Baby Cobra: 1965 Sunbeam Tiger

Jamie PalmerBy Jamie Palmer

First off, yes, this is a real 1965 Sunbeam Tiger with documentation, not a converted Alpine. And while the original engine has been pulled from the car, it does come with it. It’s listed for auction here on eBay and already has 9 bids as I write although there’s some time left. The car is located in Durand, Michigan, and the seller tells us “minimal work needed.”

For years Tigers seemed to languish in the shadow of Cobras as sort of a baby sibling. Most, including this one, had the 260 cubic inch version of the small block Ford V8 rather than the 289 and eventually the 427/428 that the Cobra received. As time has gone on and Cobra prices have gone through the roof, Tigers have come into their own and are now appreciated for what they are — something not as raw as a Cobra (roll up windows? A soft top that actually works? A metal hardtop?) but a wonderful sports car in their own right.

Unfortunately, many Tigers suffer from serious rust. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to be one of them! Look at those pretty solid floors!

The seller tells us the car is complete, they are just 74 and haven’t gotten to finish the car yet (they have some other collector cars for sale as well).

This is the only picture we have of the engine. The seller says it ran before they pulled the engine, so hopefully it’s been stored correctly. What do you think of Tigers in general? How about this one?

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Comments

  1. Jbones

    Btw alpine tigers never received the 427/428. Only the AC Frua cars did.

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    • RayT Member

      I think that was just a bit of unclear verbiage on Jamie’s part. I understood him to mean Cobras when talking about the larger engines…. And the AC Frua cars were, if I remember correctly, built on 427/428 Cobra chassis, so no surprise they had the big engines.

      An interesting and probably irrelevant point: a retired Ford engineer once told me that when the successor to the 289 Cobra was having its chassis engineered at Ford, the intention was to use a new and much improved version of the 390 engine. When that didn’t work out, the 427 was a last-minute replacement….

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  2. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    Tigers definitely have come into their own as desirable & pricey cars. These Mk 1 cars have been selling at $66K in excellent condition at major auctions. The days of $8K Tigers are well past.

    This one is bid to only $22K with 2 days left, so someone who knows how they should go back together could make a go of this project…but the reserve hasn’t been hit yet.

    I would want to know how they go back together, since this one is mostly apart. Either that, or have a good friend who knows, or have manuals and books that show how, plus the time and persistence to get the job done.

    The good news is that from the interior shots the floors look really good.

    But now my usual advice……
    If you have never driven one, and if you want it to act like its name on the road, better drive a good one first.

    In my experience these Mk 1s with the 260 engine and a 2-barrel carb tend to be pretty lazy on the road. And part of that experience involved a ’70 240Z with about 150 c.i. running rings around a properly running stock Mk 1 Tiger with 260 c.i.

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  3. dgrass

    You guys are knocking it out of the park today @Barnfinds. Thank you!

    5
  4. John m leyshon

    Mostly aloof in turns with the heavy V8 anchor up front. They move in the straights and compete well in the vintage class races… Interesting history on these. Nice write up.

    3
  5. Don Diego

    I’d rather spend some ‘minimal time’ finishing the ’56 wagon in the background.

    4
    • Dusty Stalz

      It caught my eye first too lol.

      1
  6. CCFisher

    I’d rather have the wagon. Looks like a Parklane. I probably wouldn’t fit in the Tiger, anyhow.

    2
    • Tom Justice

      It is a Parklane; go to the ebay site of the Tiger and the seller lists several others for sale, including the wagon. Check it out.

      1
  7. SC/RAMBLER

    As Dolfin said 260 v8 Mk1 not overly powerful, 289 Mk 2 would lay rubber as long as you stay in the throttle. But for the price still a good buy ,if you can put it back together.

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  8. Bradshaw from Primer

    a 4 bbl 260 would get rubber in all 4 gears…..and accelleration from 60 to 100+ was like falling off a bridge …so good. I had driven the first Lola t490 which was very quick and FF and use those to compare the tiger. would keep up with a 270 hp corvette till 130mph….I think it was the L-82?? A wild drive across the south in 1977 . Leafs were cracked and eventually all of them broke in half!! had been making strange handling till then! My Alpine was so sweet…i wondered what had happened to the Tiger. Sold it after 30 years to pay for my daughter’s wedding.
    had a very good wedding at Marco Polo in Brooklyn.

    4
  9. Bradshaw from Primer

    I think the original Cobra the magazines tested had a hot 4 bbl 260 and did 153 mph.

    • Dolphin Dolphin Member

      I think I remember that road test, and I could be wrong Bradshaw, but I think that car was a special tester that was not identical to the production cars. All of the stock Mk 1 cars that I have seen had a 2-barrel. Here is a quote from the Wikipedia writeup for Sunbeam Tiger:

      “Several performance modifications were available from dealers. The original 260 CID engine was considered only mildly tuned at 164 hp (122 kW), and some dealers offered modified versions with up to 245 hp (183 kW) for an additional $250.”

