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Cobra Alternative: 1966 Sunbeam Tiger


If you like the idea of a British roadster with American V8 power, then a Tiger may be the car for you. As Cobras become more unattainable by the day, these Shelby designed Sunbeams still look like a bargain. This particular example is claimed to be part of a large collection that is being liquidated. It is in Maryland and is currently listed for sale here on eBay where bidding is as brisk as the car itself. Thanks goes to Donald C. for the submission.


The Rootes group noticed all the success the sports cars were having in the sixties, so they called in the master. Carroll Shelby and his team worked hard to cram a 260 V8 into the tight engine bay which was designed to house a four cylinder. Some suspensions modification were required to handle the extra weight, but the end result was a fast and practical driver.


The Tiger was introduced in 1964, but in 1966 the Mark II was released which featured Ford’s 289 V8. We were hopeful that this car was one of those rare Mark IIs because of the “289” printed on the plate under the hood. According to Tigers United, the exterior trim and the VIN place this one as a Mark 1A though. Any Tiger experts here who can shed some light on this? The information could drastically affect our maximum bid amount.


Talking about bidding, there is a lot of it here. It has already been bid up to $21k with 30 bids and six days left. The price is already close to what a running #4 condition car should go for and the seller does not even mention if this one runs, so we cant help but wonder if this Tiger is something even more than meets the eye. Wonder what else is hiding in that warehouse…


  1. Steve

    Very bad a.. I would also like to see that GTO?

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  2. sunbeamdon

    This is an odd one – non-stock front bumper; non-stock seats; strange wire wheels (non-stock); redone ignition system(?); LAT79 – bonnet; dash redo looks to be something other than walnut.

    Bidding appears to be less than spirited – my guess something near $27,500 should, but probably wont, buy this one.

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  3. geomechs geomechs Member

    There’s a guy just joined our car club with a Sunbeam Tiger. I’m going to forward this to him.

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  4. Skip Middleton

    From Wikipedia:
    “After doing extensive engineering studies Rootes Group subcontracted development and pre-production testing to Jensen, in West Bromwich, England. Jensen went on to manufacture the Sunbeam Tiger. Production reached 7,085 cars over three distinct series (the factory only ever designated two, the Mark 1 and Mark 2; however, since the official Mark 1 production spanned the changeover in body style from the Series IV Alpine panels to the Series V panels, the later cars are generally designated Mark 1A by current Sunbeam Tiger enthusiasts). Mark 2 production totaled just 536 cars, and these Tigers, with the 200 hp (150 kW) 289 cu in (4.7 L) engine, are rare today. Both the Miles and the Shelby prototypes have survived, along with a number of other historically significant Tigers.”
    But I’m not sure about the veracity of the entry, because it says none were built after Chrysler bought Rootes, and I swear I remember reading a road test in Road & Track of a Tiger with a 273 Chrysler engine. But I can’t find any reference to it, anywhere.

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  5. rich

    It’ a 260 for sure my buddy in college had one of the 5 1967 Mk 1’s that had a 289 from the factory. The Mk2 came out in 67 also. We found out he had a 289 when we were checking the other two tigers on campus. they had Ford blue engines and his was black. We then checked the engine numbers and with Sunbeam to comfirm it was a 289. Was a fun car till he said it cracked the frame from the power that next summer. But he did drive it hard and autocross about every weekend

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  6. rancho bella

    I would question the heck out of the car. If it checks out, fine. But, you buy a fake Tiger? You’re done. You just through away a boat load of dough. I would like to see better pix of the gauges.

    These are Ford Alpines……..that, is what they are.

    I would need to see the trunk, better pix of the engine compartment, the number off the rear end and engine. The ad is to vague.
    Of course what some have posted is wrong with the car. The engine compartment is supposed to be the same color of the car. The rivets look wrong on the plate. The other plates riveted don’t belong. And some stuff that you aren’t supposed to know.

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    • rancho bella

      threw……….the word is threw……….gawd when will I learn?

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  7. junkman Member

    According to the seller the car is in california, and it was raced as a green car, the engine is, in my opinion, no chance original. this car has been around the block a good many times
    and is missing many OEM parts. One thing is for sure though, Tigers are on the upswing big time.

