AC (Auto Carriers Ltd) Cars West Norwood, London, England, UK 1901 till now first edition

1903 AC Auto Carrier Finney Isles & Company Limited Auto-Carrier, Brisbane

AC Cars

AC Cars Group Ltd.
Private
Industry Automotive
Founded West Norwood, London,United Kingdom (1901)
Founder The Weller Brothers
Headquarters Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom
Key people
Alan Lubinsky, current owner
Products Automobile
Parent ACEDES Holdings
Website AC Cars official page

AC Cars Ltd. formerly known as Auto Carriers Ltd., is a British specialist automobile manufacturer and one of the oldest independent car makers founded in Britain.

History

1914 AC Ten horsepower open two seater 4-wheeled car

 AC 10 open 2-seater
AC’s first 4-wheeled car

1926 AC 12 Royal drophead coupé AC Royal Anzani KL

 AC 12 Royal drophead coupé 1926

1927 AC 16 Royal saloon mfd 1991cc

 AC 16 Royal saloon 1927

1939 AC 16-80 open 2-seater 1939 body by March Sport

 AC 16/80 open 2-seater 1939
body by March

The first car from what eventually became AC was presented at the Crystal Palace motor show in 1903; it was a 20 HP touring car and was displayed under the Weller name. The Weller Brothers of West Norwood, London, planned to produce an advanced 20 hp (15 kW) car. However, their financial backer and business manager John Portwine, a butcher, thought the car would be too expensive to produce and encouraged Weller to design and produce a little delivery three-wheeler. Weller did so, called it the Auto-Carrier, and a new company was founded and named Autocars and Accessories; production started in 1904. The vehicle caught on quickly and was a financial success. In 1907, a passenger version appeared, called the A.C. Sociable. It had a seat in place of the cargo box. The A.C. Sociable was described in a review of the 1912 Motor Cycle and Cycle Car Show as one of the most popular cycle cars on the road, both for pleasure and business, and A.C. displayed eight vehicles on their stand, six for pleasure and 2 for business. The single rear wheel contained a two-speed hub, and the single cylinder engine was mounted just in front of it, with rear chain drive.

pictures:

1903 auto carrier 1908 AC Sociable 5-6 hp 1910 auto carrier sociable 1914 AC Ten horsepower open two seater 4-wheeled car 1921 AC Sprint 1922 AC Boat Tail 1924 AC Racing Special 1924 AC Royal Roadster 1926 AC 12 Royal drophead coupé AC Royal Anzani KL 1927 AC 16 Royal saloon mfd 1991cc

The company became Auto Carriers Ltd. in 1911 and moved to Ferry Works, Thames Ditton, Surrey—at this time they also began using the famed “AC” roundel logo. Their first four-wheeled car was produced in 1913; it was a sporty little two-seater with a gearbox on the rear axle. Only a few were built before production was interrupted by the first World War.

pictures:

1931 AC 16-56 four-door saloon 1932 AC 16-56 Magna Coupe 1933 AC Ace 16-56 1934 AC 16-56 Greyhound Saloon with sliding roof 1934 1934 AC Ace 16-56 Drophead Coupe cost £435 1934 AC Two Door Saloon 1935 AC 16-66 1935 AC 16-70 Sports Drophead Coupé 1935 AC 2000 Sport-Special 1936 AC 16 56

During the Great War, the Ferry Works factory produced shells and fuses for the war effort, although at least one vehicle was designed and built for the War Office. At the end of the First World War, AC Cars started making motor vehicles again, designing and building many successful cars at Ferry Works, as well as expanding into an old balloon factory on Thames Ditton High Street.

pictures:

1936 AC 16-70 2 litre Drop head Coupe 1936 AC advert 1937 AC 16-50 coupe 1937 AC ace 1938 AC 16-60 greyhound saloon 1938 AC 16-80 Sports Car 1938 AC 16-80 two-seater sports competition 1938 ac 1938 1939 AC 2litre 6cyl sports 1939 AC 2-litre saloon

After the war, John Weller started on the design of a new overhead-cam 6-cylinder engine. The first versions of this design were running by 1919. The Weller engine would be produced until 1963; it is possibly the second-longest-lived production motor in history after the Volkswagen boxer. In 1921, Selwyn Edge (who had been with Napier & Son) bought shares in the company and was appointed governing director. He did not get along with Weller or Portwine, who resigned less than a year later. In 1922, the name changed again to AC Cars Ltd.

pictures:

1939 AC 16-80 open 2-seater 1939 body by March Sport

1939 AC 16-80 tourer 1947 AC dhc 1947 AC saloon 1947-56 AC 2-Litre UK 1947-56 AC 2-Litre UKa 1948 AC '49 advert 1948 AC sport saloon 1949 AC 2litre saloon 1949 AC Bookland Tourer

In customary fashion Edge sought publicity for the company through motoring competition. In 1921 Sammy Davis joined A.C. as a driver, competing in the Junior Car Club 200-mile (320 km) race, for cars up to 1,500 c.c., atBrooklands. In 1923  and 1924  J.A. Joyce won the Brighton Speed Trials driving an A.C. In May 1924, at Montlhéry, near Paris, T. G. Gillett broke the continuous 24-hour record in a 2-litre A.C., fitted with special streamlined bodywork, covering a distance of 1,949.3 miles. In 1926 the Honourable Victor Bruce, an AC employee, won the Monte Carlo Rally in his 2-litre AC. In 1927, Victor Bruce, with his wife Mildred (The Hon Mrs Victor Bruce), assisted by J.A. Joyce, set a 10-day endurance record at Montlhéry, driving an AC Six.

pictures:

1949 AC Drophead Coupé 1949 AC Sports Tourer by Buckland 1949 ac-twolitre-1950-8 1949 Seven of the 28 Southend Pier Railway cars, built by AC-Cars in 1949 train along pier2 1950 AC 2litre saloon 1950 ac-twolitre-1 1950 ac-twolitre-2 1950 ac-twolitre-1950-2 1950 ac-twolitre-1950-6 1951 AC buckland

Selwyn Edge bought the company outright for £135,000 in 1927 and re-registered it as AC (Acedes) Ltd but sales, which had been falling, continued to decline. The company was caught by the crash of 1929 and went into voluntary liquidation. Production ceased for a time, and the company was sold to the Hurlock family who ran a successful haulage business. They wanted the High Street factory only as a warehouse (Ferry Works was not acquired), but allowed the service side of AC to continue.

pictures:

1952 AC 2-Litre Saloon 1952 AC ac sedan 1952 AC buckland sports 1991cc 1952 AC buckland sports tourer mk i 1952 AC petite 1952 AC saloon 4dr 1953 AC 2 Liter Sport Saloon 1953 AC 2 litre saloon 1953 AC ace prototype 1953 AC petite 1954 AC 2litre convert 1954 AC 2litre saloon 1954 AC Ace (2) 1954 AC ace

A single car was made for William Hurlock in 1930. He liked it and agreed to restart very limited production, mainly using components left over from previous models. An agreement was reached with Standard to supply new chassis, the ancient three-speed transaxle was replaced by a modern four-speed gearbox (built in unit with the engine), and by 1932 a new range of cars was finally launched. Production continued on this small scale, averaging less than 100 vehicles per year, until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. The final pre-war car was delivered in June 1940, after which the factory was fully involved with war production.

After the Second World War

1976 AC Invalid Carriage a

 While the company’s sporting cars won plaudits from many enthusiasts, it was the long-running contract with the UK government for the production of three-wheeled invalid carriages that may have most impressed those concerned for the company’s financial stability.

1955 AC-2litre UK

 A.C. 2-Litre 1947-1956.

The four-door configuration and the wider 6.75 × 16 inch wheels identify this as a later example. The flashing indicators will have been retro-fitted.

1958 AC Ace roadster with AC engine

 1958 AC Ace, AC engined

1949 Seven of the 28 Southend Pier Railway cars, built by AC-Cars in 1949 train along pier2

 Seven of the 28 Southend Pier Railway cars, built by AC-Cars in 1949

1957 AC Aceca Bristol prepared for the Carrera Panamericana Mexican road race

 1957 AC Aceca Bristol prepared for the “Carrera Panamericana” Mexican road race

1962 AC Greyhound Saloon

 A.C. Greyhound Saloon 1962

1959 AC single-seater at Motor Sport at the Palace, Crystal Palace (circuit) 27 May 2013AC

 1959 AC single-seater at Motor Sport at the Palace, Crystal Palace (circuit) 27 May 2013

Production of cars restarted in 1947 with the 2-Litre using the 1991 cc engine from the 16, and also a large contract with the government to produce the fiberglass-bodied, single seat, Thundersley Invacar type 57 invalid carriages with BSA engines. The 2-Litre used an updated version of the pre-war underslung chassis fitted with the AC straight-six and traditional ash-framed and aluminium-panelled saloon or convertible coachwork. The invalid carriages continued to be built until 1976 and were an important source of revenue to the company. They also built an aluminum-bodied three-wheeled microcar, the Petite. They also produced “Bag Boy” golf carts (with independent suspension to the two wheels!). In 1949, AC Cars also produced four trains, each consisting three power cars and four coaches, for the Southend Pier Railway in Essex. These remained in use until 1976.

In 1953, the firm began production of the

1962 AC Ace 2.6 Ruddspeed front

AC Ace

, based on a lightweight chassis designed by John Tojeiro and Hand built Aluminium Body designed and built by Eric George Gray with the venerable Weller-designed 2-Litre engine. Soon after, car dealer and racing driver Ken Rudd fitted his own competition Ace with a pre-war BMW-designed, Bristol-produced 135 bhp (101 kW) six-cylinder engine. This combination was put into production as the AC Ace-Bristol in 1957. In this form, the car raced at Le Mans in 1957 and 1958.

For 1954, a new aluminum-bodied closed coupe was unveiled at Earls Court, the

1957 AC Bristol Aceca rear

This is the coupe version of the AC Ace that Carroll Shelby used as the basis for his AC Cobra.
This is the coupe version of the AC Ace that Carroll Shelby used as the basis for his AC Cobra.

AC Aceca.

It was only slightly heavier than the convertible Ace, and because of better aerodynamics was actually slightly faster (128 mph (206 km/h) top speed). Only 328 Acecas were produced, and they were equipped with either of the Ace’s engines. There was a demand from some customers for a larger four-seater car, for whom AC produced the

1962 AC Greyhound Saloon 1962 AC Greyhound

Greyhound.

This was built on a stretched Ace chassis with coil suspension all around and a 2.2-litre Bristol engine.

In 1961, Bristol stopped producing their own engines—and once again, Ken Rudd came to the rescue, suggesting that AC use a 6-cylinder engine from the Ford Zephyr. These engines when fitted with the Raymond Mays twelve-port alloy head and Weber carburetors could be made to produce a safe 170 bhp (127 kW) and a 125 mph (201 km/h) top speed. The AC Ace 2.6 (as it is latterly known today) is for many people the prettiest Ace of all—and undoubtedly the rarest, with only 37 such cars built. To fit the Zephyr engine, AC had to modify the frame, relocate the steering box and completely change the nose of the car. These changes are often mistakenly attributed to Carroll Shelby.

pictures:

1954 AC eca bristol 2 1955 AC ace may ad 1955 AC petite 1955 AC-2litre UK 1956 AC ace 1956 AC advert 1956 AC petite2 october 1957 AC ace bristol le mans 1957 AC ace bristol 1957 AC Aceca Bristol prepared for the Carrera Panamericana Mexican road race 1957 AC advert 1957 AC Bristol Aceca rear 1957 AC lav93 1957 AC petite mk II 1958 AC ACE 2000ccm90PS

Today, Acecas are popular at historic racing events. Arch McNeill, a factory Morgan racer from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s told fellow Texan and Aceca owner Glenn Barnett that “the Morgan team spent two years campaigning to beat the factory AC Acecas and finally did in the late 1950s”. Though more valuable than comparable AC or Shelby replicas, the Aceca is still a bargain when compared to a Shelby CSX Cobra, while maintaining similar performance.

pictures:

1958 AC ace bristol 1958 AC Ace roadster with AC engine 1958 AC aceca coupe

This is the coupe version of the AC Ace that Carroll Shelby used as the basis for his AC Cobra.
This is the coupe version of the AC Ace that Carroll Shelby used as the basis for his AC Cobra.

