The following comes from the May-June, 1964 issue of
THE SUNBEAM - a publication of the Sunbeam Owners Club, Inc.
 National Headquarters, 505 Park Ave. N. Y. 22, N. Y.
John Panks (Director, Rootes Motors Incorporated, America) used a series of "quasi" newsletters to publicizes all things Rootes.
 This particular issue announces "Three New 1964 Sunbeams":
 The Series IV Alpine, 'available for the first time with a three speed Borg Warner..automactic...', the Sunbeam Imp, '100% sports car in spite of its being a small family sedan', and The Big Cat, '...one of the hairiest sports cars ever...'.  The final two pages detail the corporate version of the Tiger's beginnings.
 

HISTORY OF A TIGER

 In January of 1963, Rootes Motors officials in the U.S. began an examination of ways to produce an ultra high performance sports car. The successes of the Corvette, E-Type Jag and the A-H 3000 indicated a good market potential in addition to the fact that a high performance car would lend its “hot” image to the entire Rootes line. Existing Rootes engines were considered. None, however, was suitable either because of excessive weight or because too much reliability would have to be given away to gain the desired power. Making a brand new engine was ruled out because of the tremendous costs involved in tooling, etc. All the possible American-made engines were checked out. The 260 cubic inch displacement Ford Fairlane V-8 with its unique thin wall cast iron construction was finally decided on for a number of reasons. One was that it would fit into the Alpine with a minimum of chassis modifications. Another was its light weight. Another was its ability to act as “host” for a number of speed options. Also important was the work being done on it at that time by Carroll Shelby for the Cobra.

 Enter: Carroll Shelby

 In April of 1963, Shelby American, Inc., of Venice, California, was retained as engineering consultants on how best to fit the Ford V-8 into the Sunbeam chassis and to advise on changes that might be required in suspension, steering, etc. to make a perfect match between the V-8’s power and the Sunbeam’s handling abilities. In May of last year, Shelby delivered the first Sunbeam V-8 prototype, a late Series II car equipped with a four speed manual transmission. Rootes officials had already decided to stay with the regular Alpine chassis and styling because of the public acceptance of both styling and Sunbeam comfort features. In addition, while the market potential of the new car was better than good, it was still not high enough to justify the design of a whole new car. The time factor was also at work. Also, three years of racing had proved that the regular Alpine’s brakes, suspension and chassis were rugged enough to handle the increased torque of the Ford V-8. (225 lbs. ft. for the V-8 vs. 95 lbs. ft. for a normal Series IV). Preliminary engineering work by Rootes and the engine installation by Shelby’s technicians was so well done that only two minor changes (throttle linkage and shock absorber settings) had to be made before the prototype was ready for serious testing. By mid-summer, Rootes officials were satisfied that their Sunbeam V-8 “had what it takes” and they shipped it to England for presentation to the engineering staff and to the firm’s board of directors and its chairman, Lord Rootes - most of these people were still completely unaware of the car’s existence. It is reported that Lord Rootes was the first person to drive the prototype. He is said to have blasted off in a cloud of burning tire smoke in a solo flight at the Rootes plant in Coventry and to have returned a few moments later his face beaming in excitement. “He was like a teenager with his first car,” said one observer. The “go” decision for the V-8 was virtually made on the spot. This go-ahead program took into account tradition of the Rootes Group to sell only cars which had been given a complete nut-by-bolt OK by engineering followed by extensive testing under all possible conditions. “A fast car it may be but a quality car it must be” was the motto. The great power potential of the V-8 powered sports car made this all the more important from the point of view of driver safety. At this point the engineering department began destruction testing of the prototype and manufacturing turned its attention to the job of finding ways to allocate space and time on busy assembly lines. Negotiations with the Ford Division of the Ford Motor Company were also begun at this point for a supply of engines and transmissions. It was decided that the installation of the engines and transmissions would be done in England so that Rootes quality control could brought to bear throughout the entire process and final road testing conducted by an experienced staff to their own established specifications. As conceived by Rootes in the U.S. and the parent company, this was to be more than a California-bred hot rod or engine swap --- it was a new car and a Rootes car. Negotiations with Ford near their conclusion and the first batch of engines are shipped to England and production of enough cars to satisfy production car racing rules is started. Negotiations with Ford are finalized in November, 1963, calling for the delivery of 4,000 V-8 engines for the first production year. Final manufacturing plans are made, based on this projected volume. The car is registered with the Federation International Automobile and the Sports Car Club of America for production car racing in the 1964 season. This was done under the car’s code name of “Thunderbolt” and SCCA in listing the car in an announcement of classifications for the 1964 season (the V-8 will race in Class B-Production against 283 cu. in. Corvettes and Sting Rays and E-Type Jaguars) used this name. This gave rise to the rumor that the car would indeed be called “Thunderbolt.” During December and January additional prototype models were completed by the factory and testing was begun on a world-wide basis with cars on the road in the U.S.A., Scotland, Africa, in the Alps and on the new super-speed British highways. In February, Shelby American completed its work on three V-8 engines to power Sunbeam entries at Le Mans this coming June. These prototype cars are reported to have top speeds in excess of 160 miles an hour. They have the 289 cubic inch engines and will race in the “prototype” class. Drivers of these cars are yet to be announced. Rootes officials say they intend Le Mans ‘64 to be a shake down cruise and will seriously aim for an overall win in the 24-hour classic in 1965.

 “Tiger” Is Named

 In March of this year, the decision was made to call the new car the “Tiger.” An earlier plan to name it simply “Sunbeam-260” was abandoned. “Tiger” was selected because of public response to an ad for the automatic transmissioned Series IV Alpine headlined ‘Now we’ve put an automatic in our tiger,” and in memory of the 1926 Sunbeam Tiger, a supercharged V-12 (actually two six cylinder 2 liter engines bolted together to a common crankcase) that set the world’s flying kilometer speed record of 152.3 mph on an English beach in 1926 with the late H.O.D. Segrave at the wheel. Segrave is said to have been airborne for almost 50 feet during the timed run ‘when he flashed over a small gully in the sand. Finally, on April 3, the Sunbeam Tiger was introduced at the New York International Auto Show with deliveries scheduled for this summer.


The Olson Annex

Tiger Web Page

The Registry Annex

The Registry Web Page

The Miller Annex

Rootes One Web Page