• This Month's Issue

    $38m GTO: All the Drama, Surprises and Head-Scratchers from Monterey's $464m Week

    Komforting Result for Porschephiles: 1988 Porsche 959 Approaches $1.5m

    Torpedos Away: Why the $467k Gap for Two Tucker 48s?

    GT40: Even at $6.9m, Ford Can't Beat Ferrari on the Block

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  • SCM Platinum

    Over 200 cars that sold at auction covered in every issue of SCM. Our market reports include detailed information about the vehicle, including VIN, condition, options, and expert analysis from SCM's auction reporters.

    SCM Platinum is the largest database of collector cars sold at auction. Over 150,000 vehicles, including over 59,000 with detailed write-ups from our auction reporters.

    Now optimized for your mobile devices!

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  • Glovebox Notes

    SCM doesn't just cover collector cars. Every week, SCM reviews a brand new car online and in our newsletters, and there are new reviews every month in the magazine. Thinking of buying a new car? Check out our reviews!

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  • Insider’s Guide to Concours d’Elegance

    The 2014 guide includes a calendar of events and detailed descriptions of 21 featured concours.

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Recent Profiles

  • Chassis 1036 (RM Auctions) A factory report dated October 28, 1948, held in the Tucker archives at the Gilmore Car
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    Tucker vs. Tucker

    By Carl Bomstead / November 2014
  • Chassis number GT108 is one of just six open-top GT40 roadsters constructed, reflecting Ford’s experimentation with the open configuration to
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    1965 Ford GT40 Roadster Prototype

    By John L. Stein / November 2014
  • The Ferrari 250 GT Omologato needs little introduction as the most iconic, most habitable, street-useable, race-winning, World Championship-winning — and
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    1962–63 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta

    By Steve Ahlgrim / November 2014
  • Following the 953’s decisive win at the grueling Paris-Dakar Rally in 1984, Porsche’s chief engineer Helmuth Bott declared his ambition
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    1988 Porsche 959 Komfort

    By Prescott Kelly / November 2014
  • After several years dominating the Can-Am series with a series of school-bus-yellow racers, McLaren Cars stood up to the developing
    Read More

    1972 McLaren M20 Can-Am

    By Thor Thorson / November 2014
  • The ultra-rare Alfa Romeo 1900 C SS combined the short chassis with a racing-specification engine, gearbox, and revised final-drive ratios
    Read More

    1955 Alfa Romeo 1900 C SS Zagato Coupe

    By Donald Osborne / November 2014
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8268436-7-3Web

Inspired by Carroll Shelby’s success in shoehorning a Ford V8 into the AC Ace to create the Cobra, British carmaker Rootes asked Shelby to perform the same trick with its Sunbeam Alpine sports car. Ford’s 260-ci V8 engine was chosen, and even though this had “only”160 horsepower on tap, its power was nearly double the output of the contemporary Alpine’s 1.6-liter engine.

Assembled by Jensen Motors and introduced in 1964, the Tiger featured a stronger gearbox and rear axle—plus rack-and-pinion steering. Vastly superior to its Alpine progenitor in performance terms, the Tiger stormed to 60 mph in under ten seconds and peaked at 117 mph. Sadly, the model was killed off by Rootes’ new owner—Chrysler—shortly after the Tiger II was introduced in 1967.

This example was delivered new on July 17, 1965, from A. S. Baird Ltd to a Mr. J. Dowling of Belfast, Northern Ireland (the original purchase invoice is on file). Also included in the file is an old-style logbook and a photocopy of the Swansea V5C registration document showing three previous owners, the last being a Ms. J Cochrane. Other documentation includes six old tax discs and three MoTs from Northern Ireland, the most recent of which was issued at 21,471 miles and expired on February 6, 2010.

In the history file also are assorted press cuttings about the car in Northern Ireland; a factory-produced leaflet called The Tale of the Tiger; an AA road test report on the Sunbeam Tiger; an original owner’s service book; and a manufacturer’s warranty book issued by the Rootes Group. Representing a rare opportunity to acquire one of these charismatic Anglo-American sports cars, 2290OZ comes with Swansea V5 document, MoT to June 2, 2010 (issued at 22,315 miles), and factory hard top.

{analysis}{auto}2948{/auto}This car, Lot 322, sold for $44,146, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ RAF Museum sale in Hendon, North London, U.K., on Monday, April 11, 2011.

In the land that begat them both, the Tiger has always been considered the “poor man’s Cobra,” but while even the smaller-engined Cobras soar over the $450k mark, the best Tigers linger at only a tenth of that, which is still well under the price of the cheapest Cobra Mk IV continuation cars Autokraft built in the late 1980s.

Why? They’re not so fashionable, they’re not so light, they have a reputation for overheating—and they can be confused for the lesser Alpine, if that sort of thing bothers you (frankly, I would be far more irritated by the “nice replica” comments if I owned a real Cobra).

Tiger numbers are limited, of course, because of that Ford V8 that it shares with the Shelby Cobra. Actually, Carroll Shelby performed the first Alpine-Tiger conversion—the second was by Ken Miles, just to makes sure it could be easily replicated.

Chrysler, which bought the Rootes Group—including Hillman and Sunbeam—in 1967, couldn’t countenance using a rival’s engine, so the Sunbeam Tiger ceased after just over 7,000 were made, including a total of 536 cars fitted with Ford 289-ci V8 engines.

