The Sunbeam Tiger Series 1 Sports Car

                                            Sunbeam Tiger Series 1A

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     The Sunbeam Tiger Series 1 sports car. Since Carroll Shelby's prototype, the Thunderbolt, had been chosen, he was keen for production of the new sports car to take place in America.

     However, Rootes Group decided that they wanted full control of the production function, and felt it should be kept in the UK.

     Since their existing factories did not have sufficient capacity to build the Tiger as well, the assembly contract was given to the carmaker Jensen, situated in West Bromwich.

     The timing was fortuitous since one of Jensen's assembly contracts had recently been cancelled.

     The first fourteen pre-production units built by Jensen utilised the bodyshell of the Series 3 Alpine until that of the Series 4 became available towards the end of 1963.

     The Pressed Steel Company in nearby Cowley supplied painted bodyshells, whilst the engines and gearboxes were shipped over from Ford in the US.

     Since it was known in advance that the engine was a tight fit, novel methods were employed in its positioning in the Alpine engine bay, such as the use of a sledgehammer.

     With an assembly rate of some 300 units per month, the initial production was scheduled solely for the US.

     A Borg Warner T10 four speed, all synchromesh gearbox was used, initially, since the Ford equivalent, as used in the Ford Mustang, was not yet available.

     Full scale production of the Sunbeam Tiger Series 1 sports car began in June 1964.

The Sunbeam Tiger Series 1

     The first 3,763 Sunbeam Tiger sports cars to be built were designated the Mark 1, and featured:

  • Body panels from the Alpine Series 4
  • Rounded edges on the doors, bonnet and boot
  • A removable metal hardtop
  • Lead filler for the body seams

     This model was the most affordable and, because of the number produced, was the most available.

     It used 4.5 inch wide steel wheels with 13 inch cross ply tyres, as on the Alpine Series 4. This was surprising bearing in mind the greatly increased power output of the Tiger.

     Also, the increased heat generated in the cramped engine bay soon travelled into the passenger compartment.

     The specification of the Series 1 Tiger included:

  • Ford 260 cubic inch (4.3 litre) V8 engine developing 164 bhp at 4400 rpm and 258 ft/lbs of torque at 2200 rpm
  • Ford four speed gearbox
  • Twin choke (two barrel) Ford carburettor
  • Compression ratio of 8.8:1
  • Girling 9.85 inch disc brakes at the front, and 9 inch drums at the rear
  • Front independent suspension using coil springs, with a live axle and semi elliptic springs at the rear
  • A Panhard rod was added to the rear to prevent the wheels  moving from side to side
  • Front springs were stiffened to cope with the additional weight of the V8 engine
  • The spare wheel in the boot was now positioned horizontally beneath a false floor in order to allow for the position of the Panhard rod
  • Battery was moved into the boot from underneath the rear seat
  • Chrome strips were fitted on both front wings alongside the Tiger logo

     There was very little difference between the suspension and braking systems of both Tiger and Alpine.

                                                         Tiger                 Cobra
Technical Data                               Series 1               Mark 1
Production:                                   1964-1966        1962-1963
Engine cc                                           4262                  4262
Cylinders, bhp                                  8, 164                8, 335
Top Speed mph                                  118                    152
0-60 mph, secs                                  7.8                     4.2
0-100 mph, secs                               23.7                   14.0
Standing 1/4 mile                             16.0                    13.8
Fuel Consumption mpg                     17.0                    16.3

                                                Sunbeam Tiger 1965                                                                             A striking example of an early Series 1 was                                                                 spotted at Goodwood's Breakfast Club                                                                         Thoroughbred Sunday in 2015

                                         1966 Sunbeam Tiger Series 1

                                        1965 Sunbeam Tiger Series 1

                                                  1965 Sunbeam Tiger

                                                         Full Screen                                                                                                                                Full Screen

     As a result of the various modifications made to the Series 1 Tiger, it weighed 345 pounds heavier than the Alpine which, bearing in mind the huge additional power, had little effect.

     One distinctive weakness of the Series 1 engine was that, due to the inadequate tension of the valve springs, it had a tendency to seize up when revved, under extended load, in excess of 5000 rpm.

     This was duly rectified in the 289 cubic inch Series 2 engine.

     In 1964, the first year of production, 1,649 units of the Series 1 were built and, apart from 56, all were exported to the US.

     To emphasise the cars' US connections, a badge displaying "Powered by Ford 260" was positioned on each wing below the Tiger logo.

     Output earmarked for the UK market was not available until March 1965.

     Interestingly, when exported to South Africa, the car received a badge displaying "Sunbeam Alpine 260".

     Production of the Series 1 ended in the latter part of 1965.

The Sunbeam Tiger Series 1A

     When production of the Series 1 Tiger ended, the next 2,706 Sunbeam Tiger sports cars were designated the Series 1A.

     This model featured:

  • Body panels of the Alpine Series 5
  • The headlight cowl was strengthened
  • A new steering bracket was added
  • Rounded edges on the doors, bonnet, and boot were replaced with square edged panels
  • The original lead filler for the body seams now excluded the lead component
  • A soft vinyl folding convertible top replaced the metal hardtop
  • Fresh air ventilation was improved

     In all other respects, it was identical to the Series 1 version.

     The Series 1A version was preferred by many due, in part, to the increased level of refinements.

     Production of the Series 1A ended in December 1966 when it was replaced, a month later, by the Sunbeam Tiger Series 2 sports car.

                                          1965 Sunbeam Tiger Mk IA

                                                                                                  Full Screen


     A 1964-65 Sunbeam Tiger Series 1 in very good condition would fetch between £45,000/$75,000 and £55,000/$90,000. On the other hand, a 1965-66 Tiger Series 1A in the same condition would have an average selling price of £45,000/$75,000.



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