Low Mileage Survivor: 1965 Sunbeam Tiger

It’s time to don your skeptic’s hat once again! It this find looks very much like the “Basement Tiger” that Josh wrote about a few years ago here on Barn Finds, but it’s not the same car. Could this truly be a completely original, rust-free, numbers matching 52-year-old Tiger with only 27,000 miles? It’s listed on eBay, so it must be true, right? No, wait, that’s the wrong way round! Bidding is at $80,000 with reserve unmet at this time, so some folks must believe this Tiger is for real. If you read the description and look at the pictures you might also become a believer. It’s had four owners: the original owner, the second is a Ford collector who owned it for 20 years and the next two owners have large private collections. But those LAT 9, or pie cutter wheels, were a dealer installed. All alpines were shipped with steel slotted wheels, yet these LAT 9 wheels are considered original? So what else might be off?

The interior really looks nice, of course. Some Tigers have a glove box door that matches the dash and many are like this one and have no door. If you look at the interior in full-size pictures you’ll see the wear and flaws, including the laminate peeling on the dashboard.

It looks original and untouched under the hood. The Ford 260 CID V8 is stuffed in there somewhere. It’s only about 4 inches longer than the original four-banger, but it’s a lot wider. Shelby designed the installation and hoped to do the conversions in his own shop, but the Rootes group decided Jensen Motors would build the Tigers in England. At least Shelby received royalties on every Tiger. It is said that Jensen had to use a sledgehammer on the Alpine body shell to make the Ford V8 fit. The recirculating ball steering was replaced with rack and pinion.

The underside looks very convincing as well. It looks original with no underspray but the exhaust does look new. The drive shaft is offset. Could the rear suspension really be that far off?

So… are you a believer yet? Could this really be the low mileage survivor they claim it is? The story sounds likely enough. There are lots of detailed pictures. It will be interesting to see what clues readers find in the pictures and what you have to say about the drive shaft alignment. It will also be interesting, of course, to see how high the bidding goes and if it meets reserve. There are four active bidders at this point in the auction, which ends Sunday.


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  1. redsresto

    I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but something here looks broken. From the underside it appears as though the rear axel is out of fore and aft alignment, based on the angle of the center section (appears to be pushing the driveshaft to one side). Or maybe it’s just shifted to the side?

    • Loco Mikado

      It is stated in the ad that the driveshaft is offset making an optical illusion when looking underneath. My dads oldest friend’s son had one of these back when they were new. He was 6 years older than me and gave me a ride in it. I have always wanted one after the ride. My dads friend owned a used car lot specializing in imported sports cars. Got to see and ride in a lot of cars that I would have not been able to otherwise.

  2. DRV

    If the axle moved over on the springs the springs distance from the wheels would be different but they’re not. Isn’t the pumpkin not centered on some differentials?

    • phil

      pumpkin not centered it’s not, the short driveshaft exaggerates the look. no glove box door on a tiger from factory,and they did not use a sledge hammer on anything

  3. Bob

    These cars fetch serious money, and I would want it appraised by an expert before I put out the coin required to purchase an original.
    They are an impressive performer, I almost bought one back in the 1970s. What turned me off, was the fact that just doing routine work, such as changing the plugs, is a nightmare.
    I like the look, and the big feature, for a British sports car, is the roll up windows and the hard top. Anyone that has ever owned a sports car in the winter will know why.

    • 86 Vette Convertible

      Having owned a Spitfire at one time, I can especially relate to the top and windows. You have to mention the usual British potential issues like rust, electrical, & hydraulics issue too.

  4. Jeff Nichols

    No Sunbeam Tiger came with a glove box doors. Same goes for the Alpine. If you see a Tiger with a glove box door then the wood dashboard was replaced.

    No real Tiger built at Jensen ever had the transmission tunnel/ firewall bashed with a hammer to fit the engine. The transmission tunnel was made from a pressing and welded into place.

    Yes, the Tiger does have a slight offset in the driveshaft as it meets the differential. The differential pinion yoke is offset towards the passenger side of the car. Nothing unusual about that, they all have it.

  5. Bob

    If you ever see a door on a glove box, it is not original. I hope someday the silly sledgehammer story fades away.

  6. Ronathan

    Does it have the ejector seat? machine gun? smoke screen? Inflate-o-girl?

  7. erikj

    That axel position makes me wonder! the rest looks good. I had a friend with a real tiger and we pulled the motor and re installed after a rebuild ,I was under that car and don’t remember anything like that. something that off???

  8. ROAR

    I’ve seen one converted and that required LOTS of changes unlike the Triumph TR-7 and TR8 as FUN cars to drive with out living in terror that someone might bump you Some may recall that was the intent for having sports cars–not investments!