1959 AC ace bristol 1959 AC ace 1959 AC aceca Bristol 1959 AC bristol lemans 1959 AC single-seater at Motor Sport at the Palace, Crystal Palace (circuit) 27 May 2013AC 1960 AC greyhound int 1960 AC greyhound rear 1960 AC Greyhound 1961 AC 2,6litre 1961 AC Aceca Coupe 1962 AC Ace 2.6 Ruddspeed front

The company also ventured briefly into railway rolling stock business, building five four-wheel railbuses for British Rail in 1958.

Carroll Shelby and the Cobra

1965 AC Cobra MkII 427

 Cobra Mark II 427 1965

In 1962, AC was approached by Carroll Shelby to use a small block Ford V8 engine in the Ace chassis, producing the AC Cobra. Shelby needed a car that could compete with the Chevrolet Corvette in US sports car racing. The resulting Cobra was a very powerful roadster, and it is commonly blamed for the introduction of the 70 mph (110 km/h) limit on British motorways. While this was a major factor in the decision, after a coupe version was caught doing 196 mph (315 km/h) during a test run, a then-recent spate of accidents under foggy conditions also helped the introduction of the limit.

pictures:

1962 AC cobra 260 london 1962 AC Greyhound Saloon 1962 AC Greyhound 1963 AC greyhound 1964 AC cobra 289 competition 1965 AC 427convertible oct 1965 AC Cobra 427 1965 AC Cobra 6504 1965 AC Cobra MkII 427 1966 AC 427 convertible 1966 AC 428 Convertible 1966 AC cobra 427 ghia 1966 AC cobra 427 s-c 1966 csx1000andstaff 1967 AC 428 coupe

At the end of the 1964 racing season, the Cobra was being outclassed in sports car racing by Ferrari. Carroll Shelby decided he needed a bigger engine. A big block Ford FE series 390 V8 was installed in a Cobra and the result was scary—the car was virtually undrivable. It was decided that a completely new chassis was needed. With the combined help of Ford’s computers and the experience of the AC engineers, the new MKIII was born with 4-inch (100 mm) main tubes instead of 3-inch (76 mm) for the chassis, huge cross-braced shock towers and coil springs all around. This, along with a bigger 427 ci version of the FE, made the new AC Cobra MKIII an absolutely unbeatable 2,200 lb (1,000 kg) race car. Specifically, the engine that was installed in the car was Ford’s famed 427 FE NASCAR “Side-Oiler” V8, a power-house engine developing 425 bhp (317 kW) in its mildest street version. Unfortunately, the car missed homologation for the 1965 season and was not raced by the Shelby team. However, it was raced successfully by many privateers and went on to win races all the way into the 1970s. The AC 427 Cobra, although a commercial failure when in production, has now become one of the most sought-after and replicated automobiles ever.

pictures:

1967 AC Cobra 289 1968 AC 428 coupe 1968 AC 428 Frua 1968 AC 472 cabrio 1968 AC cobra 1968 AC Frua coupé, quarter 428 1969 AC 428 Fastback-Coupe-2 1969 AC 428 1969 AC Cobra 428 coupé 1969 ac-289-10 1970's AC ME300 1972 AC Frua Roadster 1973 AC 428 Frua at Earls Court 1973 AC Frua at Earls Court-MJ retouched 1975 AC Invacar

It was produced in two versions: a street model with a tamer motor, optional dual carburetors, a glove box, and exhaust running under the car, and a competition version with a stripped interior, no glove box, different instrument layout and revised suspension. The competition version also had a more powerful motor with only one carburetor, side exhausts, a roll bar and wider fenders to accommodate racing tires. At the end in 1966, Shelby was left with 31 unsold competition cars; he decided to sell them to the general public under the name of Cobra 427 S/C or Semi-Competition. Today these S/C cars are the most sought after models and can sell in excess of 1.5 million dollars.

Carroll Shelby sold the Cobra name to Ford in 1965 and went on to develop the famed racing Ford GT40.

Meanwhile, AC went on producing a milder version of the 427 MK III Cobra for the European market fitted with the small block Ford motor. The car was called the AC 289 and 27 were produced.

AC 428 or Frua and AC 429

1973 AC Frua at Earls Court-MJ retouched

 AC 428 Frua

1972 AC Frua Roadster

 1971 AC Frua

At the same time, the company realized they needed a grand tourer model that could appeal to wealthy customers. AC contacted the famed Italian coach builder Pietro Frua to design an appealing GT body that could be fitted on a MKIII Cobra chassis stretched by 6 inches (150 mm). The new car was shown at the 1965 Turin show. A few early models were fitted with the famed 427 Ford FE motors. In 1967 the long-stroked 428 motor became available and the car was known as the AC Frua. Built out of steel rather than AC’s usual aluminum, the Frua is heavier than a Cobra at slightly under 3,000 lb (1,400 kg). That said, it is still a light and very fast automobile built on a racing chassis. The car was never fully developed and the cost of sending chassis from England to Italy and back for final assembly made it so expensive that only a few were produced. Production ended in 1973 after only 80 cars (29 convertibles and 51 coupes) were finished.

pictures:

1979 AC 3000ME Yellow 1976 AC Invalid Carriage a

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2005 AC Schnitzer ACS5 Sport M5 E60 2012 AC 378 GT Zagato rear 2012 AC 378 GT Zagato

AC 428 Convertible. Pietro Frua had first exhibited the Maserati Mistral at Turin in 1963, and when Derek Hurlock from AC Cars sent a Cobra MkIII chassis to Frua in 1965 it seems that he borrowed heavily from the Mistral for the AC 428 Fastback and later convertible.
AC 428 Convertible. Pietro Frua had first exhibited the Maserati Mistral at Turin in 1963, and when Derek Hurlock from AC Cars sent a Cobra MkIII chassis to Frua in 1965 it seems that he borrowed heavily from the Mistral for the AC 428 Fastback and later convertible.

AC Ace AV Bristol Roadster orange AC Ace AC Car AC Cars Cobra AC Cars logo AC Cobra 428, and 345 bhp AC Cobra MKII 289 AC Cobra MKIII 427 replique Shelby

In 1970, a special version of the coupé was built. It was based on an extended bodyshell that Frua built for Monteverdi which was supposed to become the second Monteverdi 375/L. After the alliance of Monteverdi and Frua split off in Summer 1969, that bodyshell remained in the Frua works in Turin. A year or so later Frua changed some details on front and rear, including some semi-hidden headlamps which had been seen on the Iso Lele and the Iso Grifo, second series, before. The car was called AC 429; it remained a one-off.

3000ME

1979 AC 3000ME Yellow

 1979 AC 3000ME

The 1970s were not a good period for luxury car manufacturers and Derek Hurlock went searching for a totally new smaller car. Mid-engined designs were in fashion at the time and in 1972 the Diablo, a prototype with anAustin Maxi engine and transaxle, was built by privateers Peter Bohanna and Robin Stables. In much the same way as they had taken up the Tojeiro prototype and turned it into the Ace, AC acquired the rights and at the 1973 London Motor Show showed their own version, the mid-engined ME3000 with the 3.0-litre Ford Essex V6 engine installed transversely over a bespoke AC-designed gearbox. Development was virtually complete in 1976 when new Type Approval regulations were introduced. A prototype failed the 30 mph (48 km/h) crash test, and the chassis had to be redesigned. On the second attempt, the car passed with flying colours. This was a huge achievement for a tiny firm—Vauxhall had to make several attempts before the contemporary Chevette passed. For AC, such delays meant that the first production cars (now renamed 3000ME) were not delivered until 1979, by which time they were in direct competition with the Lotus Esprit. Although comfortable, brisk, nicely built and practical, AC’s ambitions of selling 250 cars per year were a distant memory. After just 71 cars were sold, Hurlock called a halt to production as his health was suffering and the company was struggling in the teeth of a recession. In 1984, production stopped at Thames Ditton and the car and the AC name were licensed to a new company registered as AC (Scotland) plc run by David McDonald in a new factory in Hillington, Glasgow. Here, 30 cars were built, including a development car tested with Alfa Romeo‘s 2.5-litre V6 engine and a nearly complete Mark 2 prototype of the same. Regardless (or possibly because) of these developments, AC Scotland called in the receivers in 1985. After selling the historic High Street works for redevelopment, AC themselves soldiered on as a service operation in the “21st Century” works on Summer Road until the Hurlock family finally sold their holdings in 1986 to William West. After some complex machinations the company was split between property interests and the car brand; the former was renamed and the latter was acquired by Brian Angliss.

Brian Angliss era

In 1982 Brian Angliss was running Autokraft, a Cobra restoration shop, parts supplier and replica manufacturer. To further such pursuits, he acquired some of the tooling from Thames Ditton and created the MKIV; the car had US-spec 5 mph (8.0 km/h) bumpers, a federalized motor, and a larger interior with modern switchgear. About 480 cars were produced in his factory at Brooklands. He also produced a lightweight model which was more in tune with the original Cobra spirit, though it could not be imported to the US due to Federal regulations.

pictures:

AC cobra-427 big 01 AC Cobra's in Thames Ditton works AC Frua 428Coupé PEFRTRIGHT AC ac-16-80-03

5.0.2
5.0.2

ac-289-04 AC-378-GT-Zagato-9 ac-428-09 ac-cars-mark-vi-02 ac-cobra-212-sc-04 ac-cobra-212-sc-05 ac-cobra-212-sc-06 ac-cobra-212-sc-10

Early cars were sold as the Autokraft MKIV but eventually Angliss acquired the rights to use the AC name. Derek Hurlock had been strongly protective of the name, but Angliss’ high standards of craftsmanship won him over. When the Hurlock family finally sold up in 1986 Angliss fully acquired the AC trademark rights and set up a new AC company as a joint venture with Ford, who had also recently bought Aston Martin. A big conflict followed over the future direction for AC, but Angliss eventually won his independence as well as Ford’s continuing and essential cooperation as an engine and parts supplier.

pictures:

ac-cobra-daytona-coupe-replica-02 ac-cobra-daytona-coupe-replica-03 ac-cobra-daytona-coupe-replica-04 ac-cobra-daytona-coupe-replica-05 ac-cobra-daytona-coupe-replica-06 ac-cobra-daytona-coupe-replica-07 ac-cobra-mk-iii-03 AC Cobra 427 MK III ac-cobra-mk-iii-10 ac-cobra-mk-iii-12 ac-cobra-replica-351-cu-in-01 ac-cobra-replica-351-cu-in-02 ac-invacar-01 ac-invacar-03 ac-invacar-04

Also interested in aircraft, Angliss restored a Hawker Hurricane XIIB at Brooklands as well as acquiring two ex–Indian Air Force Hawker Tempest IIs as future projects. The Hurricane was registered as G-HURR and was destroyed in a fatal accident at the Shoreham air show in 2007.

Angliss looked for a new car to complement and perhaps replace the MKIV. At the 1993 London Motor Show, he introduced a new vehicle that he named the AC Ace. It was a modern automobile with a stainless steel chassis and an aluminum body, but was expensive to develop and build. The costs hit Angliss hard and he sold his large motor bike collection, vintage Bentley and other assets to try to make ends meet. The receivers were called in by 1996 after approximately 50 “new” Aces had been built.

AC (1996–present)

In March 1996, largely due to the cost of developing the new Ace, Angliss’ company went into receivership and was eventually sold to Pride Automotive in December 1996, who continued car production in Weybridge, Surrey under the name of AC Car Group Ltd. The AC trademarks and intellectual property were transferred to Acedes Holdings, LLC. Both the Cobra Mk IV and the Ace were made, and soon a ‘CRS’ version of the Mk IV was announced with a carbon fibre body shell, a 212 S/C version with Lotus twin turbo V8 power, as well as the AC Superblower with a supercharger Ford V8. Two or three closed Aceca coupe versions of the Ace were also made.

pictures:

ac-invacar-06 ac-invacar-07 ac-invacar-10 ac-invacar-11 ac-invacar-type-57-01 ac-invacar-type-57-09 AC-Mamba ac-petite-01 ac-petite-02 ac-petite-03 ac-petite-04 ac-petite-06 ac-petite-09 ac-petite-10 AC's 428 Grand Tourer Automobilhersteller_AC_Logo.svg

In 2003, Carroll Shelby International and AC Motor Holdings, Ltd. announced production of an authentic Shelby/AC Cobra, with the production vehicle arriving at dealers in July 2004. Initially, available models included Shelby AC 427 S/C Cobra and Shelby AC 289 FIA Cobra, which would be branded as the CSX 1000 and CSX 7500 Series, respectively. In February 2004, the first handcrafted aluminum body shell was built.

