Sunbeam Tiger rally car to go under the hammer

| 28 Mar 2014

An ex-works Sunbeam Tiger – one of just seven – is being offered in Brightwells' 14 May sale at Leominster. It is estimated to sell for £100,000.

The 1964 car is from the first year of production and features a Ford 4.2-litre V8 engine; it is described as being the most campaigned of all seven works Tigers. The car made its competition debut on the 1964 Geneva Rally, just three months after it was first registered. With "Tiny" Lewis and Barry Hughes at the controls a class win was secured, plus second place in the prestigious team prize; two other Tigers also took part in the same event.

"AHP 294B" continued its competitive career the following year, tackling the Monte Carlo Rally at the hands of Maurice Gatsonides. Success didn't follow, however, with the majority of the Paris starters – including Gatsonides – failing to finish; the car eventually became trapped in a snow drift in the Alps.

1966 Monte Carlo Rally Sunbeam Tiger

Unperturbed, Gatsonides took the car to Amsterdam to promote the sale of the road car, while also taking in a spell of endurance racing at the Zandvoort circuit. The Sunbeam performed admirably, shattering Dutch National Records in three, six, 12 and 24 hour categories. It averaged a speed of 75.47mph over the course of 23 hours, despite regularly pulling into the pit lane to be topped up with water. The car so impressed Gatsonides that he christened it "Thunderbus".

The Tiger would see much more racing over the following years, but perhaps the most exciting event came in 1967 when Vic Halen, who bought the car from the Rootes Group, entered the Spa-Francorchamps 1000km. Despite facing a Gulf Mirage GT40 and Porsche 917, the plucky Sunbeam finished 13th overall and 1st in the GT class.

The car passed through a number of hands before reaching its present owner. Since then rally legend Rosemary Smith has campaigned AHP 924B at the invitation of the owner and its last outing was during the Manx Classic in the mid-1990s, where it was driven by Classic & Sports Car's Mick Walsh.

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