had lots of excuses to drop the Corvette.  Fortunately the Corvette had a few champions at Chevrolet to keep it going, but the introduction of the new 265 cubic inch V8 engine finally gave the Corvette decent performance, and with Ford introducing the two-seat 1955 Thunderbird, Chevrolet decided to stay with Corvette for 1955.  Corvette is now a very successful car, but in those early days its future was very questionable.

A good reference on the early Corvettes is “Corvette: Fifty Years” by Randy Leffingwell.

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