Due to rising costs in the UK, AC relocated to Malta in 2005 and started production of the carbon-fibre bodied AC MkV. Due to problems with the factory building, production ceased in 2007.

In 2007, AC announced a joint venture with Brooklands Motor Company (the spiritual successor of Autokraft) in Weybridge, Surrey, UK and confirmed plans for the continuation of the traditional AC designed tubular chassis and aluminium bodied models.

AC Heritage seem to be the owners of certain models, as their website lists two, both of the original design. More importantly, because their models are made in the “origin” country of where AC Cars started over a century ago, then the heritage of these cars is retained. Whereas, the model made in Germany would not follow the heritage of company, and so would not be an “authentic” AC branded car, much like a Ferrari would not be seen as a “genuine” Ferrari if it were made in China. Their website reveals their adherence to the history of the company.

In April 2009, a joint venture in Germany was announced to manufacture the new AC MKVI. Following a supply deal with GM, the AC MKVI had a totally new spaceframe chassis, 6.2 litre V8 engine and 6-speed manual transmission, and new Corvette brakes, retaining the original shape in lightweight composite material with the moulds taken from an original AC MKIII body. Following extensive development the car went into series production in July 2012 after two years of intense prototyping.

In 2010, AC announced a joint venture with the USA-based company Iconic which resulted in the design of the ultimate “Cobra”: the “Iconic AC Roadster”.

Acedes Holdings, LLC is the current owner of AC Cars.

At the Geneva Motor Show in 2012, AC Cars showed three different models: the AC MK VI, AC MK II, and

2012 AC 378 GT Zagato rear 2012 AC 378 GT Zagato

AC 378 GT Zagato.

Car models

Type Engine Approx Production Year Notes
Autocarrier 648 cc single-cylinder air-cooled 1904–1914 Three-wheeler goods carrier with single wheel at rear and driver behind the load. Chain drive to rear wheel via two-speed epicyclic gearbox.
AC Sociable 648 cc single-cylinder air-cooled Possibly 1800 1907–1914 Passenger version of the Auto Carrier from 1907 with driver and passenger side by side (2-seater) or driver behind (3-seater).
AC Ten 1096 cc four-cylinder water-cooled About 100 1913–1916 Engine made by Fivet of France. Transmission by Transaxle (combined rear axle and gearbox). Two-seater and dickey or Sports two-seater. Optional 1327 cc engine pre war, standard post war.
AC 12 hp 1478/1992 cc four-cylinder water-cooled Approx 850 including six-cylinder models to 1929 1920–1927 Engine made by Anzani or later Cubitt in Aylesbury. Transmission by three-speed transaxle. Two- or four-seater bodies.
AC Six (16/40, 16/56 and 16/66) 1478/1991 cc six-cylinder water-cooled Approx 850 including 12 hp models to 1929 plus 50 assembled from parts 1930–33. 1920–1929 Engine made by A.C. Larger capacity from 1922. 16/66 had triple SU carburetors. Transmission by 3-speed transaxle. Two- or four-seater bodies.
AC Six (16/60, 16/70, 16/80 and 16/90) 1991 cc six-cylinder water-cooled 618 1932 to 1940 1932–1940 Engine made by AC; 16/90 was supercharged with an Arnott blower. Transmission by four-speed ENV, Moss synchromesh or Wilson pre-selector gearbox. Longer and wider than previous Six. Chassis overslung 1932-33, underslung 1933-1939, overslung 1939-1940.
AC 2-Litre 1991 cc six-cylinder water-cooled 1284 1947–1958 Engine made by A.C. Two- and four-door saloons, drophead coupé and tourer bodies.
AC Petite 350 cc single-cylinder two-stroke Approx 4000 1952–1958 Engine made by Villiers. Four-speed gearbox. Three-wheeler with single front wheel. Two/three-seater.
AC Ace 1991/1971 cc six-cylinder water-cooled 689 1953–1963 Engine made by AC or Bristol (1971 cc) from 1956 or Ford Zephyr engine (Later models). Two-seat aluminium open sports bodies.
AC Aceca 1991/1971/2553 cc six-cylinder water-cooled 357 1954–1963 Engine made by AC or Bristol (1971 cc) from 1956 or Ford (2553 cc) from 1961. Front disc brakes from 1957. Two-seat aluminium sports coupé bodies with hatchback.
AC Greyhound 1971/2216/2553 cc six-cylinder water-cooled 83 1959–1963 Engine from Bristol. De Dion rear suspension, (Some might have the AC Independent suspension). 2 plus 2 coupe bodies.
AC Cobra 260/289/AC289 4261/4727 cc V8 75/571/27 1962–1968 Legendary two-seat aluminum roadster. Ford small block V8 Engine. Four-wheel disk brakes. Early MK1 cars had cam and peg steering, later MK2 cars rack and pinion. Later AC 289 had AC 427 MK3 coil spring chassis & body with narrow fenders.
AC Cobra 427/428 6997/4948 cc V8 306 to 1966 1964-1966 1983-1990 MK3 series. A reworked AC Cobra designed for racing with coil springs all around and beefed up 4″ chassis tubes. Early cars had Ford FE 427 Engines, later cars fitted with less expensive 428 FE motors. Around 400 bhp (298 kW) or more depending on version, four-wheel disc brakes and rack and pinion steering. Aluminum-bodied two-seat roadster bodies.
AC Invacar 147 cc  ? 1960s–1977
AC Frua 6997/7016 cc V8 81 1965–1973 Frua body built on a six-inch (150 mm)stretched Cobra 427 Chassis Ford FE 428 400 bhp (298 kW) engine. four-wheel disc brakes. Manual or automatic transmission. Two-seat open or coupé, steel body built in Italy.
AC 3000ME 2994 cc V6 Ford ‘Essex’ 101 full production cars 1979–1985 Transverse mid-engined with five-speed AC gearbox. Platform chassis with front and rear subframes, GRP body.
AC Brooklands Ace 4601/4942 cc V8 1993–1996 Engine made by Ford. 4942 cc version supercharged.
AC Ace V8 4601/4942 cc V8 1997–2000 Engine made by Ford. 4942 cc version supercharged. Chassis made in South Africa, bodies in Coventry.
AC Aceca 4601/4942 cc V8 1998–2001 Engine made by Ford. 4942 cc version supercharged. Four-seat coupé version of the Ace. Chassis made in South Africa, bodies in Coventry.
AC 212 S/C 3506 cc V8 Twin Turbo Lotus Engine 2 cars 2000 Car built in Brooklands, Surrey.
AC MK VI 6.2 V8 2009– Corvette sourced engine. Car assembled by Gullwing in Germany (eventually by Hi-Tech Automotive in South Africa)
AC MK II 6.2 V8 2012– Corvette sourced engine. Car assembled by Brooklands Motor Company in UK (Aluminium body) or by Hi-Tech Automotive in South Africa (composite body)
AC 378 GT Zagato 6.2 V8 2012– First shown as Perana Z-One in 2009. Car built in South Africa by Hi-Tech Automotive.

See also

References

  1. Jump up^ “The Motor Cycle and Cycle Car Show at Olympia”, The Auto Motor Journal, 30th Nov, 1912, p1448
  2. Jump up^ Eric Dymock, Writing a page of history, The Guardian, January 13, 1981, Page 21.
  3. Jump up^ The Light Car and Cyclecar, July 20, 1923 “A.-C. MAKES FAST TIME”; The Autocar, July 20, 1923; Brighton & Hove Herald, July 21, 1923; Motor Sport, April 1955, Page 191: “Sprint Results of the Nineteen-Twenties” lists the overall winner on July 14, 1923 as J.A. Joyce (A.C.). The event was restricted to cars up to 1,500 c.c. and run as a knockout competition in six classes. J.A. Joyce won the top class for cars up to 1,500 c.c. of any type. No times were published.
  4. Jump up^ The Motor, September 9, 1924, Page 250;The Light Car and Cyclecar, September 12, 1924, Page 486; The Autocar, September 12, 1924, Page 469; The Brooklands Gazette, October 1924, Page 168.
  5. Jump up^ The Brooklands Gazette, December 1924, Page 248 for a photograph of J.A. Joyce.
  6. Jump up^ Montlhéry: The Story of the Paris Autodrome, William Boddy, 2007, Page 26.
  7. Jump up^ The Illustrated Directory of Classic Cars, Graham Robson, Salamander Books, 2001.
  8. Jump up^ Montlhéry: The Story of the Paris Autodrome, William Boddy, 2007, Pages 58-59.
  9. Jump up^ Casucci, Piero. “City Cars: The Answer to the World’s Traffic Problems?”, in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Vol. 4, p.383.
  10. Jump up^ Advert in “Country Life” April 27, 1951, page 1304.
  11. Jump up^ “Transport Miscellany article on the Southend Pier Railway”. Greywall Productions. Archived from the original on 25 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  12. Jump up^ “AC COBRA: The AC Story”.
  13. Jump up^ “Frequently Asked Questions: When was the 70 mph (110 km/h) motorway speed limit introduced in Britain?”. Speedlimit.org.uk.
  14. Jump up^ “AC Heritage Ltd;”. acheritage.co.uk/. Retrieved 2010-06-26.
  15. Jump up^ accars.co.uk
  16. ^ Jump up to:a b c Robson, G (1974). A-Z of British Cars 1945-1980. Devon: Herridge. ISBN 0-9541063-9-3.
  17. Jump up^ “AC Cobra 212 S/C”. Supercars.net. 2000-10-17. Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  18. Jump up^ “AC Automotive – AC MkVI”. Accars.de. Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  19. ^ Jump up to:a b Fresh start for AC Cars, Daily Telegraph, May 28, 2012
  20. Jump up^ french leaflet from Geneva Motor Show
  21. Jump up^ Noah Joseph RSS feed. “Perana Z-One resurfaces with AC badge as 378 GT Zagato”. Autoblog.com. Retrieved 2012-05-22.

 

Other sources

External links

AC Cars has always been known as a very individualist manufacturer of very individualist cars, arguably the most notable being the 7-litre Ford V8-engined Model 428 in convertible and fast back forms, styled by Pietro Frua of Italy. The 428 was an expensive, luxury-type car of essentially limited production.

However, AC fortunes were founded on an infinitely more mundane vehicle sold in quantity over 100 years ago. The marque’s origins go back almost to the beginning of the 20th century, the joint founders being John Weller, talented engineer and designer, and John Portwine, a butcher, who financed him and handled the business side.

Weller’s first car was the 20 hp four-cylinder Weller, built at West Norwood, London, in 1903. It was of advanced design, making considerable use of aluminium to keep weight down. But the project never got under way owing to production and cost problems, and on Portwine’s suggestion a cheap, reliable three-wheeled commercial vehicle was designed and put into production instead.

This was called the Auto-Carrier which, right from its introduction in 631cc, single-cylinder-engined form in 1905, proved a considerable success. It had tiller steering and chain drive from the engine to the single rear wheel, which contained a Roe pattern epicyclic two-speed gear and clutch incorporated in the hub. A large number of London and provincial firms found Auto-Carriers far more efficient than horse-drawn carts, which were the common form of transport at the time, and orders flowed in.

To build them in quantity a new company named Autocars & Accessories Limited was formed, and with production under way Weller’s next step was to develop passenger-carrying versions of the original design. On the first of these the driver kept his seat in front of the rear wheel, with one or more passengers seated ahead of him in a forecar.

On later types the driver and passengers sat side-by-side in the forecar, tiller steering being retained. Late in 1907 Weller and Portwine reformed their business again as Auto-Carriers Limited, to build these new AC ‘Sociables’ alongside the commercials, all of them costing under £100. The first AC, then, was a three-wheeler, but success made the partners ambitious and, following removal in 1911 from West Norwood to a new factory in the pleasant riverside village of Thames Ditton, Surrey, John Weller got down to designing a four-wheeled car.

