Bits & Pieces Eighteen

THE CRANHAM CONUNDRUM


I just couldn't resist some tongue-n-cheek related to the nuance surrounding the "GDP 333D" mystery.  It's also hard to pass up a good title.  The main subject is of course, Andy Wright, behind the wheel of the object of his search. 


It's not uncommon to receive "Registry" requests for information concerning Tigers Once Owned.  In fact, it happens all the time.  It also turns out to be one of the more rewarding activities connected with keeping the "record".  To expand the point, I thought you might enjoy following a rather interesting saga springing from such a post.  The contents of the initial communiqué were typical of what I get out of England and referenced only the UK license plate ("reg.") number.

Posted February 28, 2003

Chassis Number =
JAL Number =
ENG Number =
LIC Number = GDP 333D
UserComments = Hello,

My wife and I owned this car (1966 Sunbeam Tiger MkI) in 1975 and 1976. It was regretfully sold just prior to our emigration to Canada in October of 1976 and we still miss it. I would just like to know if the car is still around and if there are any recent photographs of it.

If the current owner can be traced and is interested in its history or photo's of it from the period of my ownership, please have them contact me...

Regards.
Andy Wright
Ontario, Canada

For those who may not be aware of it, the English Tiger owners club (STOC) is the only owners group to have published a "Register" of cars .  After collecting data from their members, they printed and distributed a 1989 listing of vehicles keyed to English registration numbers.  TIROST dutifully incorporated that information and in some cases added to, and helped correct, the miscues.  As these identifiers were supposed to stay with the car for life, it has become common practice in England to focus on the plate specifics and use them like a proper name.  After all, how could any self respecting English chap not know the complete history of ADU 312B?  However, ask that same fellow to identify his car in the Jensen ledgers, or tender the specifics of the tags mounted to the engine compartment cowling and we might be at it for awhile.

Happily, STOC's 1989 effort tipped the scales toward connecting most of the plate numbers to actual chassis markers.  Contemporary record keepers have continued the push, making life much easier for the serious sluether.  After linking the "GDP" registration to chassis B382002137 HROFE, I sent a quick answer to Mr. Wright, which brought the following reply and ultimately, pictures "worth a thousand words":
 

Thanks for your fast response.  I assume that B382002137 is the Chassis Number, but what does the HROFE indicate?

Mr Johnson was the person I sold it to in 1976. At that time the car was a Metallic Blue but of a similar shade to the original Midnight Blue. I will scan some pictures and forward them to you.  Unfortunately I don't think I have any other records, but I will check.

Andy

 
A bit hard for me to imagine but, former owner Andy Wright, had no idea what chassis (VIN) number belonged to his pride and joy.  To be fair, not many of his former countrymen would be able to do any better.


ECW 834D - B9472550 HROFE.  From this angle, few would have reason to question the identity details presented for this vehicle.  A vinyl soft-top cover could hint at something other than a standard right hand drive MK I.  Even so, this would not be the first early car up-rated to the less troublesome stowage package.   


Using the pictures, I put together a brief webpage-plea and posted the URL to the Tiger mailing list.  If you're not a subscriber, you might consider joining this free discussion group:
 Tiger Email List
 I really didn't expect to hear from anyone and as usual, I wasn't disappointed.  With Andy's pursuit temporarily out of mind and sight, July, of 2004, was upon me in a blink.  Attending STOC's "
40 Years Of The Tiger" celebration, led to France, the Le Mans Classic and a chance meeting with a fellow named Bob Cranham.  Bob was one of our group bivouacked in the little French village of Vass.  During the usual parking lot tire kicking, anomalies with his recently purchased car (at the left) became the subject of much head scratching.

The most obvious, out-of-place feature for a supposed 1965 Tiger was a complete square cornered body.  After verifying genuine, "factory" pedigree (no question Bob's car was the real McCoy) additional oddities against a "B947" machine included, a full GT style interior and foot-well fresh air ventilation system.  The central disqualifier exposed at this outing - a "Carnival Red" code on the chassis plate, with unimpeachable clues of dark blue as an original color.  I must admit I was a bit surprised at Bob's reaction to the revelations.  Instead of being madder than hops, he seemed totally into the investigation and more than willing to undertake whatever would be necessary to discover the real identity of his Tiger.


Definitely not what they thought it was.  Surprisingly, it might just be more than anyone imagined.


As a result of some recent digging, we now know that less than thirty-five, 1966 Sunbeam Tigers were built to be sold in England.  If this example proves to be the car we think it is, it's one of a very small fraternity.


 

 

The definitive evidence (at least as far as I was concerned) wouldn't surface for many months.  Scheduled activities around the STOC party, just didn't allow getting the car up in the air and checking the drive train numbers, but Bob agreed to crawl under his classic and verify the back axle and gearbox assignments, as soon as practical.  I can't help but pull his leg a little, "Practical" for Mr. Cranham turned out to be April 10th, of 2005.  I had been prodding him for nearly a year, so when the numbers email finally arrived, you can believe I was ready.  It took all of two seconds to find the Jensen entry that laid claim to both of the identified components.  It would take another hour to be convinced of what I had uncovered.  As is often the case, pictures are worth thousands of words.  When the numbers from Bob pointed to B382002137 HROFE, I pulled up the images sent by Andy Wright.

  The first thing that caught my eye with GDP 333D was the forward mounting location of the radio antenna.  Possibly prompted by the desire for a disappearing mast, that position on the fender is quite uncommon.  It happened I had a similar side shot of ECW 834D, from a collection of pictures used in a classified just before Bob's purchase.  Once I had them next to each other, it was pretty obvious they were the same machine.  After all, what are the odds that two, different English Tigers could have antennas in exactly the same location?  Further, what are the odds that a re-tagged '66 car, that is now red, but was originally dark blue, would end up with its antenna in precisely the same position as a '66 car, that was originally Midnight Blue and is now supposed to be missing?  Armed with enough to make me comfortable about spreading the good word, I called Mr. Cranham, sent emails to Andy Wright and the chairman of STOC (Graham Vickery) announcing the findings.  All were blown away, especially Mr. Wright.  Andy had an especially fond memory of his car and at some point in the back and forth, sent the following:


Books and their covers have historically conspired to deceive.  This time however, a telltale points to the real manuscript. 


An afterthought comparison revealing a pair of Wipac backup lights that also survived the masquerade.  The upper photo comes from the excellent CD ROM effort of Simon Lawrence "40 Years Of The Tiger".

Hi Norman,

When I met my wife Jane, we both had 1965 MG Midgets which was part of the reason we met in the first place. When we got engaged we actually went looking for an MGB-GT but couldn't find one we liked. In the process we came across this Tiger and promptly fell in love with it. We took it on our honeymoon and although we only owned it for a couple of years before we emigrated, we have truly fond memories of the car. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I wish now we had found a way to bring the Tiger with us - I'm sure we would still own it today.

Regards, Andy

The best part of this story is probably still to come.  The locals (that would be the boys in England) are heavy into their own hunt for details.  The questions about who - what - where - when, will surely be answered at some point.  When they are, I'm betting there will be more than enough for another fascinating "Bits & Pieces".
 


Happy Tigering

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