An Article by Tom Witt
My first though was "well it's a Tiger..., I think." I spent probably an hour and a half going over the car. The owner was mostly accurate in his description. Sadly his description wasn't very promising from the start and I had hoped for better. The front had been hit and creased at the mid wheel openings. The rockers showed more rust than I wanted to see. In a way it was a good thing the holes were so big as it was easy to see inside and better assertion how far the rust went. The interior had this "Elvis slept here," maroon velvet fabric (gag). The upside was that it came with a replacement front clip, the hardtop and about $800 worth of new parts. It also had the same Cosmic wheels as the Harrington Tiger. The engine was a 289 4bbl. and had the original air cleaner, radiator tank and fan shroud.
It was a very neglected car, but it was mostly complete and generally unaltered. At one point in his passing I asked Smitty if it was a real Tiger and he said, "yes." However, the only evidence he point out was the hole drilled for the booster vacuum line on the cowl brace which I though was rather limiting reassurance. With a degree of departure from his earlier hospitality after the hour and a half had passed Smitty was rather abrupt in that, 'it was time for me to go.'
Air Cleaner, Tank and Shroud, probably half the value of the car right there
That evening we had dinner in San Juan Capastrano at a converted train station. Like the trains rushing by, mere feet out the window I was more leaning towards letting this oportunity pass, than I was on pursuing the matter. At best it was 70% no, 30% yes.
The next day after work the owner called and asked what I thought. I told him the negatives and then strangely found myself saying will you take $5,100? He said someone else was scheduled to see the car in the next few days and wanted to see if they were interested. The following day I had another call from the owner as "someone else" never showed up. "Yes," he said, if I wanted the Tiger I could have it for $5,100 as he had not intended to let it go for any less than $5,000 and I was $100 above that price. We stuck a deal that had the car itself at $3,500 and the removable hardtop, front clip and spare parts separately at $1,600 for tax purposes. I then scrambled to rent a trailer and heavily impose on a good friend to use him and his truck for the day long journey to pick up the Tiger.
We arrived as Smitty was just returning from getting gas where upon he added some to the car, started it (I had not run the motor, but I sure liked the sound I was hearing now) and drove it up on the trailer. It was somewhat comical (and a precursor of things to come) when he yanked on the hand brake in vain. Thinking fast he stalled the motor and cautiously exited his full faith in the compression securing the car from rolling back on him.
We still had to stop in Escondido and exchange the checks and pinkslip and load the "extras" that came with the car. When the owner produced a pink slip showing the registration with the JAL#, I quickly excused myself and went out to the car and popped the hood. The JAL # was correct, but why wasn't it registered under the B947 #??? I was half ready to roll it off the trailer and leave it right there! All the guy could say was 'that was the number they used' when he brought the car to Calif. from New Mexico 16 years before. He also stated that Paul Reiszentz had looked at the car and said it was a real Tiger. I can't recall why I did, but I proceeded with the transaction. A few miles down the road we stopped for gas and I looked back at this dilapidated, questionable car and wondered what I had just done. At least if it came to it I hoped I could part it out and get most of my money back. The traffic returning was miserable and the whole trip took almost 12 hours. It was somewhat of a relief to roll the car off the trailer where my wife had enthusiastically written in chalk on the garage floor "Sunbeam Tiger Here".
Note: A while after I had the car I emailed Norm Miller and expressed my concerns regarding the registration number. A big burden lifted when he replied:
"Your car is simply misregistered. Apply for a proper title and be done with it. I also know that it is authentic (I've seen it). I'll put your name next to B9470101 and maybe you could let me know where you live. The wheels are "Cosmic". Somewhat rare, made in England. Norm"
Bad pic taken once home, wish I had taken more!