It’s been a long summer and I suspect I’m not unique in suffering. Given the lack of car shows (I’ve been to one, just one!), we’re all suffering from ESC(CorO)SDS, on Enforced Spontaneous Classic (Curbside or Otherwise) Spotting Deficiency Syndrome. Heck, I even took some shots of a Ford Capri with furry dice on the mirror the other week.
So, these were quite a sight and a boost for the spirits. Not one Sunbeam Alpine, but three, all in red. So, decisions, decisions.
I’ll resist saying this looks like a Rootes dealer’s lot, circa 1969, but it’s not often you’ll see three such cars lined up together, undoubtedly deliberately. This was in the car park for an English stately home on a sunny Sunday, not a car show. (The word “sunny” tells you it wasn’t 2020’s car show…)
So, from right to left, based on the photo above.
A 1967 Alpine Series V in Carnival Red, first registered in May 1967. This is effectively peak Alpine, with the 1725cc Rootes engine that found its way into everything from the Minx, Alpine, Rapier (Sunbeam Alpine GT), Hillman Hunter (Sunbeam Arrow) and Commer 2500 Spacevan and the trimmed tailfins, compared with the Series I, II and III Alpines.
Next along is a 1960 Series I – the first version of the Alpine.
Those tailfins…..I thought you’d ask. Yes, they were, what’s the word, prominent, at least when seen directly from the rear. And yes, any resemblance in the style of the Alpine to the 1955 Ford Thunderbird is understandable and explainable. Ken Howe worked on both, the Ford first. And Rootes’ love of American style is well established. If, after spending the best part of thirty years aping American trends, you ask the guy who styled the Thunderbird to do you a British sports car, I think you can be pretty sure what was going to happen, and I suspect Billy Rootes was not disappointed.
The Series I had a 1494cc engine, direct from the contemporary Sunbeam Rapier and Hillman Husky, a sort of AMC Gremlin based on a cut down Hillman Minx. Maybe not the most glamourous start for a sports car, but is that actually less than the MGB being based on an Austin Cambridge, one of Britain’s more plodding saloons of the time? And, remember, the extra glamorous Triumph TR4 shared its engine with a tractor.
This one gains for the metal finish, rather than wood finish, dash. Personal taste. YMMV.
And on the far left, a 1966 Series V, a match for the first car, apart from the aftermarket alloys.
So, which do want? 1494cc, 78bhp, metal finish dash and significant tailfin action or 1725cc, 92bhp and wood finish dash and trimmed tailfins?
Your call. Any preference is a good answer after this summer.