Sunbeam Tiger Buyer's Advice

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Caveat Emptor. (Buyer Beware) This section is intended to display the opinions of those willing to offer advice on the purchase of a Sunbeam Tiger. However, you take this advice at your own risk. The purchase of any collectable car is fraught with risk. So, if you take our advice and are not happy, we are sorry but you are on your own!

Submitted by Mark Olson

Do your homework and make sure you know exactly what you are getting. The value of any specific car is really set by the buyer and the seller. If you know what you are getting and are willing to pay the price, then you are getting a good deal. If you don't know what you are getting or don't know exactly why you are buying the car, you can find yourself in trouble.

The value of a Tiger depends on a number of factors, one of which is what people find most desirable. Some are looking for a very fast, agile car, while others like to have a customized beauty.

My personal preference is a very original car. They didn't make many of these fun little cars (7,085) and they won't make any more. Original, unmodified cars are getting rarer and rarer as time goes on. It is a lot easier to modify a car than it is to keep it original. I'm one of a growing number who believe the most valuable cars are the most original ones.

Norm Miller's "The Book of Norman", available from Sunbeam Specialties - (408-371-1642), is an excellent reference for learning what features are original on the various models of the Sunbeam Tiger. I recommend buying a copy of this book, regardless of the type of Tiger you are intending to purchase. This book also contains the only published listing of "official" Tiger production, plus a worldwide record of known surviving Tigers.

If you just want a "driver", or a car to race, it's a lot easier. Watch out for the problems of any used car. Make sure it's clean, straight (if you're in to that) and mechanically sound.

Probably the most controversial topic surrounding the purchase of a Tiger is the subject of a "rebodied" car. Many Tigers outside of the south and west suffer badly from rust and cars all over get wrecked. Since people hate to loose their vehicles, there has been and is, a growing temptation to hack the Tiger-specific pieces off a damaged specimen and use them on an inexpensive Alpine body to build a replacement car. These creations are no doubt very fine cars and give their owners many hours of enjoyment. However, it is illegal to remove the "Vehicle ID Number" from any car body and it is fraud to put it onto another car body. The appeal of doing so is understandable. "Rebodying" a rusty, or severely wrecked Tiger is no small task and while the resulting car may be a fine piece of work, it is considerably less valuable carrying Alpine ID. After all, it says Tiger on the outside, why not on the inside? Cars fitting this description are commonly called "conversions", or as many of our list-members have settled on, "Algers".

While most "conversions" began life with no intent to defraud but, rather, as a means of saving an otherwise terminal candidate, the increasing value of the Sunbeam Tiger has proven to be an irresistible stimulus for some to cross the line of moral principles. As a result, there are "rebodies", represented as original Tigers, finding their way to the marketplace. In my opinion, even if you are not concerned about buying the genuine article, these cars should be avoided like the plague until they are re-registered for what they are - "Algers."

Some of these projects are very easy to spot, but others have fooled even the experts for a time. The easiest way to insure getting a real Tiger, is to look for a car that has been TAC'd - that is authenticated by STOA's "Tiger Authentication Committee". The Sunbeam Tiger Owners Association (based in Northern California) has undertaken this somewhat controversial program and, as of this writing, has qualified nearly 200 Tigers. These cars have been examined by experts and awarded "Certificates of Authenticity", which are transferable upon change of ownership. If the car you are interested in has not been TAC'd, you should contact someone who is knowledgeable and get him to help you. We have a number of qualified people on the Tiger mailing list who would be more than willing to help.

The market price of a Sunbeam Tiger varies wildly. I'm not certain what the value of my car is, because my estate will have to sell it, as I never will. I'm sure my car is worth more that $50K, because I know I wouldn't take that for it. I've seen cars advertised for under $5K and over $30K. It's quite possible that the $5K car is an overpriced rust bucket and the $30K car is a good buy. But, most of the time, you get what you pay for. (This was written in 1995.)

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