Basement Cat: 1965 Sunbeam Tiger

Basement Sunbeam Tiger

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Update 3/19/2014 – Tom Cotter left a comment about this Tiger below and it seems this seller is trying to pull a fast one. Tom believes this was his car, which he sold this past summer, and as far as he knows it was never stored in a basement. Read in the comments section below for more information. Our thanks to Tom for letting us know.

The simple fact that this Sunbeam is a mighty V8 powered Tiger makes it worth a closer look, but what really makes this one interesting is the fact that it was stored in a basement for 31 years. We have come across a few basement finds, but it certainly isn’t a common occurrence and that just adds to this Tiger’s story. The seller claims it is an original survivor that is ready for carving up the back roads. Have a look at it here on eBay and is currently located in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Sunbeam Tiger motor

For those that don’t know the Tiger’s story, it is an interesting one involving none other than Carroll Shelby. After the success of the AC Cobra, the Rootes group saw the potential of a high performance lightweight sports car. At first, the company looked to Ferrari to redesign their inline four, but it quickly became apparent that no such deal was going to materialize. The idea then came to go the same route AC had and install a Ford V8 into one of their existing sports cars. This was when Shelby entered the story. With his help and guidance, the Tiger was born. Given the size of the Alpine it was based on, the Ford 260 was the optimal motor choice, although it was capable of housing the 289. The 260 was rated at 164 hp and 250 lbs. of torque, which was a big jump from the Alpine’s straight four.

1965 Sunbeam Tiger interior

While the engine might have been completely different than the one found in the Alpine, everything else was about the same. The interior was nearly identical, but with higher standards of finish. This one looks to be in great shape and features red piping on the vinyl seats and a wood grain dash. As an added plus, this one came with a hardtop, which is still with the car and in great shape.

Sunbeam Tiger

This Tiger looks to be in great shape, but the current bid makes it unattainable to most. We wish the seller had photos of it in the basement, as there are few things as fascinating as a basement Tiger. Whether it was found in a basement or not, this one should be a blast on some curvy back roads. Special thanks to Jim S for this tip!

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  1. Brian

    My favorite British car! I love it so much, I’d even be willing to settle for an Alpine just to own one! I do love those early tailfins!!

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    • Raymond F. Pittam

      I was out this last weekend and found a Datsun of the same style. It is mostly all there but some parts has been robbed off of it. I see it as a really Unique Refurbish Job for someone in the near future, I am investigating it as a Possible advertising car on my web site as well as here. I will post Photos as soon as I get permission to do so.,,
      Keeping people informed through Cooperation and Communications with other’s.

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  2. rusty

    Wow that looks nice is this original paint?? thought i could see overspray on the radiator shroud so guessing an original survvivor spruced up?? looks great whatever it is..if an original survivor…WOW!!!!.

    I never get the V8 thing…but i know most people do…but I love the Alpine/Tiger for its look

    I owned a Sunbeam Rapier with the 4 cylinder that was previously used for rally so was “souped up” with a Celica 5 speed and cant imagine I’d ever need more power than that…except maybe towing…hee hee

    which ever power they have Alpine/Tigers are one of the beautiful designs for a more common brit sports the early cars big fins..anglo/yankee beauty

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    • Raymond F. Pittam

      I noticed that also on the shroud. But you know as well as anyone, when they say all Original, They are blowing wind. There is not one vehicle on the road past a month old that hasn’t had to have some type of service done. I bought a Brand New Dod V-10 Pickup that was delivered to California and before it could even be sold California Laws made then change what was Original on it. And with in 30,000 miles I had to replace the Engine Thanks to California, And just 700 miles into the second Engine on a trip through Idaho, I had to replace the California Engine again, So Chrysler said to Hell with California and Installed the Big Idaho Viper V-10 in it and now I have 112,000.00 miles on it and there isn’t a stock California V-10 that can even touch it. We did also have to change the rear End on it.

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  3. Moxman

    Wouldn’t it be a blast to build one of these cars with a bored and stroked 289? Maybe a narrowed Ford 9 inch reaf diff., with disc brakes? I’m sure someone has done it, but I’ve never seen one.That would be a true Carrol Shelby edition car.

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  4. BernieMember

    I hope the car is better than the paint job!!

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  5. Horse Radish

    You almost got me interested in one of these, given that this is the nices Tiger/ALpine that I’ve ever seen…….
    …..but at a price tag ($36k and reserve not met) it already has passed the going price for a similar condition Mercedes SL pagoda….
    like I said, almost had me.

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    • Raymond F. Pittam

      That is the only thing I hate about these Barnfinds on this site, They are extremely over priced. I am out all the time doing Barn, Field, and even Housed Finds and They are never at prices this site advertises them at, I found a really nice Dodge Viper the other day sitting with a Avanti, and hell I can buy them both for $10,000.00 and drive them away. People are stupid to pay this kind of prices for a car. I have been in the Classics and Custom / Hot Rods for well over Fifty years and these prices are asinine. Just like I know where there are several beautiful New floor Conditioned Cars and they are not priced like this site prices them.