  9. Vince H

    Toe in is different on each side. One tire has a lot of wear on the inside but may have been on the front. Just looks odd.

    • Bob

      Tigers have an odd Ackerman angle due to the position of the steering rack so far forward. The inside wheel on a turn actually has a larger turning circle than the outside wheel. Lots of scrubbing.

  10. Brian Smith

    The rear axle looks like it has slipped forward on the left leaf spring (right side of picture). You can see that the tire is riding closer to the front of the wheelhouse on that side. Probably a half to 3/4 inch out. Should drive pretty bad like that. Easy to fix though.

  11. 86 Vette Convertible

    Other than the color, when I see something like this I expect to see Don Adams pull up in it and to see the leadin to “Get Smart” to show up.

    • George Hemenway

      Don Adam’s Tiger was red.

  12. yes300ed

    I think these were sold at Chrysler dealerships even with a Ford drivetrain.

    • Clint

      With an “American V-8”

  13. Rob79Malibu

    The axle is an offset differential. If you look at the undercarriage, you can see how the floorboards, or tunnel is offset as well. That is normal. We are just all used to seeing a straight line.

  14. Rob79Malibu

    AHHHHHHHH! What gets me the most. It kills me. Why put a branded chap batter in the car? Please please please, if you have a beautiful classic car. Spend the money and get a reproduction plain ole’ black battery. Or take the stickers off.

    Sorry for the rant.

  15. Joe Haska

    Boy you guys are tough audience, I would hate to have you look at my cars. I think from looking at all the pictures and the info, it is certainly the real deal, and it seems some others believe it to be and are going to pay whatever it takes to get it!

    Like 1
  16. BOP Guy Member

    When I was looking for a fun foreign convertible in the 80’s, I looked at one of these for sale here in California for $4500. It was in like-new condition, and drove really well! I was just concerned about the electricals and who I would take it to for routine maintenance. So I passed on it and bought an 86 Bertone X1/9 instead. Had a ton of fun with it, especially living in San Diego back then. But seeing these prices, I’m kicking myself now !

    • MrBZ

      I fully understand your hesitation with 60s British reliability, but an 80s Fiat is like jumping from the frying pan into the fire! Literally.

      • BOP Guy Member

        LOL!! I know what you mean and agree! But at the time the Fiat (Bertone) was one year old with 4,500 miles on it, and generally I only keep cars a year or two. So the Bertone (Fiat) was a blast as a daily driver, I had no problems with it, and sold it about two years later. The Tiger I probably would’ve kept longer, but it was 20+ years old at the time. I still wish I had bought the Tiger!

  17. james boyd

    I don’t see the trap door in the passenger side of the trans tunnel/firewall to access the sparkplug. Ive only seen one and it was about 30 yrs ago and when the owner showed me that i thought “That is a hotrod / redneck genius idea” I’m a redneck so, i loved it.

    • Bob

      No “trap door”, but a round rubber plug underneath the carpet behind the gas pedal to take out the #8 plug. There is a door on the shelf behind the passenger seat that was the cover to the battery box on the Alpine. The box went away but the cover stayed making it easier to get to the electric fuel pump. That’s under carpet too.

      • James boyd

        And they call me FORDMAN, I should have gotten that right. KIDS, Just say no to drugs.

  18. Steve

    The driveshaft offset is normal according to the California Association of Sunbeam Tiger owners.

  19. Bob

    The center line of the rear axle pinion is offset about 1-1/4 inches

  20. stillrunners LAWRENCE Member

    yes300ed – you are correct – I have the 1967/68 brochure from Chrysler….they didn’t mention the make – just V/8 power…sad they couldn’t see putting the little 273 in it….I always wanted a Tiger….bought some Alpine’s thinking I could make it happen….sold them off years ago…

  21. TR

    SBC oh wait won’t fit. Stove bolt? Iron Duke?

    • Loco Mikado

      Plus the Ford 260 is also lighter than a SBC.

  22. Ed

    Is axel the English spelling of axle? Tiger, what a great name for a car!

    • Brakeservo

      No, it’s a misspelling, but then there is the word ax-hole which does properly describe . . . oh well, never mind!

  23. Brakeservo

    Perhaps some of the comments above regarding sledge hammers arise not from the Tiger but yet another hyper-performance Ford powered small British sports car – the 1965 Griffith 200 where a sledge hammer was most definitely employed to make the Ford’s starter motor clear the TVR frame rail.

  24. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Reserve not met at $85,000.

  25. Rex Rice

    I baby sat one of these for a year while it’s owner took job overseas. My impression: Uncomfortable seats. No posi-traction so lots of wheel spin. Close ratio trans with 1st gear way too high. Example: 60 in 1st, 80 in 2nd, grip the wheel tightly as things are going out of control…

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