      Beyond that, it’s well known that some suppliers of testers for the car magazines would supply a hotted-up version without letting on, so those test cars could perform a lot better than the stock ones. A 4-barrel was not a stock-from-the-factory 164 HP configuration. Those had a 2-barrel carb.

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  10. 86 Vette Convertible

    Wrong color or I’d have said: “Where’s Maxwell Smart when you need him?”
    Never really been close to one but this one seems to be in pretty good shape as long as you can put it back together.

    1
  11. Joe

    I had a stock 260 in ’68 – ’69. It would burn the tires off in first and spin them into 2nd. Mine topped at about 135 and it was most fun around 100 – 120 cruise speed. And it Would go around corners. All I did was add KONIs on softest setting, which transformed the car. I’ve seen 2″ water in the floors with the top up and it got hot inside on any summer day. They are quite reliable and I really miss mine. My TR8 is not near the car it was – for sheer hooligan antics. Oh, my friend had a near new Healey 3000, and rolling start, was able to stay with me til about 60-70. Then I could pull away.

  12. Joe

    PS: When I bought my white one off a car lot in New Orleans, they also had a blue one just like the one here. It had a wavey side and was about $1,600 so I bought mine at $1,300.

  13. Rex Rice

    Uncomfortable seats, no posi-traction for lots of wheel spin, nose heavy for white knuckle handling; what’s to love? On road trips, I arrived worn out. Not so in the Porsche.

    1
    • Joe

      My experiences were exactly the opposite on all counts. Best rememberances were driving back from band gigs alone with little traffic at 2 AM upcountry, back towards Biloxi, Ms. at high speeds. It’s doubtfull you would have been able to get stay with me in your Porsche of that era.

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    • Joe

      “nose heavy white knuckle handling”??? NOT. You either had bald fronts or over pounds in those tires. I think the 260 probably weighed little more than the 4 cyl. in the TR7. Also, I remember drag racing a 383 Roadrunner from a rolling 1st gear. Of course, he pulled me, but not by much.

      1
  14. Bradshaw from Primer

    I did a drive from Dallas to Florida then NC then the Blue Ridge then Dallas….Great Drive. Later i wrote the Tiger website a plan to put a rumble seat in the back…thinking of long drives to Austin on moonlit nights……good things to think about in mid winter….sitting around the fire dreaming of drives. Stevie Ray Vaughn playing as we drove thru the night in Texas….

    • Joe

      Yes. I never made any really long runs in mine, but I rarely ran with the normal traffic flow. A fast “flow” was preference, amd in light traffic – and with a sharp eye for the gendarmes, using the car as it was intended to be used. One cannot drive like that but rarely these days. Few cops on the country roads in the South – late at night, back then.

  15. Sirpike

    And so far none of our cousins from across the pond have slated the lucus electrics !

  16. junkman Member

    A couple years ago the Wife and I took our freshly restored 66 with 289 .030 from Boston to Colorado Springs and she never missed a beat. With only 12 gallons of gas @ 22mpg the seats had you ready for a break at fuel time. I most certainly will take it on a long trip again, head turning nice car to drive fast or slow!

    1
  17. Joe

    I found that at around 70 mph or more, I could run in light rain with the top down and not get wet. Of course, I couldn’t slow down.

  18. stillrunners

    Sold by Chrysler for a year or so….sad they didn’t put that little LA block in them…

  19. Bradshaw from Primer

    Just about any v8 will fit in a car without exhaust manifolds….the Ford’s exhaust manifolds did not change the width dramatically….so it showed up in the sunbeam, cobra, trident and a few others. Where width is not a problem the chevy and chryslers would show up. Facel Vega, Iso Rivolta…but those were custom designed for their engines.
    so to fit the Chrysler LA engine would require probably a redesign of the front end. Whereas the biggest thing for the Ford installation was i believe a hard wham with a mallet in the firewall (or so i’ve heard…Jensen did the TIgers)

  20. Mike Lussier

    I could tell a story about my quest for a Tiger. At 20yrs old in 1969 while in the Navy I went to find one but couldn’t locate one, Happened upon a 67 Austin Healey MK III Not ever seeing one it did catch my eye in a used car back lot. Three days later after borrowing from the Navy Credit Union. $2700. I drove off the lot. Before I reached 3rd gear there it was. Standing Proudly on someone’s lawn for sale. 67 red Tiger. My deal was done and I couldn’t bring myself to stop and look or ask the price. Since then I recked the Healey, purchase another 66 Healey, cleaned it up and had it painted. Recked that one 50 yrs ago this June 2018. I then found a 65 Healey in 1976 with 59,000 mi. in a barn here in Northern Vt and have had it since. After my family grew and moved out I began restoring it and had it completely restored with very little rust in 2015. I purchased it from the original owner and since have received the build Certificate from Heritage foundation, Drive it to Shows in Summer some and now have 69000 original miles on it. I guess you could say I missed the boat on the Tiger but I’m Stuck on the Austin Healey.

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