At first he tried fitting a two-wheeled rear axle to the Sociable, but the resultant cyclecar did not please him, so instead he laid down a new design. It was a true small car, unusual in having its three-speed gearbox integral with the rear axle, and incorporating a disc transmission brake at the back on the end of the propellor shaft – these becoming distinctive AC features for the next 16 years. Its engine was a Fivet, a neat French 1094 cc side-valve four-cylinder unit. Suspension was by transverse leaf spring at the front and quarter-elliptics at the rear, and by use of much aluminium the whole car in open two-seater form weighed only 10 cwt and could attain 45 mph.

John Weller’s Masterpiece, the AC ‘Light Six’ Engine

As announced in 1913, this first AC four-wheeler was notably pretty, with elegant curved wings, rounded-vee radiator, and a choice of wire or artillery wheels. It performed well and reliably, and, after the upheavals of World War 1, was continued in improved form. Supply of the Fivet engine became difficult, however, so AC employed the lively 1.5-litre, 69mm x 100 mm, Anzani four-cylinder side-valve unit instead, giving even better performance. Meanwhile, production of the tricars was dropped and John Weller produced his masterpiece, the AC ‘Light Six’ engine. First shown in 1919, and initially offered in 56mm x 10 mm 1.5-litre and 65 mm x 100 mm 2-litre forms, this was in full production as a 2-litre by 1921; it was a remarkably advanced and efficient power unit, giving about 40 bhp and having a single overhead-camshaft driven at first by a vertical shaft and helical gears.

Noise and manufacturing costs caused Weller to quickly to replace this by an endless inverted-tooth chain, controlled by what became known as the Weller spring-loaded tensioner, the patents for which were to earn the inventor some sizeable royalty fees. The engine also had wet cylinder liners in an aluminium block, and an aluminium sump, iron head and aluminium cam-cover, the whole being extremely attractive in appearance. The old engineering maxim ‘If it looks right, it is right’ certainly applied to the six-cylinder AC engine, which set records for longevity, basically the same unit being employed until 1963 – a span of over 40 years during which power output rose almost threefold to over 100 bhp.

The year 1921 brought big company changes, when the dynamic S. F. Edge, who had steered the Napier marque to fortune before World War 1, became a director. The following year he became Chairman and Governing Director, and the co-founders Weller and Portwine both resigned from their company, which changed its name to AC Cars Limited. Edge swiftly launched a racing and record-breaking programme, with four-cylinder 1.5-litre and six-cylinder 2-litre cars. The 1.5-litre cars, variously powered by side-valve Anzani, and overhead-camshaft eight and 16-valve engines evolved by Weller, set many highly impressive short and long-distancerecords at Brooklands, including several at over 100 mph, between 1921 and 1932.

The bigger sixes also figured prominently, one creating a new world 24-hour record in 1925 at Montlhery, France, averaging 82.58 mph. In December 1927, the Hon. Victor Bruce and Mrs Bruce broke the world 15,000-mile record at 68.01 mph, plus six other long-distance figures, despite appalling wintry weather and the loss of over 15 hours for repairs after the car overturned following a skid in the snow. It was the Hon. Victor Bruce, too, who scored the first British victory in the famous Monte Carlo Rally in 1926, sharing a 2-Iitre six with W. J. Brunei!.

1904 Auto Carrier
The first AC model was, naturally enough, the Auto Carrier. The image above is from a 1903 version, used as a delivery vehicle. The driver would steer from the rear courtesy of a ’tiller’, it being driven by a 20hp engine driving a single rear wheel via a chain.1910 Auto Carriers SociableThe image above is of one of the very first passenger carrying AC’s, directly converted from the original Auto Carrier. The firsr versions had the driver sitting behind the passengers, but this 1910 ‘Sociable’ version had the driver sitting next to the passengers.1921 AC Sprint
Now with 4 wheels, the 1921 AC Sprint would set many records atBrooklands.1921 AC 11.9 HP
By 1921 AC were not only building racing cars, but accomplished passenger four-seaters such as this 11.9.

1938 AC Racer
We uncovered this strange image of what we believe to be a 1938 AC, obviously highly modified by the looks of the rear wheels.

AC Buckland Sports
The AC Buckland Sports was an elegant five seater tourer fitted with a sweet 1991cc engine, first shown at the 1952 London Motor Show.

AC Thames Ditton Production Line
This rare archive image shows the AC Thames Ditton works in full production mode, with Cobra’s undergoing various stages of completion.

AC ME300
The AC ME300 began with the end of the Unipower story.

AC ME300

AC cars also scored numerous successes at Brooklands, and in hillclimbs and sprints, while a 1.5-litre car finished third in the I923 ‘200 Miles’ race despite delays through tyre trouble. Production of the four-cylinder 1.5-litre AC model was dropped after I927 and two years later S. F. Edge decided to retire. The company then went into voluntary liquidation and no cars were built between 1929 and I931. But two engineering brothers, William and Charles Hurlock, acquired AC Cars Limited in 1930 and began a cautious design revision.

First, they replaced the cantilever front springs by semi-elliptic. Their next step was to fit a 4-speed Moss gearbox in unit with the engine in place of the now outdated 3-speed unit on the rear axle. The chassis was now underslung at the rear and the resultant car, called the Ace, was very successful, one winning the 1933 RAC Rally, driven by Kitty Brunell, daughter of the 1926 Monte Carlo co-victor.

AC built their own coachwork at Thames Ditton, and produced a very individual range of bodies, ranging through open, drophead and closed 2-seaters to two and four-door coupes, convertibles and saloons, establishing the AC as one of the most handsome among the ‘middleclass’ sporting cars of the 1930S. They were lively, refined performers, and 60, 70 or 80 bhp variations of Weller’s famous ohc six were optional, while even an Arnott-supercharged version giving close on 90 bhp was offered.

AC Cars Limited was one of the first British makers to export cars to America, sending the first batch over in 1937 and exhibiting at the New York Show. World War 2 diverted AC’s activities away from motor cars until 1947, when the first post-war two-door AC saloon was announced. This was very much in the current styling idiom, with deep, valanced ‘helmet’ type wings merging with a wide bonnet containing an integral radiator grille and headlights.

Beneath this new shape was the faithful old Weller engine and non-independent semi-elliptic springing, but it now had lengthened springs, new tubular hydraulic shock absorbers and revised braking by Girling, hydraulically operated at the front and mechanically at the rear.

Those were the days of intensive exporting, and the Thames Ditton factory joined in, cars going to many parts of the globe and finding many contented customers. Although heavy, the saloon was lively and comfortable, besides retaining that AC quality and individuality which counted so much.

For 1952 a switch was made to all-hydraulic brake operation and in that same year the Buckland Body Works of Buntingford, Hertfordshire, announced a shapely, open 5-seater tourer version of the model, called the Buckland Sports. This sold well alongside the saloon, both being built until 1957 when they were superseded.

The AC All-Weather Invalid Chair

Two world wars had given the AC Company ample experience in diversification and in the 1950s the company reverted to three-wheeler manufacture, developing the AC all-weather invalid chair to a Ministry of Pensions contract. For a period AC also built a three-wheeled 250cc Villiers-engined mini-car called the Petite.

Remarkably, another venture was to manufacture four special electric trains for the Southend Corporation, to transport holiday passengers on the Southend pier. Yet another AC product was the ‘Bag Boy’ golf trolley, made under licence from the USA, but in 1953 came a sensational change in AC policy which gladdened the hearts of all sports car enthusiasts – the introduction of an all-new Ace.

The Ace, Barchetta Style

This model, one of the highlights of the 1953 Earls Court Motor Show, was based on the very successful Tojeiro sports-racing car built by John Tojeiro of Cambridge for the racing driver Cliff Davis. The competition Tojeiro was powered by a 2-Iitre Bristol engine, and its body closely followed the Ferrari open two-seaterBarchetta style as used on the original 166 ‘Inter’ model. AC’s interpretation had much the same elegant shape, but its engine was John Weller’s time-honoured 2-litre aluminium six, in triple SU- carburettored 85 bhp form, driving through a Moss 4-speedsynchromesh gearbox.

For an AC, the chassis was daringly new, being of welded ‘ladder’ type in 3 in. diameter 16-gauge steel tube, with all-round independent suspension by transverse leaf springs and fabricated tubular wishbones, controlled by Armstrong telescopic hydraulic dampers.

Beautifully clean in shape and with a dry weight of only 15 cwt, this new AC could top the 100 mph mark and was an immediate success.It was followed 12 months later by the even more handsome Aceca coupe, and subsequently AC at last broke away from their own classic six-cylinder engine, and offered the 125 bhp 2-Iitre Bristol six-cylinder unit, giving 118mph, as an alternative.

In 1961 yet another power variant, the 2.6-litre Ford Zephyr six with Ruddspeed modifications and five stages of tune, became optional. Not that the old AC six was pensioned right off; it remained available right up to 1963, still with its original 65 mm x 100 mm bore and stroke and basic 1919 characteristics.

Indeed, the changes wrought upon it during its 44-year career amounted to little more than multiplication of the carburettors from one to three, raised compression ratio and improved breathing, modified water circulation, use of Vandervell-type bearings, and addition of a fifth main bearing and a crankshaft damper.

The Ace-Bristol Two-Seater

Meantime, the Ace-Bristol open two-seater had been successful in racing, making hay in the 2-litre production sports class in the United States, and doing well in British races, where one example won the Three Hours final of the 1956 Autosport Championship, and another won this championship outright in 1957. The cars also ventured to Le Mans for the famous 24-Hours race, being placed 10th in 1957, 8th and 9th in 1958 and 7th in 1959, all of which demonstrated their commendable stamina in the face of much fiercer prototype sports machines.

These performances undoubtedly played a vital part in the next major AC development, but meanwhile 1959 brought another new production model, the Greyhound (reviving a pre-war name). This was a less attractive car than the Ace or Aceca, but more roomy with a four-seater coupe body on a longer wheelbase. A Bristol 2-litre or 2.2-litre engine was used, together with disc front brakes, and a significant change came in the suspension, which utilised coil springs and double wishbones in place of the former transverse leaves.

The AC Greyhound

The Greyhound was expensive at over £2,800, but 150 were built between 1960 and 1963, when a tempestuous newcomer swept it and all other existing AC models off the production line. The Ace-Bristol’s racing feats in the USA drew the eye of a shrewd Texan racing driver, Carroll Shelby, co-winner of Le Mans 1959 in an Aston Martin. To Shelby it was obvious that the sturdy Ace chassis could take a lot more power than it was currently using.

The Bristol engine, moreover, was expensive to maintain and the fastest examples tended to be fragile. Shelby envisaged putting an American Ford ohv V8 engine, comparatively little stressed, into the Ace, and in 1962 he visited the Thames Ditton factory to finalise his project.

AC lost no time. A 4.2-litre unit giving about 240 bhp was installed in a chassis, the suspension, transmission and wheels were ‘beefed up’, disc brakes were fitted and very quickly the first AC Cobra prototype was built and sent out to the States. The reaction was sensational and Shelby clamoured for all the Cobras the factory could possibly make. The chassis and bodies were built in Britain, then shippedout to California to have their engines and gearboxes fitted.

subsequently the 270 bhp 4.7-litre engine was fitted. So great was the demand for the Cobra that by early 1963 AC were obliged to drop production of all other models. The design was improved as the production rates grew, the wheels and tyresgrew larger, rack and pinion steering was adopted and the transverse leaf springing replaced by coil springs and wishbones.

In appearance the Cobra was extremely impressive, the grace of the original Ace bodywork being enhanced by the massive wheels, extended wheel arches, swelling bonnet and big twin exhausts, to impart a very rugged but superbly balanced shape.

The car travelled as fast as it looked, and inevitably it was raced. Shelby formed a team for the GT class of the 1964 World Sports Car Championship series and his Cobras were placed 1-2-3 in class (4-5-6 overall) in the Sebring r z-Hours race, and first in class, 4th overall, at Le Mans.

