Desirable Project Car: 1966 Sunbeam Tiger

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It’s common knowledge that an original Shelby Cobra is a car that will almost never be found as a basketcase project. Sure, you may find one that is a barn find in every sense of the word, but in most cases, the original Cobra was a cherished car for anyone lucky enough to own one. Despite having involvement from the one and only Carroll Shelby in its development and being a limited-production model, the Sunbeam Tiger seemingly cannot escape the clutches of abandonment or at least wanton neglect. Despite its performance pedigree and Shelby connection, cars like this rough Sunbeam Tiger here on eBay are not all that hard to find.

A far more challenging car to find is a Tiger in preserved, original condition. Tigers that still have entire floors beneath the body and an intact firewall – that’s all we’re asking for. But it seems Tigers are not unlike Japanese economy cars from the same era in that its sheet metal is notoriously weak and flimsy. The car shown here needs significant rust repair, and the seller does not at all try to sugarcoat the amount of work that is needed to make it right. While we have seen some Tigers sell for very real money in restored and/or preserved condition, the bottom drops out pretty quickly if you’re thinking of picking one up that needs any level of body or engine repair. In other words, the Tiger has not become so collectible that people are falling out of their seats to buy a rusty car like they were with an air-cooled 911.

In some ways, that’s a funny barometer of the collector car hobby: how big of a project car enthusiasts are willing to spend real cash money on because they’re so eager to own a slice of the hottest vintage car model. That was definitely the case with vintage Porsches over the last few years, but cars like the Sunbeam Tiger didn’t quite rise to that level, which is likely why bidding remains at $3,650 with the reserve unmet. Perhaps the best feature of this car is the engine: The seller confirms it is numbers matching, and that’s a hard car to find given how readily a domestic V8 could have been swapped in the 70s in the event of some major mechanical failure. The seller confirms the transmission is also original to the car.

The Tiger was bought from a long-term owner as a project car the seller envisioned sinking his teeth into, but that’s no longer the case. Having just lived through my biggest rust repair project ever, I can relate if the seller feels a bit overwhelmed by the tasks involved with putting this Tiger back together. Rust really does live everywhere, especially in places you can’t see. While I absolutely think this Tiger is worth spending the money on for proper bodywork, it will also take an owner who is committed to bringing this rare factory hot rod back from the dead, even if it means spending a bit more than the car is worth at the moment. In the long run, however, I don’t see special edition performance models like this ever going down to the point that you can’t justify saving a project like this.

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  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    Not me folks.I’ve done complete restorations on rusty cars but wouldn’t put that much work into this one. Might ask yourself “how long do you expect to live and how much of that time do you want to spend on one project?”

    Like 17
  2. Nevada1/2rack NevadahalfrackMember

    “ the bottom drops out pretty quickly if…(it) needs any level of body…repair.”

    Figuratively and literally, in this case most obviously.

    Like 10
    • Jake

      Looks like a flood car with the every component with heavy surface rust in the engine bay. Too much work for me to even try but good luck with the restoration. It will sharpen your skills and lighten your bank account, either way.

      Like 0
  3. HoA Howard A (retired)Member

    Oy gevalt! It never ceases to amaze me, a car so hallowed today, could be reduced to a hulk like this. Again, just shows to go ya’, at one time, this was just a beater, someone got it cheap, and drove it like it was a Rambler American. ( no offense to Rambler fans) Coming from such an area, it was unusual to see a car like this in the snow and salt, but someone, somewhere in the cold, got this cheap, the hardtop was the cheese, and not a shred of interest for the future. I’m sure they no doubt had fun with it, but it’s tough to see one like this. Andy Rooney, my mentor, is spinning in his grave,,,more so.

    Like 10
    • Healeymonster

      I have a very nice Tiger that wins awards in the rare instances that i show it, but outside of the car show crowd most people have no clue as to what this car is. When i drive my Cobra the questions at the stop lights are ” Is it real?” Or 427 or 289?.. The only question the Tiger prompts is “What is it?” I’m thinking i should sell it while the guys that are in the know and have the dough are still breathing. They are dropping like flies!

      Like 4
  4. angliagt angliagtMember

    A guy I know bought one like this back in the early ’80’s
    in Los Angeles for $600.It ran well,& was in better condition.
    He gave me a ride in it up a mountain road.I went to fasten
    my lap belt,& was more than a little surprised to find that the other
    end of it wasn’t attached to the car body.First time I’d been in a car
    that went up and sideways at the same time! Somehow we both
    survived the experience.
    He later traded it straight across for a ’64 Ranchero that was
    in really nice shape.It was also Black.

    Like 1
  5. junkmanMember

    Having just completed one that wasn’t anywhere near this bad to start. I spent 6 years and a lot of money. We’re looking at 50k to make this whole, 20k of which will be paint. Black cars are sweet when done correctly, BUT they take a ton of time. Missing the Tiger only speedo, that’s another grand to get one and have it restored. If this was a later car (B382) vin I might consider bidding, but I’m gonna wait for a better one to show up.

    Like 7
  6. junkmanMember

    As I look closer and see the missing front valance and bent frame horn. Add to that no under carriage photos, I will most definitely pass. They always look better in the pictures, guaranty the entire bottom edge of the hardtop is gone, along with trunk floor. Breaks my heart, not my bank account.