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      • Stevo

        If you’re not going to pick up that Avanti and Viper, lete know where they are. For $10 grand, I’ll buy them both today.

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    • JohnD

      As a Tiger owner AND an SL Pagoda owner, I’d have to say you have better connections on Pagodas than I do. I love them both, and neither is cheap now, and we all knew this time would come.

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  6. John Allison

    The car has been redone! Look at the pic of the Daytona sticker in the windshield! The trim is bent and miss fitting and the rubber looks new?same way around the doors! I have seen a lot of cars over the years….and this one has been redone basement find! Original my ( ! )

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  7. rolymo

    The paint has entirely the wrong texture for material of that period, that technology did not even exist until few years ago!,even the colour shade is questionable but photos can distort.Vastly over priced for a none std example .Ex Tiger owner& car-painter.

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  8. rancho bella

    I can’t tell beans from the pictures. Always bores me when the sellers want to explain the history of the car, who developed it, who built it, bla bla bla. Either a buyer knows what they are looking for or they don’t.

    I’m am a big fan of the 221-289 Ford engines, just not in an Alpine. I’ll take the four banger with overdrive……and fins

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  9. junkmanMember

    First picture, red paint inside the grill, = not original.

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  10. Chris H.

    @Raymond F. Pittam, this site doesn’t “price” these cars, they merely tell you where you can find them on the web, though you are right in that prices, in general, have gotten out of hand. Blame the speculators with deep pockets and a bad case of nostalgia for that. If you CAN buy an Avanti and a Viper for $10,000 and drive them away, knock yourself out, though I suspect that price is a bit of hyperbole. Maybe you should check your garage for excess carbon monoxide?

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  11. Mark Westphal

    Nice Sunbeam, My original bucket list car from back in the day, I’d have to agree its too nice not to have been redone

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  12. Rex Kahrs RichMember


    Ebay is a great place to BUY something that NOBODY else wants, but the auction format makes it a bad place to buy something that everyone wants. The bidding always runs up early in the auction, and often goes past what the item (car) is worth. Of course the seller loves this if he’s got something desirable or rare (or Porsche). Emotion kicks in with the bidders, and up the price goes. Quite often cars are re-listed due to a non-paying bidder, who comes to his senses only after he’s won the auction.

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    • Raymond F. Pittam

      I have been in the Automobile Business many years, and know without a doubt, most of the cars in the Auction are Rebuilt Junker’s. I owned Pittam’s Trucking Company and hauled cars from all over the USA and from many Ship Yards. I was the second Owner of Brown Chevrolet , Oldsmobile , Pontiac Sales Company in Troy, Kansas with Elmer Brown. I have Raced as well as built Cars with my Brother. I learned Appraising as well as Mechanics through Mr, Good-wrench G. M. Motors School. I also attended Hillyard’s Votech of St. Joseph. Missouri. I have also owned Two Truck Stops with Shops, and do know how to rebuild motors. I don’t anymore do the work. The Avanti I mentioned is a very nice car but has been parked out the past two years and does need some TLC . The Dodge Viper is also a Nice Car, But the Man’s son who owned the Car went to the Service and over seas and will not be back . They say it is a really nice Vehicle. It looks nice .

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  13. Tom CotterStaff

    I hate to call a spade as spade, but the story is fabricated. I owned that car for the past 10 years before selling it last summer. The new buyer in turn, sold it at the RK Auction in Charlotte last fall. I bought it from the long-time owner, who never stored it in a basement. The seller is going to have to come up with another story.

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    • jim s

      thanks for the information on this car. i just checked the Ebay listing and the seller has not changed the listing.

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    • JoshAuthor

      Thanks for letting us know about this fabrication Tom! Some sellers will do just about anything to drum up extra bids. I will update the post with a warning and that they should read your comment. On the upside, it’s great having a community of honest car enthusiasts watching each other backs! Thumbs up to Tom!

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    • BrentF

      Looks like the bidding is fabricated as well. 2 bidders? Notional starting bid at $36,000 gets outbid at $36,100. That’s probably where this thing will end. It’s not worth $36,000, let alone $36,100 IMHO.

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  14. DT

    BUSTED… I enjoy calling a spade a spade………… I own a Datsun that looks like a sunbeam also,and Im using it to bolster my web….WTF…also get smart drove an Alpine and Chrysler v-10s are junk,other than that ….yea shure

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  15. Ric Parrish

    rusty missed the point. The V8 was magic, for some hundred million people who got it. I believe, after having worked on several of the Alpine V8’s, that the reason they didn’t become popular was because they left the suspension and tires/rims the same. They literally got no traction, with the 260 they just sat and burned, when you put a 289 in them, they were only good for a burnout competition.

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    • rancho bella

      spot on Ric……..that is one of several reasons I sold mine two years ago. I came to realize that people are taken by the sound of a V8 in a little sport car.
      But as far as fabulous road hugging ability…… no.

