va·por·ware

NO RECORD - NO RECORD - NO RECORD

It doesn't take much digging in the known Sunbeam Tiger archives to become totally frustrated by a rather large "black hole" of missing information.  A couple of recent happenings have amplified the gray areas and as is the nature of magnification, some are raising a number of "old" questions.  At the very beginning of Tiger production Rootes commissioned a collection of "tigerized" Alpines to serve as a multi-pronged evaluation force.  These machines were christened with an internal corporate acronym ("AF") purportedly signifying their Alpine/Ford origin and underpinning.  According to the only available documentation of their existence, twenty-one examples were birthed and chronicled during a condensed, three month ramp up to regular Sunbeam Tiger production.  Even with serious wand-waving, no more than nine entries from the Jensen records of production can reasonably qualify for "Alpine Ford" designations, but as we've come to expect, none of the normal rules apply when you're involved with "TigerSpeak".  Decoding eccentric dialects predictably produces lots of conjecture and we now have more than just a handful of supposed "factory significant" vehicles whose provenance can only be traced with "pure" whole cloth.  "Air-car Fantasy".  


 

 

While it might not be obvious, the nature of the labeling system used to chronicle this collection of test vehicles did nothing to impress those of us trying to rationalize totals for either "Series" Alpines, or the face-lifted "AF" contingent.  Re-branding regular production "4-bangers" with Alpine 260 identifiers, introduced an irritating smoke screen that masked much of the beginning Tiger narrative.   Additional camouflage, in the form of Chrysler's destruction of important records, was only slightly diminished by an ardent Sunbeam Supreme enthusiast engaging in several frantic, dumpster-emptying rescue runs.  In fact, without that effort, many of the now important, inner-department memorandum would not have been available for any critical consideration.  We should point out there are a couple of surviving, non-Rootes archives (the Coventry Council Motor Vehicles Registers for one) that have become somewhat important to the investigative process, but as you will see, much of their contribution has been negated by subsequent foolishness.

Regardless, paper-only references haunt the contemporary chore of identifying many of these practically invisible machines.  The Jensen ledgers of production are themselves a less than sterling source of clarification.  The first twenty entries are riddled with misinformation.  No fewer than eight of the initial listings refer to vehicles that, for all intent and purpose, never existed.  It is simply impossible to rely on what the scribes tallied on those first few pages and in fact, similar anomalies are found throughout the hand-written manuscripts.  On another front, surely some form of madness must have been in play to account for the long list of molested factory artifacts that present today.  What else could explain, or justify transferring an original SAL tag (Series III body identifier) from the Le Mans development car, 7734 KV  to ADU 179B (the Series IV bodied Ballisat/Dubois Le Mans mount )?  What problematic shrewdness was behind removing, or tampering with the original Rootes installed identifiers from nearly all of the "production pattern" vehicles?  When the only persuasive evidence of their existence turns out to be "paper-pamphlets", the veracity of those claims is far from overwhelming. 

 

If we can trust our own "eyes-on" encounters, unendorsed stamping, over-stamping and re-stamping must have been all the rage around the "after-production" Rootes Group's digs.  One wonders at someone's bright idea of taking the liberty to add engine number stampings to the unique chassis plate of B9470009.  Sadly, a tag that was purposely without that detail from the outset, now carries completely misleading, erroneous information.  As if that wasn't enough, an equally brilliant bit of addition to the same relic introduced a "production" Tiger 260 engine valve cover into the mix.  Perfect, just what was needed, a third element of confusion in an already muddled "parchment substantiation".  When it comes to making impressions, total invention was also not out of the question.  How disappointing to find the ID elements of both "Pilot Production" examples (the cars supposedly constructed to represent the finished 1965 model year product) completely neutered.  Even though we're running out of "pre-production" remnants to scrutinize, similar mutilation exercises extended right into regular production.  A quick glance in the direction of the factory competition machinery, returns a dizzying array of  "many cooks spoiling the broth".   

I could go on, but by now you should be getting my point.  When we're reduced to "it-must-be-so-'cause-it-says-so-on-the paper", mirrors and vapor leave much to the resourceful mind.