Re-engineering using Chrysler’s own V8s would not have been possible, as the small-block’s rear distributor would have interfered with the bulkhead, and the big-block just wouldn’t fit. In any case, dealing with quirky little foreign sports cars built in tiny numbers by an even smaller outside contractor would have been under the radar of a huge corporation such as Chrysler. So the Sunbeam Tiger was deep-sixed.

A well-fettled cat

Our subject Tiger was an Irish car from new until it was acquired in recent years by a Middle Eastern collector, who was using this sale to thin out his brood.

The Tiger looked restored but not overdone, with a nice, straight, rot-free body with slightly micro-blistered paint, correct but not concours-shiny engine bay and an original-looking interior that may or may not be factory. It also came with a Works hard top, which was not shown in the catalog but fitted for the sale, and Minilite-type wheels.

At this range—at Hendon, all the cars are locked shut because the RAF Museum remains “live” to visitors—there’s no way of telling whether it had the original 260-ci engine or a 289—or even a 302—as so many now have. But the quoted F-code engine number says it’s a 260, and given that the motor is one of the longest-lived parts of a Tiger—despite overheating problems—that’s entirely believable.

This car shouldn’t have any mechanical worries because it’s been through the hands of noted Northern Ireland Tiger fettler and racer Jackie Cochrane, who knows the type intimately—although he didn’t restore this car.

“I bought it four or five years ago, and it had been a one-owner car,” Cochrane said. “But we didn’t touch it. The engine bay didn’t look like a 30,000-mile car, more like a 100,000-mile car—grubby, with frayed hoses—so someone’s tidied it up since. I bought another Tiger, so I sold it on through Mike Abbas of Lancashire, who found me a buyer, and I let it go for what I paid for it.”

So, despite no hands-on input from “Mr. Tiger” of Northern Ireland, this was still a tidy car, and there was plenty of interest—with at least four bidders after it while it was still under the $30k mark (where it would have been an absolute steal, but it was never going to sell that low). As auctioneer Jamie Knight said: “Perfect for anyone who didn’t get an Allard or a Dart,” (the previous lots) but this was so much more desirable than either of those cars.

Tiger values have been quietly strengthening—how could they not, in the wake of the Cobra inflation, where even “continuation” Mk VI lightweight Cobras are now well over $150,000—helped by their eligibility for pre-1966 (FIA Appendix K) European motorsport. This sale represents a strong—but fair—price for a decent, usable car, and it accurately gauges where the market currently stands for these still-underpriced Anglo-American hybrids.{/analysis}

Recent Blog Posts

  • A Glimpse of Pure Passion +

    The SCM Monterey Insider’s Seminar is always a good experience, but this year it was a great deal better than good — it was fascinating, inspiring, and — of course — highly instructive. This year’s theme, “Preserve or Restore? The Three Tipping Points to Making the Decision” brought out principal Read More
  • Russian 4x4 Ice Drifting +

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  • This Week's Classic Mystery Photo +

    The monthly Mystery Photo has been an SCM tradition for 25 years. Each week, we’ll share one of our “greatest hits” photos from the past and give you a chance to provide a new witty and provocative caption. Each week’s winner will be announced in the Newsletter. Share your caption Read More
  • December 2014 Cover Poll +

    Our Art Director, David Tomaro, has created three possible cover concepts, and we'd like to know which one is your favorite. Click here to cast your vote! In addition, please take a few moments and answer some questions about collector cars. It should all take less than a minute, and Read More
  • Drag Racing a Parsnip at the Concours de Maryhill +

    Car shows happen in the most unlikely places. This weekend, the Goldendale Motorsports Association hosted the 16th annual Concours de Maryhill and hillclimb. The venue was the Maryhill Museum of Art, 103 miles east of Portland, overlooking the Columbia River. Entrepreneur Sam Hill built Maryhill and dedicated it to the public in Read More
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Collector Car News

  • $1.1m V16 Cadillac Roadster Leads RM's Strongest Performance in Hershey +

      RM Auctions celebrated the annual AACA Eastern Division Fall Meet October 9–10 with its best Hershey performance to date: $14,074,250 in total sales with a very strong 93% of all lots sold. Top seller was John Moir Jr.’s 1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster at $1,100,000. Generated by the sale of 157 Read More
  • Buy High, Sell Low — The Keith Martin Audio Interview +

    Find out Keith Martin’s secrets to buying high, spending too much and selling low in this 30-minute exclusive interview with Mark Greene of CarsYeah.com. Martin talks about Sports Car Market was founded, how at its darkest moment he tried to sell it for $1,500 with no takers, and how the Read More
  • 1934 Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix Heads to Leake Dallas +

      Leake Auction Company will sell a 1934 Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix at their November 22 sale in Dallas, TX. The car was consigned from the John Ridings Lee collection and will be a part of Leake’s Platinum Series of cars. People have had a fascination with the Bugatti Read More
  • RM's Hershey Headliners +

    The featured cars at RM's Hershey sale this weekend include a 1930 Cadillac V16 Sport Phaeton by Fleetwood (pictured above, RM estimate: $375k-$450k), a 1915 Stanley Model 820 12-passenger Mountain Wagon ($200k-$250k), and a 1958 AC Ace-Bristol ($225k-$300k). View all the consignments here. Read More
  • Branson Presents "Toad," an AC-engined 1951 Frazer Nash +

    An AC-engined 1951 Frazer Nash known as "Toad" and a 1963 AC Greyhound will cross the block at Branson's Fall auction.  The sale takes place October 17-18 at the Hilton-Branson Convention Center in Branson, MO. View an up-to-date list of the current consignments here. Read More
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