Tiger Authentication


Is there an easy way to tell if this car is an authentic Tiger?

Establishing the authenticity of any item usually involves an examination of observable characteristics and a comparison to some predetermined benchmark. Whether a painting, piece of fine jewelry, or automobile, the process is fundamentally the same.  Similar methods of validating derivation have been used by most of the organized Sunbeam Tiger community for years.  Many, if not all involved owners can point to a number of unique attributes that segregate the families Sunbeam Tiger/Sunbeam Alpine.


This default collection of distinguishing markers has evolved into a set of qualifiers that have become the core of all attempts to determine pedigree.  Only recently has the term "factory methodology" been co-opted to describe the assortment of definers.  But, whatever you call them, enthusiasts have been successfully interpreting the subtle differences between the V8 and 4 cylinder models of the Sunbeam sports car for as long as such questions have been asked.

Wouldn't it be something if we had an official 'factory' checklist?  In fact, we do.


Regardless of external similarities, the Alpine and Tiger began life via a wholly separate process.  The blueprint for telling them apart is understanding those processes.
Key to the discussion is the need to understand why someone would question authenticity in the first place.  Folklore holds (despite efforts to instruct to the contrary) that the Tiger is, from the outset, nothing but a modified Alpine.  Many champion today's artisans as fully capable of duplicating, beyond detection, the original creator's process and argue who in their right mind would take issue with the devotion involved in saving an otherwise "lost forever" V8 powered classic?  At the core of this growing deception is a ready supply of inexpensive, but structurally sound Alpine castoffs. The final "illusion" (for want of a better word) is assisted by a naively simple system of identification that can easily be transferred from real car to imitation.  And so they cry, "why not - where's the harm - really?"


This practice has, of course, led to predictable and disheartening manifestations.  Much of the Tiger community is now solidly divided on this issue.  As you might suspect the line of demarcation has a definite East/West division, with the rust belt settling firmly on the side of, hear no-see no-speak no, while the sunshine boys proclaim the need to seek out and brand the genuine article.  To date, only one owners group has seen fit to attempt a formalized program of inspection.  After years of vacillation, the San Francisco Bay Area Sunbeam Tiger Owners Association launched a program entitled "TAC" (Tiger Authenticity Committee).  Their goal was to confirm and chronicle as many "factory" produced Tigers as practical.  Fittingly, the primary checkpoints of their undertaking rely entirely on an examination using the pool of "factory methodology".

Until just a few years ago, candidates like this New York survivor were routinely morphed into "Algers".  Thankfully, a blossoming inventory of replacement panels and a growing apprehension on the part of potential buyers is making the practice far less absolute.


During STOA's more dynamic days, candidates who successfully completed "TAC" inspector training received numbered, wallet size credentials.  In deference to finding a holder of such an ornament, a little basic research can qualify most to make completely informed judgments.

Efforts to accomplish a significant accounting are somewhat short of being grand. Even in California (the promised land of "Tigerdom"), finding a united chorus has not been easy.  As of this scribbling (nine full years after the 1993 launch date) fewer than 500 cars have received the " lick 'em stick 'em " and the majority of that percentage is within a stones-throw of Northern California "TAC" headquarters.  Attempts to expand their operation have been painfully measured, but at long last, STOA sanctioned inspections can be arranged through the Seattle area Pacific Tiger Club, the Los Angeles based California Association of Tiger Owners, to some degree, under the rather broad umbrella of, Tigers East Alpines East and in the "land down under" via the Sunbeam Owners' Club - NSW.  There are of course, plans to further deploy, but when and where is still rather hard to foretell.


Nestled among other daunting hurtles hobbling efforts to codify a marque-wide authentication program, one finds a severe shortsightedness in providing meaningful accessibility to the very details that are needed to protect first-encounter investors.  If the data is not easily available to those with a reason to use it, what service has been rendered?  In the meantime, all is not lost. It is a simple fact that the expertise needed to identify something other than a legitimate "factory" produced machine is available throughout the country and for that matter, around the world.  Those interested in accessing knowledgeable cohorts need only look to one of the many marque organizations for assistance.  Admittedly some of these groups are a bit off of the beaten path, but they are out there nonetheless.

The starting point of any verification inspection must involve the "factory" applied ID elements.  However, as depicted here, many candidates turn up with less than a full complement of components.  In reality, a missing JAL, or chassis plate, or both, does not preclude establishing authenticity, it just forces a deeper examination.


While the hood is up for the chassis (VIN) and JAL tags check, it's easy to expand the focus to include some of the more common areas of verifiable "Jensen" methodology.

