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Rare Cat: Mk 1 Sunbeam Tiger Project Car

1965 Sunbeam Tiger MKI

Today’s cars are expected to be good right out of the box, with looks, performance, and reliability, all at a reasonable price. Years ago it wasn’t easy to get that combination, especially with sports cars. I don’t know about reliability issues with this car, as I have never owned one, but for great looks, performance, and affordability the Sunbeam Tiger was hard to beat back in 1965. Along with the TR8 that was featured here on Barn Finds, this is the second British factory hot rod with an American V8 to appear here recently. This is a project car that will need some parts and serious work, but it seems to have the credentials as a genuine Tiger, so it’s worth a look. Find it here on eBay with one bid at $22K and 6 days left for the auction to run.

Sunbeam Tiger VIN

That last point, credentials as a genuine Tiger, is very important in the Sunbeam Tiger world because there are quite a few “Tigerized” Sunbeam Alpines out there with big price tags that just aren’t the real thing. This car is said to have been owned in the past by a Tiger Club founding member, and the seller has checked the VIN in The Book of Norman. That doesn’t sound like anything that has to do with Tigers, but it’s actually the most important source book on Tigers, and it contains all Tiger VINs. This book is very valuable to Tiger fans, and one sold on eBay a few days ago for $1,600. That’s right: sixteen hundred dollars. A photo in the eBay listing for this Tiger shows the two tags that contain the VIN and other information present on the car’s cowl, and a check with the registry website shows that this car’s VIN is in the proper range for a 1965 Tiger.

Sunbeam Tiger engine bay

So the good news is that this appears to be a genuine Mk I Tiger. More good news is that it has a set of the rare Cosmic wheels that only the Mk Is had, and that it hasn’t been modified very much. The bad news is that it has been modified, somewhat. It doesn’t have its original engine, which is long gone. Instead there’s a Ford 302 block, and little else. There are a few engine parts shown in the auction listing that come with the car, but it will be up to the buyer to find a Ford 260 engine for the car, or finish the 302. There’s also a T-5 transmission mated to the 302 block, which that Tiger Club member installed in place of the original 4-speed.

Sunbeam Tiger MK I

Years ago a friend owned a Mk I Tiger and I had a chance to drive it. That V8 made a big difference to the feel and performance of the car, just as you would expect. Unfortunately for me he sold the Tiger and I ran out of friends that were Tiger owners. With only a little over 7,000 Tigers built there aren’t too many to go around, so I am expecting that this one will sell for a good price. Most neglected Tigers have probably been found and restored by now, so this could be one of the few remaining chances to get what appears to be an original Mk I to restore.


  1. DREW V.

    Do I like Sunbeam Tigers??? Why I yhink TheeeeeeeY’RE

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  2. RickyM

    Totally agree with you Drew ! Gorgeous. Those rear wings are about as outrageous as us English got !

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  3. Vince Habel

    where is Maxwell Smart and 99?

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  4. sunbeamdon

    Looks like a good starting point – some significant (read expensive) parts missing to put back to original. Probably best money spent would be to do a full strip, remove/repair rust and repaint in the original Embassy Black – the red interior would show better. As a DIY project this could make sense. Cost to farm-out the work could get into silly money. This one is an early run car (1,781) and has the Alpine style steel flip-up for the soft top storage bin (easy to smuggle four dozen beer into British Columbia when they had a beer strike – don’t ask, I don’t want to incriminate myself)

    Remind self – winter project: the body’s done, now get your ass out of that easy chair, rebuild your Mk II wide ratio tranny and get your car on the road!

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  5. John A

    The Original “SMART CAR”…….or would you believe…….

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  6. jim s

    this, the tr8, or a miata with v8 stuffed in it. hard to pick. this is going to take a lot of time/money but be nice when it was done. it is a very nice find.

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  7. rancho bella

    Having owned several Tigers over the years I can attest to reliability………It’s a Ford V8 and a top loader. A correct 260 block can be sourced dirt cheap.

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  8. Dolphin Member

    Sold for $30,100 with 23 bids.

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  9. Alan (Michigan)

    Here a year later, the world seems to have flipped over. This car *COULD* be the same one which just broke some kind of record at this weekend’s Mecum auction.
    $142,500….. For a Tiger?
    Is that a mispriinnt? How did that extra $100k get in there?

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