4K - SUNBEAM TIGER 1966 - Test drive in top gear - V8 engine sound | SCC TV

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Where to start when describing a Sunbeam Tiger? The model is associated with lots of the most iconic anecdotes. Starting at the beginning seems a sensible approach. The Rootes Group introduced the Sunbeam Alpine Series 1 in 1959. The Alpine had a Litre 4-cylinder engine producing 85Hp. Rootes soon realised that the modest performance was not going to cut it with the large and attractive American market. They approached Ferrari in the hope that a “powered by Ferrari” badge would do wonders for sales. They went into negotiations with Ferrari, but eventually nothing came of it. At the time Jack Brabham was working with Rootes’ competition manager Norman Garrad. When he heard that Rootes were looking to improve the performance of the Alpine, he suggested to call in the expertise of Carol Shelby, who had already had similar experience with the Ac Cobra. Norman Garrad discussed this idea with his son Ian, who at the time was responsible for West-Coast USA sales and who knew Shelby personally. He had an incling that the Texan chicken farmer would be interested, and sure enough Shelby’s interest was peaked. Unfortunately there was no Alpine available at the time in the States to see if a V8 would actually fit. Happily the British Sunbeam colleges were quite willing to lend a helping hand. To see if the proposed engine would fit they simply used a stick the length of the V8. They concluded that it would more or less fit lengthwise as well as probably in the breadth. Shelby was happy with these slightly questionable results and said that they should be able to shoe-in a V8 into the Alpine. Ian Garrad sent his service manager, McKenzie, out to various Ford dealers to decided which V8 would fit the best. McKenzie choose the 260 cu V8, as it was not only compact but light as well at 200 kg. Ian Garrad had formed a fair idea of the overall picture and asked Shelby how long and how much it would take to produce a prototype. Shelby replied that he would need 8 weeks and $ 10, Ian Garrad decided that it was now time to ask England for permission to proceed and approached Brian Rootes the son of owner Lord Rootes. Brain liked the idea but did not feel inclined to ask his father for permission. He decided to loose the costs in the marketing budget and told Garrad expressly not to mention it to his father. Gerrad was concerned that everything was taking too long and was worried if the engine was actually going to fit and the whole show would not flounder on the engine size. He gave racing driver and constructor Ken Miles $ , an Alpine Series 2 and a Ford V8 coupled to a 2-speed automatic. Miles had to slot the V8 into the Alpine as quickly as possible to verify that the concept worked. When a week later Miles drove up in his prototype, Gerrad breathed a sigh of relief. Soon after, Shelby started work on his prototype, later known as the “White Car”. When it was ready Ian Garrad took director John Parks with him for a test drive. They were both so impressed by the handling characteristics that they no longer delayed informing Lord Rootes about the project. He was naturally not impressed that he had been kept out of the development loop. The idea of a V8 Alpine however did appeal to him, so he requested that the prototype be shipped to England in order for him to personally test drive the car. When a few weeks later Lord Rootes had test driven the car, he immediately went to his office to phone Henry Ford II. Guess what they discussed! An order of 3,000 engines to ensure the production of the Tiger. That was the largest order Ford had ever received up to then. The Rootes group was a bureaucratic enterprise. Lord Rootes decided everything and usually it took four years or so before a concept reached the showroom. Lord Rootes acquiesced that this project was different and decided that the Tiger would be introduced just 8 months later at the 1964 New York car show. Shelby had hoped that after developing the successful prototype he would be granted the opportunity to produce the Tiger. People at Rootes were not comfortable about the increased close relationship between Shelby and Ford. Ford was not just the engine supplier but also a direct competitor. The Rootes group were concerned that company secrets would end up at Ford through Shelby. To compensate Shelby he received an undisclosed royalty for each Tiger sold. The production of the Tiger happened in the UK. Even though the Tiger has a V8 engine, larger transmission, rack and pinion steering and a number of other details it was only 20% heavier than the Sunbeam Alpine. The front to rear weight distribution was practically identical to the Alpine. Ordering 3,000 engines from Ford was no exaggeration. The Rootes Group eventually went on to sell 7,128 Tiger’s.
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