Vintage R&T Road Test: 1967 Sunbeam Tiger II – “There’s Sufficient Power On Tap To Embarrass The Incautious”

How to create a legend out of a prosaic British sports car? Stuff a V8 under its hood. It sure worked for Carroll Shelby and his Cobra. Having seen what the little Ford V8 could do in the (former) AC Ace, Rootes’ U.S. West Coast Sales Manager Ian Garrad contracted with Shelby to stuff the 164 hp, 260 cid Ford V8 engine into the Alpine. Rootes bit, and built some 7,000 of them. The result wasn’t quite as legendary as the Cobra, but even second-tier legends are better than none.

In 1967, a revised Tiger II arrived, with the larger displacement 289 Ford. It was only the two-barrel 200 hp version, not the 225 hp four barrel or the 271 hp K-Code. One probably doesn’t have to wonder too hard why that was the case: the Sunbeam Alpine was never designed for even half that power, and anything much more was known to have ill effects on a few weak spots, like the spring shackle supports.

No such problems arose in this test, and the Tiger II acquitted itself quite well, with a few caveats.

R&T points out that Rootes had already been acquired by Chrysler, but was willing to keep selling a car with a Ford engine for a while longer, although not with the “Powered by Ford 260” badge. Chrysler’s willingness had its limits, and 1967 turned out to be the final year for the Tiger.

A number of minor improvements came along with the 289.

R&T liked the passenger accommodations in the Tiger; it was “well arranged, tastefully styled, and the workmanship above average”. But they didn’t like the top, which was old-school and very tedious to erect or strike, and wasn’t very tight.

The driving experience was of course very satisfying, especially for those that have all-too often had their four cylinder MGs and such run out of breath all-too readily. No wonder that folks were stuffing supercharged Ford V8-60 engines in MGs back in the early 1950s.  It was an old tradition, and one Allard (and a few others) had success with earlier. Now if only MG had done it with the Buick aluminum V8 back in 1965 or so…

As to utilizing its 200 hp, R&T said: “there’s more power available from the 200 bhp V8 than the Tiger can handle with complete equanimity. There’s a multitude of hops and judders in the rear axle if hard starts are attempted…there’s more understeer than we like, and when pushed hard the short wheelbase seems to conspire against keeping it in a straight line.”

As a matter of fact, quarter mile times were no faster than with the 164 hp 260 due to traction and axle hop issues. (0-60 in 7.5 seconds, and the 1.4 mile in 16.0 @87 mph). Wider wheels and bigger radial  tires than the skinny little 5.90-13 Dunlops are highly advisable.

Final words: “there’s sufficient power on tap to embarrass the incautious…treat it right…”


Related CC reading:
Curbside Classic: Sunbeam Tiger – The Other Cobra