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  8. Dolphin Member

    Skip Middleton:
    I just looked at the R&T road tests I have of the Tiger, but they show the Ford engines. The reason the Ford engines worked in the Alpine body is that they have the distributor at the front. With the short Alpine engine bay, the rear of the Ford engine sits under the cowl, so a big V8 would need to have the distributor at the front to allow the engine to sit far back enough to fit the short engine bay. Rootes didn’t have a V8 in the corporate (Chrysler) parts bin with a distributor at the front, and with the small Chrysler V8 having the distributor at the rear, it could not be used.

    But you are right in thinking that Tigers continued to be built after Chrysler bought Rootes. The source I found said that the Mk 2 Tigers built after the Chrysler purchase all had the 289 Ford V8. One of the reasons suggested for such a short run of Mk 2 Tigers was that Chrysler couldn’t tolerate the idea of selling a car containing a competitor’s engine, and so cut the run of Mk 2 Tigers short…and that was that.

    It’s annoying that there were so few of the best Tigers made, but when you think that Chrysler would have had to buy the engines and spare parts from Ford, and then service them in their dealerships, it’s understandable that they would pull the plug.

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  9. Jeff

    Back in the day it was a “Poor mans” Cobra. I first saw/drove one working at a service/tire center in WPB, FL. in the 80’s. Drove like a wild animal and sounded like a tuned semi (custom loud exhaust). Same guy owned a 86′ Pantera GT5-S with the rear wing. The car was rough but more fun than a 911 IMO.

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  10. Jeff

    I noticed on one of the build plates that Sunbeam LTD. was from Coventry, England and considering the Ford connection (engine/Shelby) this makes sense then in Ford buying Jaguar in the late 80’s, also from Coventry.

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  11. FRED


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  12. Tom

    I bought a new, white MK1A in 1966 and kept it until 1971. Loved the car. There was a rubber grommet on the firewall that gives access to the rearmost sparkplugs, and you change these from inside the car. Takes a bit of doing. I had dump pipes installed and could open them quickly with a wrench for noisy fun or solo 1 events. Import dealers didn’t want to work on the car and neither did the Indianapolis Chrysler dealer I bought it from: there was bias against imported cars in American shops, and the Chrysler dealer understandably did not want to work on a Ford motor. It went through a number of tachs; the throwout bearing went away; it was prone to overheating; it was twitchy. But it was quick and fun, and well appointed though the top took awhile to make right.

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  13. Dolphin Member

    High bid was $25,700 but did not sell because seller cancelled all bids before the end of the auction.

    This seller has about 6 cars for sale from the same warehouse “collection” (= a collection of cars that all have big needs), and none have sold.

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  14. Mike Luyendyk

    In 1967 I saw a Sunbeam Tiger in a Dodge dealers showroom in Kalamazoo MI. I went in and looked at the car and it certainly did have a Mopar 273 engine. Being a Ford guy I ordered a ’67 390 Mustang from the Ford dealer instead.

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  15. sunbeamdon

    Mike – you musta’ been on some crazy “joy-juice” – Check out Tiger history – Chrysler could not fit their 273 into a Tiger and hated the idea of Warrantying a Ford engine. Unless it was a cobbled together home done one, “Rootes” Chrysler never built one.

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    • Mike Luyendyk

      I suspect this might have been a one off for the dealers to display. Maybe they figured out no way were they going to make it work in production. I was building engines at the time so there is no possibility that I might have mistaken it for a Ford 289.Somebody retired from Chrysler must know the story about that car. Kalamazoo is about 150 miles away from Detroit so it might not have gotten much further down the road. I can’t prove it but I know what I saw.

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  16. Sunbeamdon

    Hi Mike – fascinating story – would have required a complete “butcher job” to fender wells and cowl. I guess if you can put a 350 Chevy in a Miata, you can do almost anything (that money can buy)

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  17. rich

    the 289 was used as it was the only engine with a front distridistor . All others had it in the rear which would have required a new firewall. Heck we had the hack the firewall to even get a Shelby manafold and holly double pumper to fit.

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    • Mike Luyendyk

      I am with you on that one. Has anyone that you know of built an all aluminum 289 for one of these great little cars?

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  18. Mike Luyendyk

    10-4 on that. I wonder now that maybe they left the distributor out, among other things to install the engine. I must say that it did look quite finished but as soon as I saw what it was I did not look any closer. As for the 350 chevy deal, about the only thing on two or four wheels that I have not seen a 350 chevy installed in would be a Toyota Prius, and that might be because I don’t get out much, just say’n.

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