1962 Sunbeam Alpine
Year of manufacture1962
The Sunbeam Harrington Le Mans was introduced at The Earls Court Motor Show in October 1961. The Le Mans name comes from the Sunbeam win of 'The Index of Thermal Efficiency' Trophy at Le Mans by the Harrington in April of that year. The Le Mans introduced some radical new coachwork that literally chopped the rear fins from the car. Taking advantage of publicity from the win at Le Mans, Rootes targeted American buyers and sent as many as half of the 250 car production to the US.
While the standard line of Harrington options were still available, the Le Mans had more standardised production and was not offered on a per-order basis like the Harrington Alpine. This meant that they were offered as a Rootes product and not an 'official conversion' and could be found on showroom floors... if a dealership was lucky enough to even get one! The Le Mans does not carry the Alpine name and is identified by its unique finless design with all units built on Alpine Series II bodies.
Silverstone Auctions are proud to be offering this particular example of the extremely rare Sunbeam Le Mans Harrington.
Purchased by esteemed club racer and Scotsman, John Melvin, in 1962, this car was originally red in colour and registered ‘2 EGG'. It was delivered just in time for the car to be put through its paces in the International Scottish Rally in June of that year. Accompanied by Melvin's usual co-driver, a Mr. W Gordon Bennett, the pair set off on the rally, however, failed to finish after a rather deep Scottish water splash soaked the cars electrics forcing them to retire.
However, this event was merely a test for John whose ambition it was to enter the 1962 RAC Rally in November. The car was back to full running condition in no time and the two prepared for the rally. Then, just days before the event, co-driver Gordon Bennett was force to withdraw due to a death in the family, leaving John to find a new co-driver. Friend and motor journalist, Graham Gauld, duly stepped in and off they set for the start in Blackpool.
On arrival, much to their surprise, another Sunbeam Harrington Le Mans bearing the registration ‘MEL 63' had been entered, driven by Peter Pillsworth and editor/founder of Autosport, Gregor Grant. An impromptu Harrington Le Mans team was formed and the two cars set off with ‘2 EGG' wearing the number 73.
The ungraded Highland forest roads proved to be tough for all competitors that year, especially ‘2 EGG'. In the early stages, the car hit a rock at speed causing both the rear shock absorbers to collapse and leaving the car very much 'tail heavy' until it was repaired by mechanics at the end of the stage.
Eager to gain lost time and catching a few stragglers, the pair came upon a rather sedate Mrs Haggie in her Ford Allardette and with little space to overtake, John barged past. A large thud was heard, followed by a plummeting fuel gauge and the car ground to a halt. They had split the fuel tank but luckily, using two packets of chewing gum and a gallon of fuel, they were able to make a temporary fix and limp the car over two stages before they were able to carry out a more robust repair.
Unfortunately, their luck ran out and two stages later the car bottomed out and came to a juddering stop further down the road. They had flattened a fuel line and split the fuel tank again and the pair where forced to retire from the rally. The car was taken home and repaired at John Melvin's workshop to be sold on.
The car then ‘disappeared' until it surfaced in Ireland in the 1970s and was later bought by George McWaters. He set about reviving the car which had become very tired. The colour was changed to Forest Green and the car was fitted with an uprated engine bored out to 2-litres with twin 40DCOE Weber carburetors, an alloy cylinder head converted to unleaded along with a high capacity alloy radiator. Uprated brake calipers where also fitted along with adjustable rear shock absorbers, Minilite style alloys and a new stainless fuel tank. He also re-trimmed the original Harrington interior in Biscuit with green piping and green wool carpets and fitted a wood-rimmed steering wheel.
The owner has suffered poor health in recent years and has been unable to use the car. It now has been recomissioned including a brake overhaul with replacement master cylinder, hoses, brake fluid, oil and coolant, and will require careful running in to ensure delivery of its optimum performance. The MoT is valid until August 2015 and is currently registered with a Northern Ireland V5C.
'2 EGG' is steeped in interesting history and surely any new owner would be proud to share the tales of this car's past. Similarly, the car would be perfect for someone wanting to revive its rallying/racing past as the Sunbeam Harrington Le Mans are well know for racing in period, with the sister car ‘MEL 63' even taking part in the fabled Goodwood Tourist Trophy of 1962.