Some people dream of getting their hands on one of the brilliantly designed cars by Carroll Shelby, but their dreams fall short when they look at the price tag of his famous Cobras or Mustangs. There is good news for them; Mr. Shelby designed the Rootes Group Sunbeam Tiger, as well! In 1964, the Rootes Group was looking for a way to revamp the Sunbeam Alpine’s image from a “touring” car to a “sports car/roadster”. They wanted the car to be modeled after the recently successful Shelby Cobra. After some research and the decision to use the Ford’s 164hp 4.3L Windsor V8 engine, who was better to ask to design their car than the man himself, Carroll Shelby? Shelby agreed to design the car for $10,000. His prototype, along with the prototype built by racer and previous employee of Shelby America, Ken Miles, were sent to England for production.
After much testing, the Sunbeam Tiger finally went into production. Before its demise in 1967, there were three types of Tiger. Mark 1A represented the Tiger that switched body styles from the Series IV panels to the Series V panels. There was also the Mark 1 and the Mark 2 series (200hp 4.7L engine), with the Mark 2 being the most rare with only 536 built. The Sunbeam Tigers were also seen on the race track and were mildly successful.
Chrysler bought the Rootes Company in 1967 and was unable to continue to produce the Tigers because they could not sell a car with a Ford engine and they did not have an engine that would fit the vehicle. Their small-block V8 had its distributor placed in the rear, where the Tigers required an engine that had distributors in the front.
While the Sunbeam Tiger only lasted from 1964-1967, they were put in a class to compete with Jaguars and Corvettes and had a much better retail price of $3500. They also were more practical and commercially successful than the Shelby Cobra, but were ended too quickly. The total number of Tigers made was 7085 and both original prototypes still exist today.