In 1965 they scored class victories at Daytona, Nurburgring and Le Mans, winning the GT Championship outright. Shelby’s next step was to persuade a Ford 6997 cc, 425 bhp engine into the car, the variant being called the Cobra 427 after the cylinder displacement in cubic inches. This made a 160mph road car at appreciably less cost than contemporaryFerraris, Maseratis etc, and Cobra demand continued.

From AC’s point of view, however, the Cobra operation had become remote from Thames Ditton, which simply became a source of chassis. AC therefore evolved their own 427 model, fitting the 7-litreFord engine in a lengthened Cobra chassis, and getting the Italian coachbuilder Pietro Frua to design and build an elegant two-seater convertible body. Refinement rather than fierce performance divorced the AC 427 from the Cobra image; automatic transmission was employed, and in 1967 a slightly larger, more modern Ford V8 unit of 7016 cc (428 cu. in.) giving 345 bhp was fitted, the model then becoming the 428.

The AC 3000ME

The 1970s were not a good period for luxury car manufacturers and Derek Hurlock went searching for a totally new smaller car. Mid-engined designs were in fashion at the time and in 1972 the Diablo, prototype with an Austin Maxi engine and transaxle was built by privateers Peter Bohanna and Robin Stables. In much the same way as they had taken up the Tojeiro prototype and turned it into the Ace, AC acquired the rights and at the 1973 London Motor Show showed their own version, the mid-engined ME3000 with the 3.0-litre Ford Essex V6 engine installed transversely over a bespoke AC-designed gearbox.

Development was virtually complete in 1976 when new Type Approval regulations were introduced. A prototype failed the 30 mph (48 km/h) crash test, and the chassis had to be redesigned. On the second attempt, the car passed with flying colours. This was a huge achievement for a tiny firm – Vauxhall had to make several attempts before the contemporary Chevette passed. For AC, such delays meant that the first production cars (now renamed 3000ME) were not delivered until 1979, by which time they were in direct competition with the Lotus Esprit. Although comfortable, brisk, nicely built and practical, AC’s ambitions of selling 250 cars per year were a distant memory.

After just 71 cars were sold, Hurlock called a halt to production as his health was suffering and the company was struggling in the teeth of a recession. In 1984 production stopped at Thames Ditton and the car and the AC name were licenced to a new company registered as AC (Scotland) plc run by David McDonald in a new factory in Hillington, Glasgow. Here, 30 cars were built, including a development car tested with Alfa Romeo’s 2.5-litre V6 engine and a nearly-complete Mark 2 prototype of the same.

Regardless (or possibly because) of these developments, AC Scotland called in the receivers in 1985. After selling the historic High Street works for redevelopment, AC themselves soldiered on as a service operation in the ’21st Century’ works on Summer Road until the Hurlock family finally sold their holdings in 1986 to William West. After some complex machinations the company was split between property interests and the car brand; the former was renamed and the latter was acquired by Brian Angliss.

Also see: AC Car Reviews | AC Ace | AC Cobra | AC ME3000

Abarth 2000 Sports Prototype
Stunningly beautiful and very brutal, the AC Cobra evolved into the graceful but still powerful 428, and the handy 345 bhp made it good for a top speed of just over 150 mph, with gut-busting acceleration…

ALPINE automobiles Dieppe France 1955-1995

Alpine (automobile) Logo_of_Alpine.svg

Sunbeam Alpine

 For the French Renault Alpine, see Alpine chapter below this.
Sunbeam Alpine
Overview
Manufacturer Sunbeam (Rootes Group)
Production 1953–75
Assembly Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire, England
Body and chassis
Body style Sports car
Layout FR layout

The Sunbeam Alpine is a sporty two-seat open car produced by Sunbeam from 1953 to 1955, and then 1959 to 1968. The name was then used on a two-door fastback from 1969 to 1975. The original Alpine was launched in 1953 as the first vehicle from Sunbeam-Talbot to bear the Sunbeam name alone since the 1935 takeover of Sunbeam and Talbot by the Rootes Group.

Alpine Mark I and III

Sunbeam Alpine Mark I & III
Sunbeam Alpine Mark I & III TMP3
Overview
Production 1953–55
1.582 made
Assembly United Kingdom
Australia
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door roadster
Related Sunbeam-Talbot 90
Powertrain
Engine 2267 cc (2.3L) I4
Dimensions
Wheelbase 97.5 in (2,476 mm)
Length 168.5 in (4,280 mm)
Width 62.5 in (1,588 mm)
Chronology
Successor Series Alpine

The Alpine was derived from the Sunbeam-Talbot 90 Saloon,

1948 Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkI

and has become colloquially known as the “Talbot” Alpine. It was a two-seater sports roadster initially developed by Sunbeam-Talbot dealer George Hartwell in Bournemouth, as a one-off rally car. It had its beginnings as a 1952 Sunbeam-Talbot drophead coupé, and was supposedly named by Norman Garrad of the works Competition Department, who was heavily involved in Sunbeam-Talbot’s successes in the Alpine Rally during the early 1950s using the saloon models.

The car has a four-cylinder 2267 cc engine from the saloon, but with a raised compression ratio. However, since it was developed from the saloon platform, it suffered from rigidity compromises despite extra side members in the chassis. The gearbox ratios were changed, and from 1954 an overdrive unit became standard. The gearchange lever was column-mounted.

The Alpine Mark I and Mark III (no Mark II was made) were hand-built – as was the 90 drophead coupé – at Thrupp & Maberly coachbuilders from 1953 to 1955, and remained in production for only two years. Of the 1582 automobiles produced, 961 were exported to the USA and Canada, 445 stayed in the UK, and 175 went to other world markets. It has been estimated that perhaps as few as 200 have survived.

1954 Sunbeam Alpine Mk1

1954 Sunbeam Alpine Mk1 Two seater

The Sunbeam Alpine Mk 1 Special: It was based on the 2267cc Mk 1 Sunbeam Talbot motor, with alloy rocker cover and Siamese exhaust ports [ cylinders 2 and 3 ]. These motors developed a reputed, 97.5 bhp at 4,500 rpm, mainly by raising the compression ratio to 8.0:1 and incorporating a special induction manifold with a twin choke Solex 40 P.I.I carburettor .

Sunbeam Alpine Team Cars : MKV 21 – 26: The motors were configured the same as the Sunbeam Alpine Mk I Special, with further tuning by ERA to raise power to over 100 bhp.

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mk III

 1953 Alpine Mk III

In the 1953 Alpine Rally four Alpines won the Coupe des Alpes, one of which, finishing 6th, was driven by Stirling Moss; Sheila van Damm won the Coupe Des Dames in the same rally.

Very few of these cars are ever seen on the big screen. However, a sapphire blue Alpine featured prominently in the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock film To Catch a Thief starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. More recently, the American PBS show History Detectives tried to verify that an Alpine roadster owned by a private individual was the actual car used in that movie. Although the Technicolor process could “hide” the car’s true colour, and knowing that the car was shipped back from Monaco to the USA for use in front of a rear projection effect, the car shown on the programme was ultimately proven not to be the film car upon comparison of the vehicle identification numbers.

Alpine Series I to V

Sunbeam Alpine Series I to V
1964 Sunbeam Alpine IV at Kemble Air Day, Gloucestershire, England
Overview
Production 1959–68
69,251 made
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door roadster
Related Sunbeam Tiger
Powertrain
Engine Series I: 91.2 cu in (1.5 L) I4
Series II, III & IV—1592 cc (1.6L) I4
Series V—1725 cc (1.7L) I4
Dimensions
Wheelbase 86 in (2,184 mm)
Length 155 in (3,937 mm)
Width 61 in (1,549 mm)
Height 51 in (1,295 mm)
Chronology
Successor none

Kenneth Howes and Jeff Crompton were tasked with doing a complete redesign in 1956, with the goal of producing a dedicated sports car aimed principally at the US market. Ken Howes contributed some 80 per cent of the overall design work, which bears more than incidental resemblance to the early Ford Thunderbird; Howe had worked at Ford before joining Rootes.

The Alpine was produced in four subsequent revisions until 1968. Total production numbered around 70,000. Production stopped shortly after the Chrysler takeover of the Rootes Group.

Series I 1959–60

The “Series” Alpine started production in 1959. One of the original prototypes still survives and was raced by British Touring car champion Bernard Unett.

The car made extensive use of components from other Rootes Group vehicles and was built on a modified floorpan from the Hillman Husky estate car. The running gear came mainly from the Sunbeam Rapier, but with front disc brakes replacing the saloon car’s drums. An overdrive unit and wire wheels were optional. The suspension was independent at the front using coil springs and at the rear had a live axle and semi-elliptic springing. The Girling-manufactured brakes used 9.5 in (241 mm) discs at the front and 9 in (229 mm)drums at the rear.

Coupe versions of the post-1959 version were built by Thomas Harrington Ltd. Until 1962 the car was assembled for Rootes by Armstrong Siddeley.

An open car with overdrive was tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1959. It had a top speed of 99.5 mph (160.1 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 13.6 seconds. A fuel consumption of 31.4 miles per imperial gallon (9.0 L/100 km; 26.1 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1031 including taxes.

11,904 examples of the series I were produced.

In 1960 Sunbeam marketed a limited-production three-door variant of the Alpine, marketed as a shooting brake. With leather interior and walnut trim, its price was double that of its open counterpart.

The Series I featured a 1494 cc engine and was styled by the Loewy Studios for the Rootes Group. It had dual downdraft carburetors, a soft top that could be hidden by special integral covers and the first available roll-up side windows offered in a British sports car of that time.

Series II 1962

The Series II of 1962 featured an enlarged 1592 cc engine producing 80 bhp and revised rear suspension, but there were few other changes. When it was replaced in 1963, 19,956 had been made.

A Series II with hardtop and overdrive was tested by The Motor magazine in 1960, which recorded a top speed of 98.6 mph (158.7 km/h), acceleration from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 13.6 seconds and a fuel consumption of 31.0 miles per imperial gallon (9.1 L/100 km; 25.8 mpg-US). The test car cost £1,110 including taxes.

Series III 1963–64

The Series III was produced in open and removable hardtop versions. On the hardtop version the top could be removed but no soft-top was provided as the area it would have been folded into was occupied by a small rear seat; also the 1592 cc engine was less powerful. To provide more room in the boot, twin fuel tanks in the rear wings were fitted. Quarter light were fitted to the windows. Between 1963 and 1964, 5863 were made.[9]

Series IV 1964–65

There was no longer a lower-output engine option; the convertible and hardtop versions shared the same 82 bhp engine with single Solex carburettor. A new rear styling was introduced with the fins largely removed. Automatic transmission with floor-mounted control became an option, but was unpopular. From autumn 1964 a new manual gearbox with synchromesh on first gear was adopted in line with its use in other Rootes cars. A total of 12,406 were made.

Series V 1965–68

The final version had a new five-bearing 1725 cc engine with twin Zenith-Stromberg semi-downdraught carburettors producing 93 bhp. There was no longer an automatic transmission option. 19,122 were made. In some export markets, 100 PS (99 bhp) SAE were claimed.

1967 Sunbeam Alpine Series V

1967 Sunbeam Alpine Series V

1967 Sunbeam Alpine Series V rear

1967 Sunbeam Alpine Series V rear

A muscle-car variant of the later versions was also built, the

Sunbeam Tiger

Sunbeam Tiger.

 Competition

1961 Harrington Alpine

 1961 Harrington Alpine

The Alpine enjoyed relative success in European and North American competition. Probably the most notable international success was at Le Mans, where a Sunbeam Harrington won the Thermal Index of Efficiency in 1961. In the United States the Alpine competed successfully in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events.

Vince Tamburo won the G-Production National Championship in 1960 using the 1494cc Series I Alpine. In 1961 Don Sesslar took 2nd in the F-Production National Championship followed by a 3rd in the Championship in 1962. For 1963 the Alpine was moved into E-Production facing stiff competition from a class dominated by the Porsche 356. Sesslar tied in points for the national championship while Norman Lamb won the Southwest Division Championship in his Alpine.

A championship for Don Sesslar finally was achieved in 1964 with 5 wins (the SCCA totaled the 5 top finishes for the year). Dan Carmichael won the Central Division Championship in 1964 and ’65. Carmichael continued to race the Alpine until 1967, when he finished 2nd at the American Road Race of Champions.