    Like 9
  7. RJV

    I don’t see the chrome strip along the upper side that goes from the front fender to the rear. Also missing is the “Tiger” badge. Could this be a Tiger clone made from an Alpine?

    Like 0
  8. Big C

    I see it has the optional Max ankle ventilators on the drivers side. Did the previous owners store this in a salt marsh? Way back in the ’80’s, I knew these cars were special. I still don’t understand how people can do this to vehicles.

    Like 4
  9. Russell

    Augh, who else has the “Get Smart” theme song stuck in their brain pans …

    Like 2
    • Rick

      Russell: The Sunbeam Alpine was Carroll Shelby’s starting point when he created the Tiger. Sean Connery drove an Alpine in the first Bond movie, Dr. No in 1962. I was already driving my first Alpine when the movie came out. Do you remember the theme song?

      Like 3
  10. AF

    We all want to know what the car under the cover is

    Like 0
  11. Eric_13cars Eric_13carsMember

    My cousin had one of these back in the 60s. He took my father out for a ride in it and when they got back my pop had to change his pants.

    Like 1
  12. bill miller

    Perhaps the ENGINE can be renovated and used. The car is more rot than solid!

    Like 1
  13. Crazy Dave

    Sold for 12,000.

    Like 2
  14. Graeme T

    The glass looks good, maybe the hardtop too. As for the rest, it past its use by date. Obviously it’s been stored outside for decades and someone just got wind of Tiger values.

    Like 1
  15. junkmanMember

    $12k, seller did much better than I thought. Now comes the expensive part, getting it back to looking and driving well. Good Luck Mr Buyer. Sunbeam Specialties is your new best friend.

    Like 4
  16. BrianT BrianTMember

    If I could get this for nothing and do the work myself this might be worth it. Already at 12k. These have to be fun cars though. Is Chip Foose still doing Overhauling? I’d need someone to recommend me and say I’m a nice guy though. Nevermind.

    Like 2
  17. FireAxeGXP

    Well Gents, this takes me down Memory Lane. My ultra cool Dad bought a new Tiger Mark II in 1967. The previous Tiger I had the Ford 260 but the Mark II had the performance tuned 289. His too was black and the salesman informed him the Tiger II would only come in black or British Racing Green. Most mysterious car to Americans I’ve ever been around. Wherever it went (usually at a high rate of speed) people asked Is that an MG? Is that a Jaguar? I remember one mechanic told Pop it needed an import shop hahaha! Pop opened the hood and the guys eyes actually bulged. Dad switched over to Porsche in the early 70s but kept his Tiger as well. Every time a British Car Club would have a meet he would go terrorize their slow little jokes AHEM cars with it. He converted to disc brakes, BBS wheels and BF Goodrich tires early on to keep it moderately safe while routinely hitting 115 on highway commutes.
    It was the car I learned to drive on, the only car I ever drove that could smoke the tires at every gear change, the first car I ever broke 100 in, and many other memories.
    Not long after Pop died, a local British car guy bought it for 16 grand in 2006. For years after he too went around mocking Triumphs and MGs etc just to keep the tradition alive.

    Like 6
    • Shaun Martin

      The mk2 tiger had disc brakes front and rear as well as 5 stud wheels (15 inch I think)

      Like 1
      • Gord

        That was the plan but the cost was too high so they stayed with rear drums and 13 inch 4 stud wheels.

        Like 1
  18. Steve

    Quite a few Sunbeam Alpines became Tigers – might be the best route for this Tiger.

    Like 0
    • Rick Guest

      Alpines can never become Tigers. Tiger bodies were built totally differently than Alpines from the factory. Without a Tiger Authenticity Certificate (TAC) that can only be issued by certified members of the Sunbeam Tiger Owner’s Association (STOA), they can’t be sold as Tigers. Alpines that have had a V8 installed are commonly referred to as Algers. And Algers never pass as Tigers except to the total unsuspecting novice.

      Like 0
  19. Unbeam

    Add to that having to get a title. Very easy for the person who lost the title to get a replacement, just by applying for one. Any new buyer will have much greater time, money and hassle, no matter what the bill of sale says. Really varies by state, in some it is impossible

    Like 0
  20. Howie

    Sold $12,000.

    Like 1
  21. DA

    12K for rust and scale? Better him than me.

    Like 0
  22. Walt

    You did the seller favor by cropping his photos. The originals were all verticals, great shots of sky and gravel. Don’t people realize that a car is a fundamentally horizontal thing. Turn the damn phone and get closer.

    Like 1
  23. MarkMember

    Rough cubed. Parts car. Too bad.

    Like 0
  24. PRA4SNW

    The bidding history on this has shill written all over it. The “winner” outbid themselves several times, starting at $7,500.
    So, they were either fishing for the Reserve and aren’t serious about buying it, or they are insane.

    Like 1
  25. Rex B Schaefer

    Rot box!

    Like 0
  26. junkmanMember

    So, for whatever reason this has now appeared on Fakebook Marketplace for 10 grand. As stated earlier, underside is gone, trunk floor is gone, floors are gone also. This guy is gonna take a serious loss on this one, $2500 tops.

    Like 0

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