What do you drive if you have always wanted an original Shelby Cobra but don’t have a spare $1,000,000 lying around? How about something even more unique that has a connection to super spies such and James Bond and Maxwell Smart? This 1967 Sunbeam Tiger may be the car for you!
Based on the nimble but woefully underpowered Sunbeam Alpine, the Rootes Group copied Carroll Shelby’s formula for the AC Cobra and shoved a 260 cubic inch Ford V8 into the engine bay and named it the “Tiger” after the roar that now emanated from the twin exhaust pipes. While the small V8 added some extra weight, the additional mass was more than offset by nearly doubling the horsepower from 93 hp up to 164 hp. Now instead of a 99 MPH top speed for the Alpine, the Tiger was capable of speeds over 120 MPH. This was a properly fast sports car for the 1960’s!
Even by modern standards, the Sunbeam Tiger holds up as a reasonably fast sports car. The small V8 loves to rev and provides plenty of torque, propelling the car from 0-60 in about 8 seconds, about as fast as a modern Miata. The difference, however, is that the Tiger feels infinitely more engaging to drive. The 4-speed manual transmission takes firm, deliberate shifts. The small, wooden gear shift lever fits perfectly in the palm of your hand, making each shift a pleasurable experience. The clutch pedal gives your left leg quite the workout as well. This isn’t a car you want to be stuck in traffic in. Instead, the Tiger begs you to aim it down the twistiest road you can find and stomp on the go pedal.
The brakes and steering are both unassisted as well. They require quite a bit of effort to work, but once up and moving, the feedback they provide is incredibly rewarding. The thin gauge wood-rimmed wheel is quintessentially British, and large enough to make low-speed maneuvers with the manual steering rack somewhat bearable. As the speeds increase, the wheel comes alive in your hands and despite some slack in the suspension, the small amount of body roll just serves to better explain the weight transfer going on underneath you. The harder you press the Tiger, the more natural it feels.
It’s a sensation you won’t soon forget. The wind in your hair, the small V8’s engine note blaring out of the exhaust pipes behind you. It’s a car that loves to be thrown around a little bit but must be treated with respect. The Tiger is a playful cat but one that will bite you if you don’t respect it. If you want to take your special someone out for a weekend trip, there’s even plenty of room for luggage in both the trunk as the shelf behind the seats.
You can experience the ’67 Sunbeam Tiger for yourself soon as part of Morrie’s heritage rental program rolling out later this summer!
Guest blog post written by: Alex Bellus – a well-known automotive photographer in the Twin Cities area and a frequent attendee of MN C&C at the Automotorplex. He is an Automotive Analyst for IHS Automotive and has a wide range of automotive knowledge. Keep your eye out for his next Blog Post where he will highlight another popular Morrie’s vehicle!