The Sunbeam Tiger Was, and Is, The Next Best Thing

From Road & Track” data-reactid=”23″>From Road & Track

Like the AC Ace before it, the Sunbeam Alpine was a sleek British sports car with an obvious problem. In a grand British tradition, it was every bit as fun and interesting as a convertible sports car should be. It was not, however, fast.

AC found their solution in 1962, contracting Carroll Shelby to put Ford V8s in their relatively sluggish Aces to produce the beastly Cobra. The car was an immediate on-track success, as the story goes. The custom-bodied Cobra Daytona variant produced in-house at Shelby American was even more successful, and the pairing of Ford and Shelby American found an even higher level of success when they abandoned the potential of the AC Ace platform to run the purpose-built GT40.

In the middle of all this, Sunbeam still had no solution to the struggles of their Alpine. Negotiations for engine improvements through Ferrari fell flat, so a tip from the legendary Formula 1 owner-driver-constructor Jack Brabham led Sunbeam leadership to seek out the next-best thing, Ken Miles and Shelby American. Their plain for the Alpine was as simple as their plan for the ace: Put a Ford V8 in it, add the other components necessary for the car to handle the new power, and build as many as the market will allow.

One by Miles, one attributed to Shelby American themselves) later, Sunbeam had the Tiger. Company owner Sir William Rootes, the first of the title Baron Rootes, approved the car, but did not approve of a long-term relationship with Carroll Shelby and his company, so he licensed their design work and commissioned production from another British organization instead. Tiger production started in 1964 and lasted three years, ending when Chrysler purchased Sunbeam as part of a group of automotive properties from the Baron Rootes and saw an issue with the continued sale of a Ford-powered car.” data-reactid=”27″>Two prototypes (One by Miles, one attributed to Shelby American themselves) later, Sunbeam had the Tiger. Company owner Sir William Rootes, the first of the title Baron Rootes, approved the car, but did not approve of a long-term relationship with Carroll Shelby and his company, so he licensed their design work and commissioned production from another British organization instead. Tiger production started in 1964 and lasted three years, ending when Chrysler purchased Sunbeam as part of a group of automotive properties from the Baron Rootes and saw an issue with the continued sale of a Ford-powered car.

Just over 7,000 Sunbeam Tigers were made in all, a significantly larger total production than that of the AC Cobra. However, the cars were never as successful on track as their Shelby American cousins, with their rare entries in both American and European races not particularly successful in comparison to the sterling record of the Cobra that dominated its levels of both amateur and professional sports car racing for much of the 1960s. In the mid-1960s, they represented an entry point into the small market of V8-powered British roadsters that had been dominated by Shelby American designs, a more affordable and easier to find car for people more interested in off-track performance than winning races.

are valued closer to $1 million than not and even high-end “Continuation” replicas sell in six figures, the Sunbeam Tiger represents an authentic entry point into a the same extremely specific market it once did. Sales on BringATrailer.com over the past few years show a relatively available car selling at prices in a wide range that seems to primarily start at $20,000 and end at $80,000, closer in price to lower-end Cobra replicas than to the official continuation cars, let alone the original cars themselves.” data-reactid=”29″>What was true in 1964 remains true today. In a collector car market where pristine AC Cobras are valued closer to $1 million than not and even high-end “Continuation” replicas sell in six figures, the Sunbeam Tiger represents an authentic entry point into a the same extremely specific market it once did. Sales on BringATrailer.com over the past few years show a relatively available car selling at prices in a wide range that seems to primarily start at $20,000 and end at $80,000, closer in price to lower-end Cobra replicas than to the official continuation cars, let alone the original cars themselves.

sale of a pedigreed Mustang GT350R for nearly $4 million earlier this year is an outlier, but it represents a consistent increase in the value of every element of the legacy of Shelby American, the Carroll Shelby-led garage that Ken Miles and Peter Brock that defined the American contribution to the sports car scene throughout the 1960s. While the Sunbeam Tiger may not be a Shelby product itself, it represents perhaps the most affordable piece of the company’s legacy available. In a world where their perfect, Ford 289-powered AC Cobras seem to be worth their weight in gold, the attainable Tiger is the next best thing.” data-reactid=”30″>The sale of a pedigreed Mustang GT350R for nearly $4 million earlier this year is an outlier, but it represents a consistent increase in the value of every element of the legacy of Shelby American, the Carroll Shelby-led garage that Ken Miles and Peter Brock that defined the American contribution to the sports car scene throughout the 1960s. While the Sunbeam Tiger may not be a Shelby product itself, it represents perhaps the most affordable piece of the company’s legacy available. In a world where their perfect, Ford 289-powered AC Cobras seem to be worth their weight in gold, the attainable Tiger is the next best thing.