Bernard Unett raced factory prototype Alpine (registration number XRW 302) from 1962 to 1964 and in 1964 won the Fredy Dixon challenge trophy, which was considered to be biggest prize on the British club circuit at the time. Unett went on to become British Touring car champion three times during the 1970s.

A six-car works team was set up for the 1953 Alpine Rally. Although outwardly similar to their production-car counterparts they reputedly incorporated some 36 modifications, boosting the engine to an estimated 97.5 bhp.

Alpine “Fastback”

Sunbeam Alpine “Fastback”
1969 Sunbeam Alpine Fastback
Overview
Production 1969–75
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door fastback
Powertrain
Engine 1725 cc (1.7L) I4
Dimensions
Wheelbase 98.5 in (2,502 mm)
Length 174.5 in (4,432 mm)
Width 64.75 in (1,645 mm)
Chronology
Successor none
Main article: Rootes Arrow

Rootes introduced the “Arrow” range in 1967, and by 1968 the saloons and estates (such as the Hillman Hunter) had been joined by a Sunbeam Rapier Fastback coupé model. In 1969, a cheaper, slightly slower and more economical version of the Rapier (still sold as a sporty model) was badged as the new Sunbeam Alpine.

All models featured the group’s strong five-bearing 1725 cc engine, with the Alpine featuring a single Stromberg CD150 carburettor to the Rapier’s twins, and the Rapier H120’s twin 40DCOE Weber carburettors.

Although drawing many parts from the group’s “parts bin”, including the rear lights of the estate Arrow models, the fastbacks nevertheless offered a number of unique features, including their pillar-less doors and rear side windows which combined to open up the car much like a cabriolet with a hardtop fitted. Extensive wooden dashboards were fitted to some models, and sports seats were available for a time.

Post-Sunbeam Alpine

The Alpine name was resurrected in 1976 by Chrysler (by then the owner of Rootes), on a totally unrelated vehicle that could not have been more different: the UK-market version of the Simca 1307, a French-built family hatchback. The car was initially badged as the Chrysler Alpine, and then finally as the Talbot Alpine following Chrysler Europe’s takeover by Peugeot in 1978. The name survived until 1984, although the design survived (with different names) until 1986.

 For the Chrysler car model, see Simca 1307.

Alpine
Subsidiary
Industry Automotive
Founded 1955
Founder Jean Rédélé
Defunct 1995
Headquarters Dieppe, France
Products Automobiles
Parent Renault
Website alpine-cars.com

Renault Alpine A 110 (Sp)

 Alpine A110 Berlinette 1300G.

Alpine was a French manufacturer of racing and sports cars that used rear-mounted Renault engines.

Jean Rédélé, the founder of Alpine, was originally a Dieppe garage proprietor, who began to achieve considerable competition success in one of the few French cars produced just after the Second World War. The company was bought in 1973 by Renault.

History

Early days

Alpine A106

 Coach Alpine A106 Mille Milles 1955 (First alpine)

Using Renault 4CVs, Rédélé gained class wins in a number of major events, including the Mille Miglia and Coupe des Alpes. As his experience with the little 4CV built up, he incorporated many modifications, including for example, special 5-speed gear boxes replacing the original 3-speed unit. To provide a lighter car he built a number of special versions with lightweight aluminium bodies: he drove in these at Le Mans and Sebring with some success in the early 1950s.

Encouraged by the development of these cars and consequent customer demand, he founded the Société Anonyme des Automobiles Alpine in 1954. The firm was named Alpine after his Coupe des Alpes successes. He did not realise that in England the previous year, Sunbeam had introduced a sports coupe derived from the Sunbeam Talbot and called the Sunbeam Alpine. This naming problem was to cause problems for Alpine throughout its history.

1962-67 Renault Alpine A110

 Alpine A110 Berlinette (1962–1967)

In 1955, he worked with the Chappe brothers to be amongst the pioneers of auto glass fibre construction and produced a small coupe, based on 4CV mechanicals and called the Alpine A106. It used the platform chassis of the original Renault 4CV. The A106 achieved a number of successes through the 1950s and was joined by a low and stylish cabriolet. Styling for this car was contracted to the Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti. Under the glassfibre body was a very stiff chassis based on a central tubular backbone which was to be the hallmark of all Alpines built.

Alpine then took the Michelotti cabriolet design and developed a 2+2 closed coupe (or ‘berlinette’) body for it: this became the Alpine A108, now featuring the Dauphine Gordini 845 cc engine, which on later models was bored out to give a capacity of 904 cc or (subsequently) 998 cc. The A108 was built between 1958 and 1963.

1960s

In 1962, the A108 began to be produced also in Brazil, by Willys-Overland. It was the Willys Interlagos (berlineta, coupé and convertible).

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 Willys Interlagos Berlineta, the Brazilian A108

By now the car’s mechanicals were beginning to show their age in Europe. Alpine was already working closely with Renault and when the Renault R8 saloon was introduced in 1962. Alpine redeveloped their chassis and made a number of minor body changes to allow the use of R8 mechanicals.

This new car was the A110 Berlinette Tour de France, named after a successful run with the Alpine A108 in the 1962 event. Starting with a 956 cc engine of 51 bhp (38 kW), the same chassis and body developed with relatively minor changes over the years to the stage where, by 1974, the little car was handling 1800 cc engines developing 180 bhp (134 kW)+. With a competition weight for the car of around 620 kg (1,367 lb), the performance was excellent.

Alpine achieved increasing success in rallying, and by 1968 had been allocated the whole Renault competition budget. The close collaboration allowed Alpines to be sold and maintained in France by normal Renault dealerships. Real top level success started in 1968 with outright wins in the Coupe des Alpes and other international events. By this time the competition cars were fitted with 1440 cc engines derived from the Renault R8Gordini. Competition successes became numerous, helped since Alpine were the first company fully to exploit the competition parts homologation rules.

1970s

In 1971, Alpine achieved a 1-2-3 finish in the Monte Carlo rally, using cars with engines derived from the Renault 16. In 1973, they repeated the 1-2-3 Monte Carlo result and went on to win the World Rally Championship outright, beating Porsche, Lancia and Ford. During all of this time, production of the Alpine A110 increased and manufacturing deals were struck for A110s and A108s with factories in a number of other countries including Spain, Mexico, Brazil and Bulgaria.

1973 brought the international petrol crisis, which had profound effects on many specialist car manufacturers worldwide. From a total Alpine production of 1421 in 1972, the numbers of cars sold dropped to 957 in 1974 and the company was bailed out via a takeover by Renault. Alpine’s problems had been compounded by the need for them to develop a replacement for the A110 and launch the car just when European petrol prices leapt through the roof.

1971-74 Alpine-renault-a110-berlinette

 Alpine A110 Berlinette Group 4 (1971-1974).

Through the 1970s, Alpine continued to campaign the A110, and later the Alpine A310 replacement car. However, to compete with Alpine’s success, other manufacturers developed increasingly special cars, notably the Lancia Stratos which was based closely on the A110’s size and rear-engined concept, though incorporating a Ferrari engine. Alpine’s own cars, still based on the 1962 design and using a surprising number of production parts, became increasingly uncompetitive. In 1974 Alpine built a series of factory racing Renault 17 Gordinis (one driven by Jean-Luc Thérier) that won the Press on Regardless World Rally Championship round in Michigan, USA.

In fact, having achieved the rally championship, and with Renault money now fully behind them, Alpine had set their sights on a new target. The next aim was to win at Le Mans. Renault had also taken over the Gordini tuning firm and merged the two to form Renault Sport. A number of increasingly successful sports racing cars appeared, culminating in the 1978 Le Mans win with the Renault Alpine A442B. This was fitted with a turbo-charged engine; Alpine had been the first company to run in and win an international rally with a turbo car as far back as 1972 when Jean-Luc Thérier took a specially modified A110 to victory on the Critérium des Cévennes.

1971 also saw Alpine begin construction of open wheel racing cars. Initially in Formula Three within a year they were building Formula Two cars as well. Unfortunately without a competitive Renault Formula Two engine available the F2 cars could neither be known as Renaults or Alpines while powered by Ford-Cosworth and BMW engines and were labelled Elf 2 and later Elf 2J. A Renault 2.0 litre engine arrived in time for Jean-Pierre Jabouilleto win the European Formula 2 Championship in 1976. By this time Alpine with Jabouille driving had built a Formula One car as a testing mule which lead directly to their entry into the Formula One world championship in 1977. A second European Formula 2 championship followed with René Arnoux in 1977 with the customer Martini team, before Alpine sold the F2 operation to Willi Kauhsen to concentrate on the Le Mans and Formula One programs.

1980s

Alpine Renault continued to develop their range of models all through the 1980s. The A310 was the next modern interpretation of the A110. The Alpine A310 was a sports car with a rear-mounted engine and was initially powered by a four-cylinder 1.6 L sourced Renault 17 TS/Gordini engine. In 1976 the A310 was restyled by Robert Opron and fitted with the more powerful and newly developed V6 PRV engine. The 2.6 L motor was modified by Alpine with a four-speed manual gearbox. Later they would use a Five-speed manual gearbox and with the group 4 model get a higher tune with more cubic capacity and 3 twin barrel Weber carburetors.

1983-84 Renault Alpine A310

 Alpine A310 V6 GT Pack (1983-1984).

After the A310 Alpine transformed into the new Alpine GTA range produced from plastic and polyester components, commencing with normally aspirated PRV V6 engines. In 1985 the V6 Turbo was introduced to complete the range. This car was faster and more powerful than the normally aspirated version. In 1986 polyester parts were cut for the first time by robot using a high pressure (3500 bar) water jet, 0.15 mm (0.01 in) in diameter at three times the speed of sound. In the same year the American specification V6 Turbo was developed.

In 1987 fitment of anti-pollution systems allowed the V6 Turbo to be distributed to Switzerland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. 1989 saw the launch of the limited edition GTA Mille Miles to celebrate Alpine’s 35th anniversary. Production was limited to 100 cars, all fitted with ABS braking, polished wheels, special leather interior and paintwork. This version was not available in RHD.

1990s

1990 saw the launch of the special edition wide-bodied GTA Le Mans. Otherwise identical mechanically to the V6 Turbo, the engine was fitted with a catalytic converter and power was reduced to 185 bhp (138 kW). This model was available in the UK and RHD versions carried a numbered plaque on the dashboard. The Le Mans is the most collectable and valuable GTA derivative, since only 325 were made (299 LHD and 26 RHD). These were available from Renault dealers in the UK and the country’s motoring press are belatedly recognising the GTA series as the ‘great unsung supercar of the 1980s’

The Alpine A610 was launched in 1991. It was re-styled inside and out but was still recognisable as a GTA derivative. The chassis structure was extensively reworked but the central box principal remained the same. The front was completely re-designed the interior was also greatly improved. Air-conditioning and power steering were fitted as standard. The total production run for A610s derivatives was 818 vehicles 67 RHD and 751 LHD. After production of the A610 ended, the Alpine factory in Dieppe produced the Renault Sport Spider and a new era was to begin.

The last Alpine, an A610, rolled off the Dieppe line on 7 April 1995, Renault abandoning the Alpine name. This was always a problem in the UK market. Alpines could not be sold in the UK under their own name because Sunbeam owned the trade mark (because of the mid-50s Sunbeam Alpine Mk I). In the 1970s, for example Dieppe were building modified Renault 5s for the world wide market. The rest of the world knew them as R5 Alpines but in the UK they had to be renamed to R5 Gordini. Strangely enough with the numerous company takeovers that have occurred, it is another French company, PSA Peugeot Citroën, who now own the BritishAlpine trademark.

The Alpine factory in Dieppe continues to expand; in the 1980s they built the special R5 Turbo cars, following the rear engined formula they have always used. They built all Clio Williams and RenaultSport Spiders. The factory proudly put its Alpine badges on the built early batches of the mid engined Clio series one Clio V6. The Clio Series 2 was also assembled there with more recent RenaultSport Clio 172 and RenaultSport Clio 182s.

Between 1989 and 1995, a new Alpine named the A710 “Berlinette 2”, was designed and 2 prototypes were built. Due to the cost of the project (600 millions Francs), and as adding modern equipment and interior would compromise the price and performances, the project was canceled.

