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  Sunbeam Tiger Lister Le Mans Coupe      

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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1964
Numbers built:3
Designed by:Ron Wisdom for Lister
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:October 30, 2015
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Click here to download printer friendly versionSunbeam's line-up in the 1950s consisted mainly of sensible family cars based on Hillman products. Commemorating the company's successes in the Alpine rally, a new two seater convertible dubbed 'Alpine' was introduced in 1953. It was derived from the Sunbeam-Talbot 90 model and featured a 80 bhp straight four engine. The ancient ladder frame did not help the performance, but nevertheless it scored some rally wins in the hands of the likes of Stirling Moss. Production lasted for just two years and the company went back to their old ways.

In 1959 the Alpine name was revived for a smaller roadster, not dissimilar to MG's popular offerings of the day. Unlike the first Alpine, the new car featured a more rigid unitary steel construction. The engine was considerably smaller, but it matched the original engine's output at 78 bhp. The potent package was rounded off with an attractive two-seater body. It proved to be a success both in the show room and on the track. Especially the Harrington modified coupe bodied cars scored major victories in races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Despite the success work was started on a more powerful version to further strengthen Sunbeam's position on the North American market. Hot on the heels of AC, the Alpine was adopted to accept Ford's new 260 cid V8 engine. Once again finding inspiration in the company's rich past, the Ford engined Alpine was named 'Tiger' after one of Sunbeam's land speed record cars of the 1920s. Like the Cobra, the Tiger was properly developed with the help of Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles. It was ready in time for the 1964 New York Motor Show along with Ford's own Mustang.

The Tiger used the same advanced monocoque chassis as employed by the Alpine. Thanks to the Ford V8's relatively small size and low weight, it could be installed fairly easily. It was mated to a sturdy Borg Warner four-speed gearbox. Suspension was by double wishbones at the front and a live rear axle. Discs brakes were only fitted to the front wheels, with drums bolted to the rear. Visually the Tiger was difficult to distinguish from its four-cylinder engined counterpart. Slightly wider wheels, twin exhausts and the 'Tiger' badge on the side did reveal the car's identity.

Thanks to the modest weight of the V8, the Alpine's fine handling was hardly affected by the transplant and the Tiger proved an immediate hit. To further broaden the appeal of the V8 Sunbeam, Brian Lister was commissioned to build a competition version for the 1964 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Fitted with aluminium coupe bodies, created by Williams and Pritchard, two examples were entered but both retired early with engine problems. The 'standard' Tiger roadster was also extensively raced, particularly in the United States where go-fast parts for the engine were of course readily available.

In 1967 a 'Series 2' Tiger was introduced, which used the 289 cid version of Ford's V8. Unfortunately production was halted shortly after, following the acquisition of Sunbeam's parent company by Chrysler. Understandably the American company did not want a Ford-engined model in their portfolio and they did not have an alternative V8 available. In those three years, Sunbeam did produce an impressive 7,085 examples, which includes 536 Series 2s. As in its day, the Tiger today is a very affordable and popular alternative for the Shelby Cobra.

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  Article Image gallery (52) Chassis (2) Specifications User Comments (1)