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      • paul

        Every time I see a little sports car that people make comment’s about putting a V8 I just have to laugh it off. I recently met a guy who had one of these years ago & his comment was it was very tight ( hard to work on).

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  16. sunbeamdon

    Tom Cotter, I believe, has it right; this car has definitely been repainted; one other recollection is the hard tops always came “black”. This car is “mid-production” for the Mark I and appears to be stock. The color, while it may be a little off, is #39 – Carnival Red, described as red with a touch of orange. Repaints tend to err on the side of too much red. My thesus on the Tiger includes redoing a 289 (my Mk II) to 331CI – avoids the issue of the oil ring with the 347Ci. Don’t know how a 260 block with its smaller webbing would stand up to the over-bore and stoke combo, but with the bigger displacement coupled with big valve heade wakes the SBF. My next one will start with a Boss 302 block which has been sitting under my bench for 38 years, unless “somebody-out-there” makes me an offer I can’t refuse.

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    • Michael Richards

      “one other recollection is the hard tops always came “black”.

      Not so. I bought one new with a midnight blue hardtop. You could order any current color if you ordered before delivery.

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  17. DT

    I saw an Alpine for sale not too long ago,with a 22r and a Toyota 5 speed transplanted into it ,I thought now youre talkin’……I almost got a Tiger when I was young($600)(gas 26cents a gallon),at the time I knew it was for doing donuts,good thing I didnt get it because it most likely would have killed me

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  18. sunbeamdon

    I witnessed an Alpine with Mazda Rotary and no decent sound deadening – tear your friggin’ ear drums out!

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  19. Sid CannonMember

    I agree with Ranch Bella.
    All history lesson and nothing about ‘this” car.

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  20. rapple

    Tom Cotter’s comments confirmed my first impressions that this is a dishonest presentation. The “showroom walk-around” text says almost nothing about this particular car except that it is “ unrestored survivor..” but with “..VIRTUALLY (my caps) all original sheet metal” but with no other description of the condition, how it runs, recent work performed, etc. The photos are awful: Is it orange or red? Was there no way to take an interior shot where the sun was not reflecting off the lens? No pictures of the boot or undercarriage. The few clear photos are cause for concern: the oxidation on the instruments and deteriorating veneer on the dash indicate that there may be other areas where humidity has been at work.
    In spite of that, someone has had the courage or lack of sense to bid $36k. It may be as almost as nice as it sort of appears in some of the pictures, but caveat emptor!

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  21. sunbeamdon

    Wow there pilgrim – the colour is probably closer to what it should be – the flare-out really masks the true colour. The dash is a problem that is prevelant in Tigers with, or without, humidity – just old (dry heat in AZ will cause the same problem). This body looks to be very rust-free and a good start for a fun driver. It’s probably $8,000 to $12,000 away from a show winner (non-concourse – which get to be silly money)

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  22. sunbeamdon

    By the way, I agree the seller is not doing us any favors by not opening the boot – spare tire/battery location tells a lot about a true Tiger

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  23. ConservativesDefeated

    Well.sure do appreciate the informed opinion of those in the know like Tom Cotter…even enjoy Raymond Pitams…..though I’m not sure how state mandate pollution equipment would cause two engines to fail…be that as it may……

    I drove a Tiger as a parts getter when I worked for a garage in ’72 as a wee lad. I remember practically pulling the body off the least it felt lke that.when I left a stop light. Clearly I had little control of the power and didnt know enough back then to control it. t was a bear.

    As for this one..where I sort of agree with Pittam…but it’s not Jess’ fault.too many cool cars end up getting repped by blowhard bsing dealers. Ever been so though.

    Just dont buy a car from a dealer.

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  24. Jesse Mortensen JesseStaff

    Bidding ended at $37,050, but the seller quickly relisted it with a starting bid of $45k. Something fishy is going on here…

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  25. sunbeamdon

    For the venturesome take a look at this ebay posting:

    Not for the faint-of heart – I’m waiting for a response as to what happened to the VIN plate, etc. Maybe we are onto something – make an Alpine out of a Tiger

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    • Jesse Mortensen JesseStaff

      Wow, you would have to be very venturesome indeed!

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      • rusty

        Vin plate thrown away with the smashed front as 32 years ago a smashed tiger was not worth much.

        obviously the front smash was hard…attested to the door pucker as he puts it. and the fact the front was discarded probably to make storage easier..

        Really who wanted a badly smashed Tiger 32 years ago or more when good ones were not that expensive.

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  26. rusty

    Is this the start of trend..both cars supposedly escape from “lay-up” 31/32 years ago all at the same time. Me thinks this is some KAOS plot.

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  27. Milt

    And over there at Ebay listings for MG T-series, one “professional” dealer was advertising a 1954 MGTF as an MGB. The ad was immediately corrected after questioning his automobile knowledge and/or proofreading.

    Like 0

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