Present

The Dieppe factory is known as the producer of Renault Sport models that are sold worldwide. This was originally the “Alpine” factory that Renault gained when they acquired the brand in 1973. Some of the Renault Sport models produced in Dieppe are currently the Mégane Renault Sport, Clio Renault Sport and the new Mégane Renault Sport dCi is to be built on Renault’s Dieppe assembly line. All the RenaultSport track-, tarmac- and gravel-racing Meganes and Clios are also made in the Dieppe factory.

In October 2007, it was reported that Renault’s marketing boss Patrick Blain has revealed that there were plans for several sports cars in Renault’s future lineup, but stressed that the first model wouldn’t arrive until after 2010. Blain confirmed that Renault is unlikely to pick a new name for its future sports car and will probably go with Alpine to brand it. Blain described it as being a “radical sports car” and not just a sports version of a regular model.

The new Alpine sports car will likely have a version of the Nissan GT-R‘s Premium Midship platform.

In France there is a large network of Alpine enthusiasts clubs. Clubs exist in many countries including the UK, USA, Australia, Japan.

In February 2009, Renault confirmed that plans to revive the Alpine brand have been frozen as a direct result of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and recession.

2013 Renault Alpine A110-50 at Auto Shanghai 20132012 Alpine A110-50

 Renault Alpine A110-50 at Auto Shanghai 2013

In May 2012, images of a new Renault Alpine concept titled as Renault Alpine A110-50 were leaked prior to its debut in Monaco. Its styling was based on the Renault DeZir presented in 2010.

In November 2012, Renault and Caterham Cars announced the purchasing by the latter of an 50% stake in the Renault’s wholly owned subsidiary Société des Automobiles Alpine to create a joint venture (Société des Automobiles Alpine Caterham or SAAC) owned equally by both parts, with the aim of developing affordable sport cars under the Alpine (for Renault) and Caterham (for Caterham Cars) brands, which would be available in 2016. In this partnership, Caterham acquired 50% ownership of the Renault’s Dieppe assembly plant assets. On 10 June 2014, Renault announced it would be repurchasing the stake from Caterham Cars in SAAC, renaming it Société des Automobiles Alpine.

In 2013, as part of the promotional activities for the future launching of Alpine roadcars, Renault partnered with Signatech to enter a Nissan-powered, Oreca-built prototype into the European Le Mans Series championship’s LMP2 class. Signatech-Alpine achieved the teams’ championship. They returned for the 2014 season.

Street models

1957 Alpine A106 Coach Mille Miles rear viewA106

A108

A110

A310

GTA/A610

Racing models

Alpine M63

Alpine M64

Alpine M65

Alpine A210

Alpine A210

Alpine A220Alpine A220

Alpine A360, Formula Three

Alpine A364

Alpine A367, Formula Two, also known as Elf 2

Alpine A440

Alpine A441

1977 Renault Alpine A442 at LeMans 24 hours 1977 1978 Cité de l’Automobile Renault Alpine A442B 1 1978 Le Mans Renault Alpine A442

Alpine A442

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Alpine A443

Alpine A450 (revised Oreca 03)

Renaultsport models at Dieppe

Currently, the old Alpine factory is the manufacturing site for Renault Sport Technologies-developed cars.

The models in production include:

Renault Alpines outside France

Australia

Renault Alpines were never imported into Australia, but as enthusiasts wanted more than just the normal local Renault offerings, Renault Alpine enthusiasts have privately imported the following models into Australia. Currently there are A110, A310, GTA-atmo-turbo-lemans, A610, Renault 5 Turbo and Renault Sport Spiders registered.

An example of an Alpine weekend was held in Victoria with attendees from South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. There were 17 Alpines and 2 Renault 5 Turbos. The Alpine model breakdown was: A110: 5 | A310 (4 cyl): 3 | A310 (6 cyl): 4 | GTA Turbo: 2| GTA atmo: 3

Brazil

The Renault Alpine 108 was produced in Brazil from 1962 to 1966, under license by Willys-Overland do Brasil, branded “Willys Interlagos”. It was the first Brazilian sports car.

Bulgaria

Bulgaralpine GT 4

Main article: Bulgaralpine

Bulgaria produced its own version of the Renault Alpine, known as Bulgaralpine from 1967 to 1969. About 100 vehicles were produced.

Canada

A few examples of the Alpine GTA were imported into the Canadian province of Quebec with the expectation that AMC/Renault would be adding the model to their Canadian lineup. The GTA was designed by Renault to meet North American standards however plans to inport the GTA to North America were cancelled by Chrysler shortly after their takover of AMC.

1948 Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkI 1952 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I & III TMP3 1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mk III 1954 Sunbeam Alpine Mk1 1955 alpine 106 tyl 1955 Alpine A106 1955 alpine r4cv 1957 alpine a 106 cabrio michelotti 1957 Alpine A106 Coach Mille Miles rear view 1959 Alpine A 106 Mille Miles coach (R4 cyl, 747 cm3, 40 KM)

1960 alpine a108 1960 Alpine at the Paris Motor Show 1961 Harrington Alpine 1962 Alpine A 108 Tour de France 1962 Alpine A108 C 02 1962 alpine coupe 2+2 1962-67 Alpine A110ar 1962-67 Alpine A110av 1600S 1962-67 Renault Alpine A110 1963 Alpine M 63

1964 Alpine A 110 - 1100 (retroviseur)1964 alpine zwyc lemans1964 Sunbeam Alpine IV at Kemble Air Day, Gloucestershire, England1965 alpine gt4

1965 alpine HR21966 Alpine A 110 GT41967 alpine a110 13001967 Alpine A110 1800 Group IV1967 Alpine Renault Lemans1967 Sunbeam Alpine Series V rear1967 Sunbeam Alpine Series V1968 alpine a 110 gt4 bulgar

1969 Alpine 1600 rally1969 alpine a 110 hiszp1969 ALPINE A-110 Gr.41969 Sunbeam Alpine Fastback1970 alpine 196a[1] Renault

2.0.1
2.0.1

1971-74 Alpine-renault-a110-berlinette

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1978 Le Mans Renault Alpine A4421978 Cité de l’Automobile Renault Alpine A442B 11977 Renault Alpine A442 at LeMans 24 hours 19771978 Renault Alpine A442 n31983-84 Renault Alpine A3101990 Alpine V6 Turbo Le Mans2013 Renault Alpine A110-50 at Auto Shanghai 20132012 Alpine A110-502014 Signatech Alpine A450b-Nissan Le Mans 2014Alpine A210Alpine A220Alpine A610Alpine GTAAlpine Renault A310Alpine V6 Turbo 02Alpine-A110-Berlinette-arriereAlpine-A110-Berlinette-avantAlpinelogo.svgAubergenville Usine Renault01Bulgaralpine GT 4Home of Alpine in Dieppe, FranceLogo_of_Alpine.svgRenault Alpine A 110 (Sp)Renault Alpine A310 3Renault Alpine V6Sunbeam Tiger

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1963 Sunbeam Alpine

Alpine A110 1600SX

2015-Renault-Caterham-Alpine-chassis-testing-mule-7

That’s all about Alpine Automobiles and his predisessor Sunbeam what I could find.

SUNBEAM car company Wolverhampton England since 1888 including Hillman + Humber

Sunbeam (car company)

Sunbeam_badge_-_Flickr_-_exfordy_(1)

Sunbeam was a marque registered by John Marston Co. Ltd of Wolverhampton, England, in 1888. The company first made bicycles, then motorcycles and cars, from the late 19th century until about 1936, and applied the marque to all three forms of transportation. The company also manufactured aero engines in World War I and 647 aircraft during World War II. A Sunbeam was the first British car to win a Grand Prix race, and it set a number of land speed records. The company went into receivership in 1935 and was purchased by the Rootes Group, which continued to use the Sunbeam marque until 1976 when new owners Chrysler rebranded the vehicles.

Early history

Sunbeam_motifs_-_Flickr_-_exfordy

John Marston was apprenticed to the Jeddo Works of Wolverhampton as a japanner (metal lacquerer). In 1859, at the age of 23, he bought two tinplate manufacturers and set up on his own as John Marston Co. Ltd. Marston was an avid cyclist; and, in 1877, he set up the Sunbeamland Cycle Factory, producing bikes known as Sunbeams. Between 1899 and 1901, the company also produced a number of experimental cars, but none was offered to the market.

The first production car named as a Sunbeam was introduced in 1901, after a partnership with Maxwell Maberley-Smith. The Sunbeam-Mabley design was an odd one, with seats on either side of a belt-drive powered by a single-cylinder engine of less than 3 hp (2.2 kW). The design was a limited success, with 420 sold at £130 when production ended in 1904 (source?? Other sources state 130 made). At that point the company started production of a Thomas Pullinger–designed car based on the Berliet mechanicals. They introduced a new model, based on a Peugeot motor they bought for study, in 1906 and sold about 10 a week.

In 1905, the Sunbeam Motorcar Company Ltd was formed separate from the rest of the John Marston business, which retained the Sunbeam motorcycles and bicycles.

The Breton car designer, Louis Coatalen, joined the company from Hillman-Coatalen in 1909, and became chief designer. He soon reorganised production such that almost all parts were built by the company, as opposed to relying on outside suppliers. He quickly introduced his first design, the Sunbeam 14/20, their first to use a shaft-driven rear axle, upgrading it in 1911 with a slightly larger engine as the 16/20.

Sunbeam made a small number of Veterans, and by 1912 were making conventional, high-quality cars. Direct competitors to Rolls Royce, Sunbeams were considered to be a car for those who thought an RR a little ostentatious.

1910 Sunbeam Nautilus

Louis Coatalen in the Nautilus at Brooklands in 1910

Coatalen was particularly fond of racing as a way to drive excellence within the company, noting that “Racing improves the breed”. After designing the 14/20, he started the design of advanced high-power engines, combining overhead valves with a pressurised oil lubrication system. In 1910 he built his first dedicated land-speed-record car, the Sunbeam Nautilus, powered by a 4.2-litre version of this engine design. The Nautilus implemented a number of early streamlining features, known as “wind cutting” at the time, but the custom engine suffered various problems and the design was eventually abandoned. The next year he introduced the Sunbeam Toodles II, featuring an improved valve system that turned it into a success. Coatalen won 22 prizes in Toodles II at Brooklands in 1911, and also achieved a flying mile of 86.16 mph (138.66 km/h) to take the 16 hp Short Record. Sunbeam cars powered by more conventional (for the time) side-valve engines featured prominently in the 1911 Coupé de l’Auto race, and improved versions won first, second and third the next year. Sunbeams continued to race over the next few years, but the company had moved on to other interests.

Coatalen also designed a number of passenger cars, notably the Sunbeam 12/16. By 1911 Sunbeam were building about 650 cars a year, at that time making them a major manufacturer.

First World War

Starting in 1912 they had also branched out into aircraft engines, introducing a series of engines that were not particularly successful commercially. Coatalen seemed to be convinced that the proper solution to any engine requirement was a design for those exact specifications, instead of producing a single engine and letting the aircraft designers build their aircraft around it. Their most numerous designs were the troublesome V8 Sunbeam Arab, which was ordered in quantity in 1917 but suffered from continual vibration and reliability problems and only saw limited service, and the more successful V12 Sunbeam Cossack. Meanwhile Coatalen continued to experiment with ever-more odd designs such as the star-layout Sunbeam Malay, which never got beyond a prototype, the air-cooled Sunbeam Spartan and the diesel-powered Sunbeam Pathan. The company was fairly successful with the introduction of newer manufacturing techniques, however, and was one of the first to build aluminium single-block engines, a design that would not become common until the 1930s.

During the First World War, the company built motorcycles, trucks, and ambulances. The company also participated in the Society of British Aircraft Constructors pool, who shared aircraft designs with any companies that could build them. Acting in this role, they produced 15 Short Bombers powered by their own Sunbeam Gurkha engines, 20 Short Type 827s, 50 Short 310s, and others including Avro 504 trainers; they even designed their own Sunbeam Bomber, which lost to a somewhat simpler Sopwith design. Sunbeam had produced 647 aircraft of various types by the time the lines shut down in early 1919.

