Thomas Harrington Ltd. proudly traces its history, as a Motor Coach Builder and Automotive Engineers, to the late 1800s. In the 1950s, they pioneered the production of fiberglass components such as hardtops for existing cars such as Triumph TR4 and Sunbeam Alpine. The Harringtons also owned a Rootes dealership. A byproduct of this relationship is the conversion of the Alpine body into a closed coupe, with an eye towards use in racing.
The Rootes Groupe of England produced the Sunbeam Alpine model. In 1961, after extensive modifications, it became the 'Harrington Alpine.' As with most race-inspired touring cars, each car is built to order, with the buyer's choice of three engines provided by race engine specialist George Hartwell. Limited production continued through 1963. Harrington stopped all coach building activity in 1965.
The example shown sports the 1.6-liter, Stage III, 4-cylinder engine. It is one of 17 remaining from a production of 110 and one of three residing in the United States. The car typifies the best of British thinking, specifically Lord Rootes, Thomas Harrington & George Hartwell, the industry luminaries who collaborated to make this performance and styling statement.
In preparation for the 1961 24 Hours of Lemans race, two Sunbeam Alpine vehicles were delivered to Thomas Harrington Limited Coachbuilders in Hove, Sussex. Work began immediately on the creation of the fiberglass fastback body.
The LeMans race is one of the most grueling and competitive races of all times, testing the driver, team, and vehicle. For 24 hours the vehicles are raced around a circuit at top speed competing against opponents in an attempt to travel the farthest during that 24 hour time frame. Many have trouble just staying in the race and avoiding mechanical problems. For the 1961 LeMan race, the Sunbeam Alpine racer driven by Peter Harper and Peter Proctor finished faultlessly. It covered 2194 miles at an average speed of 91 mph. It was 15th overall and second in class. For this, it was awarded the Index of Thermal Efficiency award. After a few short months, and to commemorate this achievement, Sunbeam introduced the Harrington LeMans production coupe. The vehicles were given fiberglass bodies by Harrington, similar to the LeMans racers. Most of the intended 250 vehicles were destined for the US. The 250 unit mark was never achieved due to high production cost and low profits for the company.
By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2007