When it comes to British car manufacturers, most people think of Jaguar, Aston Martin, Land Rover, and Rolls Royce. However, the Sunbeam Motorcar Company was a British car maker that gave the world some pretty notable cars in its heyday.
Sunbeam was founded in 1901 but had been in business before that as a bicycle maker. Like many troubled car companies, Sunbeam changed ownership a number of times throughout its history. In 1919 the company merged with Talbot and Darracq to become Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq, or STD Motors (seriously).
That lasted until 1935, when Sunbeam was purchased by the Rootes Group. Under their ownership, Sunbeam produced a number of classic sports cars such including the famous Sunbeam Alpine, which was first introduced in 1959. From 1964 through 1967, the company produced a high-powered version of the Alpine which they called the Sunbeam Tiger.
Chrysler purchased a 30% stake in Rootes Group in 1964 and produced the Tiger for just 3 years, dropping it in 1967. The Sunbeam name was retired altogether in 1976, and Chrysler sold the remainder of their European operations to Peugeot and Citroen in 1978.
So we have a two-seater British sports car that was only made for three years by a company that had a troubled history and is now long gone. What’s so special about that?
Well for starters, the Sunbeam Tiger was a real pocket rocket! With its 260 cubic inch V8 engine and Ford top loader 4-speed transmission, these little cars could really get up and go. The engines were supplied by Shelby American, in a strange but awesome combination of British styling and American horsepower.
Though the factory only designated two versions, there are three generations of Tigers recognized today. This one is a Mark1a, which we can identify from the square corners at the bottom of the doors. The third and final generation featured a 289 cubic-inch V8 in place of the regular 260-inch V8.
Because it was only produced for a short while, these cars are pretty uncommon to see driving around. It is unfortunate that Sunbeam is no longer around. Who knows what cool sporty cars they might have come up with during the last 3 decades?