Curbside Classic Lite: 1967 Sunbeam Alpine – Let’s Try To Remember Summer

I know, complaining about winter is boring. And it’s not really cold here, just perpetually rainy and cloudy. It’s dumping as I write this. And it’s been going for about three months straight. Actually, we had bit of a warm, sunny spell early in January. But except for that, since early December, it’s been like someone turned the faucet on and forgot about it.

So let’s remind ourselves about the warm, sunny days of summer. And what’s better than an open sports car to help us do so? I spotted this fine Alpine one day in our neighborhood, thinking it might be moving in. Turns out it was just passing through. Good for it and its owner.

Roger Carr did a full CC on the Alpine here a few years back, so I’m not going to replicate that effort. I’d rather just think about…summer. Which is generally fabulous here, with cool nights and mornings, little or no humidity (and bugs), warm-to-hot afternoons, and long evenings, perfect for our daily after-supper hike along the river and dip in the cool water of one of the Willammette Rivers.

Which also means perfect for top-down motoring. So why don’t I have a convertible or sports car? Good question. Probably a combination wanting to protect my damaged ears (severe tinnitus) and my skin (I’ve had one melanoma removed). I suppose I could find a way to accommodate those issues, but then Stephanie is not a fan of strong wind either. Nor is the dog. So it’s just not been compelling enough.

Although there are times when we’re bopping down one of the many paved or gravel US Forest roads to a trailhead when it would be nice to see it all. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’d take a vintage Alpine on some of the more remote roads; we often don’t see another car the whole day. It’s why I drive an old Toyota.

I used to spend a fair amount of time looking at Alpines in Iowa City, where there were several. That’s the kind of car frat boys drove back then; now it’s giant SUVs. I had somewhat mixed feeling about them, and the full horn ring was one of them. Who would put that on a sports car? Ok, Porsche did, but back in the 50s. And Mercedes, on the Pagoda SL, but that wasn’t really a hard-core sports car. But then neither was the Alpine, at least not as much as its competition from MG and Triumph.

And until 1964, the fins on them were more than a bit off-putting too? Really?

Those got toned down for 1964, but were still a bit less than ideal for the times.

From my vantage point, the Alpine was inferior stylistically to the MGB. Admittedly, the B came along three years later (1962) than the Alpine (1959), but the difference was considerable. But then the MGB was an exceptionally fine looking car, in my book.

The truth is that the Alpine was a bit closer to a Mercedes SL than an XK-E, inasmuch as its recirculating ball steering box wasn’t as crisp as the MG’s rack and pinion, an its suspension and underpinnings, borrowed from the plebeian Hillman Husky, just didn’t deliver genuine sports car handling.

The later versions had the 1725cc four, which did give it reasonably competitive performance. And of course there was the V8 Tiger, which we honored here. But that’s a cat of a different color.

The front end has a ’55-’57 Thunderbird vibe, thanks to its stylist Ken Howe, who was an ex-Ford man.

Has this post gotten too negative? Blame it on the rain. If I was driving this on a warm summer day, I’d be gushing.