The History of the Sunbeam Tiger

The resulting Sunbeam Tiger was a huge success. Sunbeam was no longer competing with MGs and Triumphs, but rather Jaguars and Corvettes, and for a lot less money, retailing for under $3,500.00. Tigers came with a two-barrel 260 as standard equipment, but high performance options were screened by Shelby American, then offered for sale through Sunbeam dealerships just as Cobra hop-up kits were available through Ford dealers for Mustang owners. Most of the performance options were called LAT options, which ostensibly stood for Los Angeles Tiger. Factory mag wheels (LAT 9 and LAT 70) were available, as well as four-barrel Holley carburetors on Edelbrock F4B manifolds (LAT 1), traction bars (LAT 6 and 7) and scrattershields (LAT 7). Once warmed over, Tigers really ran.

In 1965 Gordon Chittenden set the A.H.R.A. national record with an ET of 12.95 and a top speed of 108 mph in his Larry Reed Sportscars Tiger. So good were the numbers (for that period), Chittenden retained the record through 1967. In 1965 Stan Peterson won the N.H.R.A. Class C World Championship with a time of 12.9 and a trap speed of 110 mph in his Tiger. Though very successful drag racers, Rootes emphasized the road racing and rallying of competition Tigers.

Tigers were extensively rallied throughout Europe. Dirt roads, high horsepower, and the Tiger's short wheelbase combined to make for an interesting race experience. Tigers won first in class at the 1964 Geneva Rally, the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally, the 1965 International Scottish Rally and were the outright winners in the 1965 International Police Rally held in Belgium.

July of 1964 saw coupe bodied Tigers competing at Le Mans. Though limited by short development time, these Lister bodied cars were timed at over 160 mph at Le Mans. Unfortunately, the motors in both team cars expired. Fortunately though, road racing in the U.S. was where Tigers had some of their greatest victories.

For the 1964 season, Ian Garrad contracted with Shelby to construct a stateside race car. The car completed and tested by Ken Miles (who had earlier built the "first" V8 prototype for $800.00 while Shelby was fabricating the "authorized" prototype). The Shelby racer won the 1964 SCCA Class B Pacific Coast Divisional Championship Race at Willow Springs, beating Jaguars, Corvettes, Stingrays and Cobras. By this time, Shelby American was in full swing with the Cobra racing program, and could not give the Tiger program the time it deserved. Factory support was given to the efforts of the Hollywood Sports Car team, headed by Doane Spencer.

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The History of the Sunbeam Tiger from Cobras Magazine, Summer 1995
by Von Levandowski

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