The History of the Sunbeam Tiger

Well versed in making British sports cars work on the track, Doane Spencer attacked the Tiger project with his usual precision, planning and careful execution of details. The Santa Barbara Road Race in 1965 was the car's first race, and first win in Class B, driven by Jim Adams. Later that year Flying Tigers Airlines flew the race car to Mosport in Ontario, Canada. Adams led wire to wire in front of a packed house, leading the second place GT350 by 3 seconds at the end of the race. Season end saw the Hollywood Sports Car entry being taken out by a Corvette (darn bowties!) at the American Road Race of Champions at Daytona. Rootes was very unhappy about the loss of the season championship, and the wrecked racer was sold for $5,000.00 at season's end. By 1967 the SCCA had reclassed Tigers into C production. In addition, Tigers were no longer allowed to use LAT options and the cars were no longer as competitive. Obviously, Tiger and Shelby deserved to be uttered in the same breath. The cars were successful as racers, especially considering the limited funding and development resources allotted to them. On the street, they provided unmatched fun for the price. Sunbeam built 7,085 Tigers. The Alpine, which shares the Tiger's body shell, was built in the tens of thousands. Therefore, there is still a good availability of parts and cars to buy.

Which Tiger to buy? The first 3,763 are known as Mark I cars, and had VIN numbers starting with B947XXXX. Mark I's feature 260 V8 engines, Ford top loader transmissions, round corners on the doors, hood and trunk, metal convertible top covers and lead filled body seams. Prices currently run in the neighborhood of $5,000.00 to $20,000.00, depending on options and condition. The 2,706 Mark IA cars had 260's also, and VIN numbers starting with B382XXXXXX. They came with square cornered doors, soft vinyl convertible top boots, fresh air ventilation and unfilled body seams. They cost around $5,000.00 more than a comparable Mark I. The last cars are known as Mark II Tigers, which number only 536 of the total 7,085 Tigers built. Their VIN numbers start with B382100XXX. Mark II cars came stock with 289 c.i. V8s, all the revisions of the Mark IAs, plus a new eggcrate grill. The chrome side trim and Tiger emblem were removed, replaced by stainless steel fenderwell molding. Mark II Tigers cost another $5,000.00 beyond Mark IA prices, but may go for even more, as they were the most refined, featured the 289, and were built in the smallest numbers. Mark IA cars are seen as the favorite of many because of greater availability, and more refinement over the first series. Mark I cars were the most affordable, and the most available. Many people prefer the look of the hard metal convertible top cover and the appearance of the leaded body seams. These prices are expected to rise, considering how collectible Tigers are becoming in the marketplace.

When purchasing a Tiger, watch out for conversions. The vast number of cheap, available Alpines in the '70s caused dishonest people to convert Alpines into Tigers. These fakes are sometimes easy to spot, sometimes not. There now exists The International Registry of Sunbeam Tigers," originally founded by George Fallehy, and now operated by Norm Miller. This registry includes information on each Tiger by VIN #, and current ownership status (if available). The Sunbeam Tiger Owners Association (STOA) is now inspecting Tigers through their Tiger Authentication Committee. This process involves carefully examining the body shell for tell-tale Tiger only assembly techniques. Once a car is verified as a Tiger, a non-removable permanent registration sticker is affixed to the car's body shell in an unobtrusive spot.

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

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