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1965 Sunbeam Tiger MkI Roadster
Registration no. EKV 271C
Chassis no. B9473503HROFE

Inspired by Carroll Shelby's success in shoehorning a Ford V8 into the AC Ace to create the Cobra, Rootes asked Shelby to perform the same trick with its Sunbeam Alpine sports car. The project was instigated by the company's West Coast, USA distributor, Rootes American Motors Inc, which was located not far from Shelby American. Ford's 260ci (4.2-litre) 'Windsor' V8 was chosen, and even though this had 'only' 164bhp on tap it was approaching double the output of the contemporary Alpine's 1.6-litre four. The transplant radically transformed the character of the car.

Code-named 'Thunderbolt', the Tiger was developed without the knowledge of Lord Rootes, who was said to be 'very grumpy' when he found out. Nevertheless, he had the good sense to get a prototype shipped to Coventry and was deeply impressed with the car when he drove it. Assembled by Jensen Motors and introduced in 1964, the Tiger kept the Alpine's basic layout but featured a stronger gearbox and rear axle plus rack-and-pinion steering. Vastly superior to its Alpine progenitor in performance terms, the Tiger stormed to 60mph in under ten seconds and peaked at around 120mph. Tigers would go on to enjoy success in both racing and rallying over the years. Sadly, the model was killed off by Rootes' new owner Chrysler shortly after the revised Tiger II was introduced in 1967. A little over 7,000 Sunbeam Tigers were eventually produced, including 571 of the now very rare 4.7-litre Mark II. The final cars rolled off the production line in 1968.

Dating from the second year of production, this Mark I example was restored in 1989 and purchased by the current vendor in 1990. The car was used until 2000 and then placed in dry storage. Re-commissioned in 2015, it benefits from a new clutch, new-old-stock front brake discs, new starter motor, braking system overhaul (including silicone fluid) and an oil change, while the Minilite alloy wheels have been shod with new tyres. Mark II headlamp rims are fitted; the Mark I rims are included together with the front bumper (removed for cosmetic reasons). 'EKV 271C' has been illustrated in Performance Ford (February 1988 edition) and comes with a copy of the magazine.

The sight of the mighty Le Mans Coupé at the front of the grid at recent Goodwood events has helped raise the Tiger's profile of late, adding to the huge increase in interest and respect for the model seen over the last few years.

Bonhams 1793
101 New Bond Street
United Kingdom
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Bonhams Collectors’ Car department