In lieu of a fruitless exercise, one could continue reading as I step through the more common observable clues pertinent to legitimate pedigree.  In order to insert the Ford V8 into the same space originally designed to accept a four-in-a-row Alpine engine, the Jensen engineers reworked the inner fender-strut mounting plates (top-hats).  During Tiger assembly these add-ins were stick-welded (at roughly 2 1/2-inch intervals) to the engine compartment sheet metal.  While they are not impossible to remove and transplant, doing so usually leaves a noticeably altered appearance.  If you find something visually different than these exhibits, you have reason to question derivation.


Having a charging device hanging off the right-hand side of the MK I 260 forced some additional interesting "factory" modifications.  My example picture doesn't present the best view, but on all save the MK II, a clearance depression was required opposite the generator.  To accomplish the bend, a special tool was employed, smoothly deforming the metal to roughly the shape of a small garden spade.  The working of this tool involved attachment through the inner fender metal and in the wake of its removal, Jensen fitted two, rubber hole plugs to disguise traces of its utilization.  Since the Alpine had a brake assist unit mounted in this same area, booster relocation for the Tiger configuration forced moving a few other things as well.  The windshield washer bottle was shifted forward, near the radiator.  Attachment was to the abandoned Alpine booster strap affixing point.

The right side of the Tiger engine compartment offers the interested observer several originality hints.  The routing of a rubber fuel line through an inner fender hole is not one of them, but the bracket and strap steadying the 5-inch brake booster are.


While it takes a little digging to expose, when opened, the access hatch behind the right-hand seat (excepting MK II) can in most cases quickly signal a green go ahead, or yellow light of caution.  Again, if you encounter an opening that looks much different than this, best seek some expert advice.

A significant reworking of hydraulic line routing resulted from a necessary repositioning of the braking system distribution tee.  On the Tiger variant, two of the runs pass through the right inner fender on their way to the front caliper and back to the rear brake cylinders.  Another reminder of engine compartment space restriction was the banishment of Ford's engine mounted, mechanical fuel pump.  In response to the needed deletion, Rootes opted to use an already familiar, electromagnetic SU item and picked a location requiring the least disruption to existing fuel line routing philosophy.  Regardless of criticism about a fuel pump sitting above the muffler, the only real, Tiger fire hazard was Ford's leak prone Autolite carburetor, but that's a whole different parable.


Managing the battery workaround turned out to be one of the principal, "factory" alterations to leave a nearly unmaskable set of model identifiers.  Omitting the metal box insert used in the Alpine, left the Tiger shell with a very distinctive, die-stamped opening that is hard to emulate.  Extracting the battery container from an Alpine body defaces the surrounding metal regardless of the care exercised.  In the trunk, finding a place for one of the largest batteries of the period (Lucas BVZ.11A - U.S. Group 27) seemed fairly straightforward.  Doing so however, added a number of complications.  Placing the storage cell weight in its optimum location mandated rethinking the spare tire mounting system.  The wheel was made to lie flat on the floor via a reworked and repositioned hold-down boss. Two, short twisted J-hook anchor brackets were attached to the right frame rail as a part of the battery securing apparatus.  The battery system also employed a small pass-through hole and a rubber vent hose to channel hazardous gasses safely away from the trunk.  I would be very surprised to stumble on any Tiger with an original, functioning vent system, but the telltale trunk floor hole is a fairly obvious remnant.

The "boot" can also be more than a kick to the backside.  Although void of most of the trimmings and missing a couple of original elements, it's still possible to find major, West Bromwich guideposts.  One tiny little beacon (albeit a bit hidden by the non-standard battery cables and their routing) is the fuel pump breather hose protruding from the rear scuttle wall.


Comparing the official Rootes lubrication drawings helps put the placement of various components in better perspective.  Please don't expect to find these exact renderings in any of the normal sources, I've had a go at massaging them to suit my own display needs.
As a caution, I would advise, if you're on the hunt and want to be proactive in the search, send these pages to your printer for safekeeping.  With them, verifying most of the probable candidates you might encounter is a piece of cake.  If a deeper investigation is needed, your choices are several. At this stage of the collectors game, compromised identity is becoming a big negative.  For those willing to accept less than faultless credentials, the first stop should be running the numbers.  Even without ID elements, there are numbers.  Titles, registrations, license plates, transmissions, rear axles and lock barrels can all shed light on an otherwise mysterious character.  The "Registry" (TIROST) has "factory" data for nearly all 7,085 Tigers produced and I'm more than ready to help search for lost marque history.

Transmissions Tag--------------------Differential Stamping


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