Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA photo

1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA

History

Lord William Rootes of Ramsbury created the British based Sunbeam/Rootes Coventry Company after extensive experience gained from the Singer Company. He had been actively involved in automobile racing and development for a number of years. In 1926 a Sunbeam powered by a 12-cylinder engine and driven by Sir Henry Seagrave had set the land speed record at 152.3 mph.

The Sunbeam Tiger is probably most famous for its staring roll in the TV series 'Get Smart', created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. The main character, Maxwell Smart, drove the vehicle to Control each week where he was given his assignment. Agent 86, er Maxwell Smart, received attention where ever he went, thanks in part to the stylish vehicle that accompanied him.

The Sunbeam Tiger continued the long tradition of putting a large American engine in a small European car. Others, such as the Nash-Healey and Facel Vega had done this before. The most celebrated success of this unique combination would have to be the Shelby Cobra where, under the direction of Carroll Shelby, a Ford V8 was planted in a AC Ace.

In 1959 the two-seater Sunbeam Alpine was introduced by the Rootes Group. Under the hood was a 1494 cc four-cylinder engine mated to a transmission featuring overdrive. The small engine was barely enough to compliment the stylish and sporty body. Ian Garrad, an individual involved in the US Sunbeam/Rootes Group, realized that the power of the AC Ace could be transplanted into the Sunbeam Alpine. Most of the engines he tried to install were too larger for the Alpines engine bay. He struggled to find an appropriate engine that was also backed by manufacturer support. He found it in the Ford Falcon 260 cubic-inch 8-cylinder engine.

Garrad approached the road racing legend Ken Miles and infamous Caroll Shelby for help with this project. Both agreed and began work separately in their own shops. Shortly there-after in May of 1963, the two prototypes were ready.

The prototype developed by Ken Miles retained the recirculation-ball steering and many of the Alpine's mechanical components. Shelby's approach was different, moving the engine father back in the engine back to capitalize on better weight distribution. The firewall and transmission tunnel were modified to accommodate the large engine. A rack-and-pinion steering unit replace the recirculation-ball unit and the prior transmission was removed in favor of a four-speed manual gearbox.

After vigorous testing and multiple road-trips the vehicle was sent to Lord Rootes for his approval. After further testing the project was code-named 'Thunderbolt' and further testing and development was performed on the vehicle. The chassis and suspension was straightened to compensate for the large V8 engine. This strengthening added to the overall weight of the vehicle, but with a total curb weight of just 2560 pounds, the horsepower-to-weight ratio was still phenomenal. With 164 horsepower under the hood, the vehicle was able to go from zero-to-sixty in just 7.8 seconds. If that was not enough, Shelby and Rootes offered aftermarket products that improved the engines performance resulting in 245 horsepower. The four-speed manual was standard but an optional automatic was available for an extra $500.

In honor of the land speed record accomplishment by Seagrave, the vehicle was named Sunbeam Tiger. It was debuted at the New York Auto Show where it was offered for less than $2300.

The vehicle was a success but troubles in Europe led Rootes to the Chrysler group for financial support. The Rootes Companies employees were striking, production was slow, and so was the cash flow. Chrysler stepped-in, acquiring over 83% of the company. The production of the Tiger continued through 1967 but Chrysler was not enthusiastic about offering a Ford-powered vehicle. The Mark II version appeared which offered a larger engine, the result of enlarging the bore and stroke resulting in a 289 cubic-inch capacity. Shortly after the Mark II introduction, the production of the Tiger ceased.

During its production lifespan 7067 examples of the Sunbeam Tiger were created.


By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2006

1966 Vehicle Profiles

1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA vehicle information

Sport Roadster

In 1959, the Sunbeam Alpine was introduced by the Rootes Group. The small 1494cc four-cylinder engine was barely enough to complement the stylish and sporty body. Seeing the success of the Shelby Cobras, Rootes Group approached racing legends Ken Mil....[continue reading]

1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA vehicle information

Sport Roadster

Chassis Num: B382001478 LRXFE
Engine Num: 6322 B19KC

Carroll Shelby had a great deal of success sticking a Ford V8 into the AC Ace to create the Cobra. Rootes asked Shelby to perform the same task with their Sunbeam Alpine sports car. The Alpine's 1.6-liter four was replaced with a Ford 260 cubic-inch ....[continue reading]

1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA vehicle information

Sport Roadster

Chassis Num: B9473212 LRXFE

This is an authentically restored barn find. It is a late Tiger MK1 that has had a limited chain of ownership desirable mechanical options, and a high degree of originality. The car was equipped early on with a host of Los Angeles Tiger (LAT) options....[continue reading]

1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA vehicle information

Sport Roadster

Chassis Num: B382000404

This 1966 Sunbeam Tiger Convertible is one of 2,706 MK1A's built. It has a freshly re-built 289 cubic-inch engine with a Holley 640 double pamper, flowmaster dual exhaust, and a mild cam. There is a 4-speed top loader transmission with short shifter,....[continue reading]

