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						Sunbeam Tigers10

Seeing Doubles: Two California Sunbeam Tiger Race Cars

By Dean Larson

Photos: Sellers, Craigslist

Think of a successful small British roadster with a Ford 260 ci V8 engine, has to be Shelby’s Cobra right? Not always, as Shelby only managed to sell just under 1,000 Cobras total, while the Roots Group managed to move over 7,000 Sunbeam Tigers. A bit softer than the Shelby, and lacking the high-profile competition history, the Tiger has always lived in the Cobra’s shadow, but these cars have some serious value — up to $120,000 with the right options and concours-caliber restorations. The cars we’re looking at today are pretty much the exact opposite of that, both being hacked up old race cars, but noting the striking similarities between them, we couldn’t let these two California Craigslist finds pass by without mention.

Ex-Track Car: 1966 Mk IA Tiger

Oh boy, has this one been through the ringer. She’s considered a Mk IA by Sunbeam enthusiasts, which indicates that the car is fit with the Series V panels (unlike the Series IV panels on the majority of Mk I cars), but is still powered by the 260 ci Ford engine, unlike the later 289 ci Mk II cars.

Someone got pretty aggressive in modifying this car over the years, as it sports some ambitious flares and front-end work, all executed in steel. Those gnarly fenders conceal some very interesting four-lug wheels with huge Firestone track tires. With the big wheels and tires and tall ride height (given that there’s no driveline fitted), this car’s stance is downright cartoonish, but I can imagine it being pretty cool back in the day. I’d also bet that it was powered by something more powerful than your average early Ford small block, as the car’s shell has been cut up and modified in all sorts of ways for clearance under the hood.

As it sits, the car is pretty bare, sort of a “what you see is what you get” kinda thing — except for the hardtop, that’s not included either… The seller does state that the hardtop and other Alpine parts can be purchased as well, depending what you want to do with the car.

The seller asks $6,000 for the car here on San Francisco Bay Craigslist, and for that sum you get the car and a title. Converting this one back to stock seems a bit ambitious given its condition, but I’d be interested to share this car with a few Sunbeam enthusiast groups and see if some of its history could be uncovered.

Ex Drag Car: 1965 Mk I Tiger

Not everyone in this circle is as interested in vintage drag racing as I am, but hang with me for a second while I explain the historical pretense for drag racing Sunbeam Tigers. In terms of competition history, the Tiger’s run at Le Mans in 1964 ended in mechanical failure, and the car otherwise only had limited successes in rally racing. But the Tiger was pretty successful on the drag strip, and was a record holder in its class with the American Hot Rod Association for two years.

Best I can tell, at least one car fitting the AHRA record-holding description has been accounted for, and it’s tough to tell if any other cars shared in the glory. This 1965 Mk I Tiger appears to have a wild history of it’s own though, and was campaigned in a couple different configurations. Most intriguing is the slot-mag and hood-scoop wearing “Little Bit,” but the seller’s other photos indicate at least a couple periods of race history for this car. Wearing fat slicks on slot mags, devoid of extra weight from its bumpers and sporting extra room under the hood from the tall scoop, I’m willing to bet this little Tiger was seriously fast in its day.

The car looks to be pretty solid on the exterior today, and it retains the small rear flares and huge hood scoop from its earlier days. The included hardtop is a solid bonus, as is what remains of the racy interior. Given its history, it’s no surprise to see the huge hole in the floor, and the seller reports that a narrowed 9-inch axle is installed out back.

The seller is asking $7,000 for the Mk I Tiger here on Orange County Craigslist, but does not appear to have a title for the car. That’s a drag for some of us, but given the historical clues provided by the seller’s photos, I think this one’s worth restoring to its prior strip glory.

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