The Sunbeam Tiger formula wasn’t a new one when it was launched in 1964. Chevrolet’s Corvette had already shown the advantages of a torquey V8 in a convertible two-seater, then the AC Cobra refined the trick by adding an American V8 to a nimble British chassis.
Indeed, it was Shelby who instantly came to mind when Rootes’ West Coast distribution manager Ian Garrad looked to add more bite to the group’s Sunbeam Alpine. Garrad had two prototypes built, one by the legendary American tuner and one by Ken Miles, a gifted racer and engineer who would later work for Shelby.
The former came to be known as ‘the good prototype’, although, when Sports Car Graphic drove the car it concluded that corners spelled ‘Panicsville’ even for the Shelby example.
Undaunted, Garrad sent the Shelby car back to the UK where the cornering problems were ironed out.
The finished result was built by Jensen, which had just stopped making the Volvo P1800, and offered agile handling along with effortless performance for much less than a Cobra.
While the Tiger was a cheaper alternative when it was launched, the market has grown wise to its charms and the sports car is no longer the utter bargain that it used to be.
The cheapest example on our classifieds comes in at a heady £37,500. A confirmed genuine car, it was imported from the US in 2007 and restored in 2011. It features a reconditioned engine, an ‘as new’ interior and a perfect body.
Still, when you are handing over almost £40k, a thorough inspection is in order. Things to look out for on any Tiger include a wallowy ride, which could signal that the dampers and rubber bushes are on the way out, and overheating.
The latter was a problem when the car was launched, but can be solved with a recored radiator, flushed-out cooling passages in the block and a realigned fan.
Rust is another major factor, with known rot spots including the front valance, front wings, stepped splash panel at the rear of the front wings, sills, footwells and door bottoms.
Dedicated clubs such as www.sunbeamtiger.co.uk and www.stoa-tigerclub.com are also worth contacting before you take the leap into ownership. They will probably know of other cars for sale as well, so it’s well worth getting in touch.
Clubs might also help to weigh up the benefits of going for a 289cu in-powered car such as this. With extra shove over the standard version’s 260cu in engine, it offers an even bigger appetite for mile munching and appears to be in perfect condition with flawless paint and a fabulous interior. And, if you ignore that it currently resides in the US, is barely more than the standard car above.
While prices for the Tiger have risen, it is still one of Britain’s most charismatic sports cars and is a fraction of the price of a Cobra with which it shares much character and some internals. It is also the car our group editor James Elliott declared once ‘won his heart’. Download our free Buyer’s Guide and you, too, can find out what all the fuss is about.