1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA vehicle information

Sport Roadster

Chassis Num: B382000879LRXFE

It is believed that 1,826 MkIAs were produced with the 206 cubic-inch Ford small-block V8 - described by Ford as the world's lightest cast iron V8 - with a quoted 164 horsepower at 4400RPM and 258 lb-ft of torque at 2300 RPM, and a 4-speed gearbox. T....[continue reading]

1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA vehicle information

Sport Roadster

The 1966 Tiger, often described as the Mk1A, still had the 260 cubic-inch small-block Ford V8 under the hood and rear drum brakes. The 1967 MKII benefitted from the 289 cubic-inch motor and 4-wheel disc brakes. Forgotten today is that Rootes Motors s....[continue reading]

1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA vehicle information

Sport Roadster

This late 1966 car was first registered in 1967; these later 260 cubic-inch cars are often known as Series IA. This example has a 289 cubic-inch motor installed. In 1967, the last year, all Tigers had the 289 cubic-inch (Series II) motor installed in....[continue reading]

1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA vehicle information

Sport Roadster

Chassis Num: B382001811LRXFE

Ford's Windsor small-block V8, originally at 221 cubic-inch and 145 horsepower weighed 470 lbs; in mid-1962 it was a 260 cubic-inch and 164 horsepower and weighed 482 lbs; then 289 CID in 1963 with 195/210 horsepower at 506 lbs. 1968's 302 cubic-inch....[continue reading]

1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA vehicle information

Sport Roadster

Chassis Num: B382000023LRXFE

In similar fashion to Carroll Shelby's successful Cobra, the Rootes Group asked Mr. Shelby to perform similar hot-rodding with their Sunbeam Alpine sports car. The Alpine 1.6-liter four was replaced by a 4.2-liter Ford powerplant which offered nearly....[continue reading]

1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA vehicle information

Sport Roadster

Chassis Num: B382001448
Engine Num: 6609 B19KC

The Sunbeam Tiger British Classic Sports car, made by the Rootes Group, England, was the brainchild of Ian Garrad. Ian convinced Rootes to hire American Carroll Shelby, the originator of the Shelby Cobra, to design a new model based on their Sunbeam ....[continue reading]

1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA vehicle information

Sport Roadster

Chassis Num: B382000044 LRXFE

This Sunbeam Tiger Mk 1A is believed to have its original 260 cubic-inch engine, connected to a four-speed manual transmission. It has the removable factory hardtop, folding convertible top, tonneau cover and boot for the convertible top, and fresh b....[continue reading]

1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA vehicle information

Sport Roadster

Based on the 4-cylinder Alpine launched in 1959, the V-8 powered Tiger was born to compete with MGs and Triumphs in a variety of racing series. Due to the company's financial situation, a new engine was out of the question, so Sunbeam-Rootes turned t....[continue reading]

Sport Roadster
 
Sport Roadster
Chassis #: B382001478 LRXFE 
Sport Roadster
Chassis #: B9473212 LRXFE 
Sport Roadster
Chassis #: B382000404 
Sport Roadster
Chassis #: B382000879LRXFE 
Sport Roadster
 
Sport Roadster
 
Sport Roadster
Chassis #: B382001811LRXFE 
Sport Roadster
Chassis #: B382000023LRXFE 
Sport Roadster
Chassis #: B382001448 
Sport Roadster
Chassis #: B382000044 LRXFE 
Sport Roadster
 


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Recent Vehicle Additions

Performance and Specification Comparison

Price Comparison

1966 Tiger Mark IA
$3,500-$31,400
1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mark IA Base Price : $3,500

$2,570 - $2,750

Model Year Production

#1#2#3Sunbeam
1971Ford (2,054,351)Chevrolet (1,830,319)Volkswagen (1,128,784)
1970Ford (2,096,184)Chevrolet (1,451,305)Volkswagen (1,193,853)
1969Chevrolet (2,092,947)Ford (1,826,777)Volkswagen (1,241,580)
1968Chevrolet (2,139,290)Ford (1,753,334)Volkswagen (1,191,854)
1967Chevrolet (2,206,639)Ford (1,730,224)Toyota (1,068,321)11,400
1966Ford (2,212,415)Chevrolet (2,206,639)Volkswagen (1,168,146)17,200
1965Chevrolet (2,375,118)Ford (2,170,795)Volkswagen (1,174,687)10,800
1964Chevrolet (2,318,619)Ford (1,594,053)Toyota (1,068,321)17,000
1963Chevrolet (2,237,201)Ford (1,525,404)Fiat (957,941)13,000
1962Chevrolet (2,061,677)Ford (1,476,031)Fiat (957,941)16,000
1961Ford (1,338,790)Chevrolet (1,318,014)Volkswagen (807,488)12,000

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