Post-war

1926 Sunbeam 14-40 Tourer

Sunbeam 14/40 Tourer 1926

Sunbeam 350hp at the National Motor Museum

Sunbeam 350hp at the National Motor Museum

1927 Sunbeam 1000hp Major Henry Segrave had won the 1923 French Grand Prix with Sunbeam1927 Sunbeam 1000HP

The record-breaking Sunbeam 1000hp

In 1919 Darracq bought the London-based firm of Clément-Talbot (becoming Talbot-Darracq) in order to import Talbots into England from France. On August 13, 1920, Sunbeam merged with the French company Automobiles Darracq S.A.. Alexandre Darracq built his first car in 1896, and his cars were so successful that Alfa Romeo and Opel both started out in the car industry by building Darracqs under licence. Adding Sunbeam created Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq, or STD Motors.

In addition to quality limousine, saloon and touring cars, Coatalen was pleased to build racing cars for Henry Segrave—who won the French and Spanish GPs in 1923/4. He also built a Brooklands racer with a purpose built V12 18.3 litre engine whose design was a hybrid of the Sunbeam Manitou and the Sunbeam Arab aero engines. This engine had four blocks of three cylinders arranged in two banks set at 60 degrees (unlike the Arab which were set at 90 degrees). Each cylinder had one inlet and two exhaust valves actuated by a single overhead camshaft. The two camshafts were driven by a complex set of 16 gears from the front of the crankshaft – a very similar arrangement to that used on the Maori engine which had two OHC per bank of cylinders. This famous car (Sunbeam 350HP) established three Land Speed Records – the first achieved by Kenelm Lee Guinness at Brooklands in 1922 with a speed of 133.75mph. Malcolm Campbell then purchased the car, had it painted in his distinctive colour scheme, named it Blue Bird and in September 1924 achieved a new record speed of 146.16mph at Pendine Sands in South Wales, raising it the following year to 150.76mph. The same year Coatalen’s new 3 litre Super Sports came 2nd at Le Mans—beating Bentley—this was the first production twin-cam car in the world. In 1926 Segrave captured the LSR in a new 4 litre V12 Sunbeam racer originally named Ladybird and later renamed Tiger. Coatalen decided to re-enter the LSR field himself, building the truly gigantic Sunbeam 1000HP powered by two 450 hp (340 kW) Matabele engines. On 29 March 1927 the car captured the speed record at 203.792 mph (327.971 km/h). The car is now at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, UK.

Sunbeam’s great era was really the 1920s under Coatalen’s leadership with very well engineered, high quality, reliable cars — and a great reputation on the track.

A later land speed record attempt, the 1930 Silver Bullet, failed to achieve either records, or the hoped-for advances in aero engines. It is now almost forgotten. Sunbeam did not really survive the depression and in 1935 went into receivership and was sold to Lord Rootes. The last true Sunbeam was made in 1935. The new entry model “Dawn” was a typical mid-1930s design with independent front suspension whereas other models, the 18.2HP and Speed 20 were based on Vintage designs and qualify as PVT under VSCC rules.

Coatalen’s obsession with improvement meant that there were numerous small changes in models from year to year. Therefore although his designs are basically similar, few parts are interchangeable.

In the Vintage period, typically two models dominated production volumes at each period:

  • 1920–24 16 hp, 16/40, 24 hp, 24/60 & 24/70 all based on pre-war designs.
  • 1922–23 14 hp The first highly successful post-war 4-cylinder.
  • 1924 12/30 & 16/50 only produced in small numbers.
  • 1924–26 14/40 and big brother 20/60 developed from 14 hp with 2 more cylinders added.
  • 1926–30 3 litre Super Sports, highly successful and much coveted, the first production twin OHC car in the world.
  • 1926–30 16 hp (16.9) & 20 hp (20.9). Two new designs with six-cylinder integral cast iron block and crankcase. Both were reliable capable cars produced over many years, (20.9) with a 3-litre engine producing 70 BHP is noted for its performance and is well respected as a practical and reliable touring car. It has many shared components with the 3-litre Super Sports (brakes, suspension, steering, axles, gearbox, transmission).
  • 1926–32 20/60 developed into 25 hp with bore increased from 75 to 80 mm. A few 8-cylinder cars produced in this period, 30 hp & 35 hp.
  • 1930–32 16 hp bore increased from 67 to 70 mm, (16.9 to 18.2 hp).
  • 1931–33 New model 20 hp introduced with 80 mm bore and 7 main bearings rated at 23.8 hp. Very smooth and powerful engine.
  • 1933 18.2 hp engine installed in Speed 20 chassis and renamed ‘Twenty’.
  • 1933–34 20.9 hp engine resurrected with improved exhaust manifold and downdraught carb installed in new cruciform braced chassis for the Speed 20. Highly desirable and fast touring model especially the 1934 body style.
  • 1933–35 Twenty-Five introduced with modified 1931–33 23.8 hp engine.
  • 1934 Twenty given the 20.9 engine in place of the 18.2.
  • 1934–35 Dawn introduced. 12.8 hp (9.5 kW) engine and IFS. Nice little car but not a great success.
  • 1935 Speed 20 renamed Sports 21 with redesigned body style.
  • 1935 Sports 21 given a high compression version of Twenty-Five engine.

The most successful, judged by volumes, was the 16 hp (16.9) followed by 20 hp ( 20.9) made from 1926 to 1930. Whilst the 16 was solid and very reliable, it was a little underpowered at 2.1 litres, the 20.9 made a big jump to 3 litres and 70 bhp (52 kW; 71 PS) with similar body weight and vacuum servo brakes and was capable of 70 mph (110 km/h).

Sunbeam built their own bodies but also supplied to the coachbuilder trade; many limousines were built on Sunbeam chassis. The sales catalogue illustrates the standard body designs.

Rootes Group

1947 Sunbeam Talbot Ten Engine 1185cc S4 LPE

Sunbeam-Talbot Saloon 1947

1948 Sunbeam-Talbot 90 Sedan

Sunbeam-Talbot 90 4-Door Saloon 1948

STD Motors went into receivership in 1935. By this point only Talbot was still a success and in 1935 that portion was purchased by the Rootes Group. William Lyons of “SS Cars,” who was looking for a name change, given the rising Nazi connotations, tried to buy Sunbeam but they were also purchased by Rootes. After World War II SS Cars changed their name to Jaguar.

Car production at the Wolverhampton factory was terminated but trolleybus production continued there and Karrier trolleybus production was re-located there from Luton by 1939. During wartime the factory produced the only trolleybus available in the UK; a four-wheeled double decker known as either the Karrier or Sunbeam W4. Rootes sold the factory and designs to Brockhouse Ltd in 1946 who sold them in turn to Guy Motors in 1948 who built Sunbeam trolleybuses at their factory until the last was completed in 1964.

Rootes was an early proponent of badge engineering, building a single mass-produced chassis and equipping it with different body panels and interiors to fit different markets. They ended production of existing models at all the new companies, replacing them with designs from Hillman and Humber that were more amenable to mass production.

In 1938 Rootes created a new marque called Sunbeam-Talbot which combined the quality Talbot coachwork and the current Hillman and Humber chassis and was assembled at the Talbot factory in London. The initial two models were the Sunbeam-Talbot 10 and the 3-litre followed by the Sunbeam-Talbot 2 Litre and 4 litre models based on the earlier models only with different engines and longer wheelbases. Production of these models continued after the war until 1948.

In the summer of 1948, the Sunbeam-Talbot 80 and Sunbeam-Talbot 90 were introduced, with a totally new streamlined design with flowing front fenders (wings). The 80 used the Hillman Minx based engine with ohv and the 90 utilised a modified version of the Humber Hawk with ohv. The car bodies were manufactured by another Rootes Group company, British Light Steel Pressings of Acton, however the convertible drophead coupé shells were completed by Thrupp & Maberly coachbuilders in Cricklewood. The underpowered 80 was discontinued in 1950. The 90 was renamed the 90 Mark II and then the 90 Mark IIA and eventually in 1954 the Sunbeam Mark III, finally dropping the Talbot name. With the model name changes, the headlights were raised on the front fenders and an independent coil front suspension and the engine displacement went from 1944 cc to 2267 cc with a high compression head and developing 80 bhp (60 kW; 81 PS).

There was one more model of the Sunbeam-Talbot that appeared in 1953 in the form of an Alpine, a two seater sports roadster which was initially developed by a Sunbeam-Talbot dealer George Hartwell in Bournemouth as a one-off rally car that had its beginnings as a 1952 drophead coupé. It was named supposedly by Norman Garrad, (works Competition Department) who was heavily involved in the Sunbeam-Talbot successes in the Alpine Rally in the early 1950s using the Saloon model. The Alpine Mark I and Mark III (a Mark II was never made) were hand built like the Drophead Coupé at Thrupp & Maberly coachbuilders from 1953 to 1955 when production ceased after close to 3000 were produced. It has been estimated that perhaps only 200 remain in existence today. The Talbot name was dropped in 1954 for the Sunbeam Alpine sports car, making Sunbeam the sports-performance marque. In 1955 a Sunbeam saloon won the Monte Carlo Rally. Production ceased in 1956 and replaced by the sporty Sunbeam Rapier.

In 1959 a totally new Alpine was introduced, and the 1955 Rapier (essentially a badge-engineered Hillman Minx) was upgraded. After several successful series of the Alpine were released, director of US West-Coast operations, Ian Garrad, became interested in the success of the AC Cobra, which mounted a small-block V-8 engine in the small AC Ace frame to create one of the most successful sports cars of all time. Garrad became convinced the Alpine frame could also be adapted the same way, and contracted Carroll Shelby to prototype such a fit with a Ford engine. The result was the Sunbeam Tiger, released in 1964, which went on to be a huge success.

Chrysler era

But at this point, Rootes was in financial trouble. Talks with Leyland Motors went nowhere, so in 1964, 30 percent of the company (along with 50 percent of the non-voting shares) was purchased by Chrysler, who was attempting to enter the European market. Ironically, Chrysler had purchased Simca the year earlier, who had earlier purchased Automobiles Talbot, originally the British brand that had been merged into STD Motors many years earlier.

Chrysler’s experience with the Rootes empire appears to have been an unhappy one. Models were abandoned over the next few years while they tried to build a single brand from the best models of each of the company’s components, but for management, “best” typically meant “cheapest to produce,” which was at odds with the former higher-quality Rootes philosophy. Brand loyalty started to erode, and was greatly damaged when they decided to drop former marques and start calling everything a Chrysler. The Tiger was dropped in 1967 after an abortive attempt to fit it with a Chrysler engine, and the Hillman Imp–derived Stiletto disappeared in 1972.

The last Sunbeam produced was the “Rootes Arrow” series Alpine/Rapier fastback (1967–76), after which Chrysler, who had purchased Rootes, disbanded the marque. The Hillman (by now Chrysler) Hunter, on which they were based, soldiered on until 1978. A Hillman Avenger-derived hatchback, the Chrysler Sunbeam, maintained the name as a model, rather than a marque, from 1978 to the early 1980s, with the very last models sold as Talbot Sunbeams. The remains of Chrysler Europe were purchased by Peugeot and Renault in 1978, and the name has not been used since.

Electric cars – 2014

The Sunbeam trade mark was re-introduced with the approval of Peugeot SA in November 2014. The Sunbeam Motor Company Limited (Reg No SC 492037) became registered owner of Sunbeam class 12 trade mark on 17th November 2014 (UK3045611) to design and manufacture two, three and four wheel Sunbeam electric vehicles.

Products

Sunbeam rear entrance Tonneau

1903 Sunbeam

Sunbeam car at the Black Country Living Museum 1903

Sunbeam Fire engine-BCLM_exhibit_05

Early fire engine on display at the Black Country Living Museum, preserved by the Marston Wolverhampton Heritage Trust

Sunbeam Cars

Pre WWI

  • 1901–04 Sunbeam Mabley
  • 1902-03 Sunbeam rear entrance Tonneau
  • 1903–10 Sunbeam 12 hp
  • 1904-05 Sunbeam side entrance Tonneau
  • 1905–11 Sunbeam 16/20 and 25/30
  • 1908 Sunbeam 20
  • 1908–09 Sunbeam 35
  • 1909 Sunbeam 16
  • 1909–15 Sunbeam 14/20, 16/20, and 20
  • 1910–11 Sunbeam 12/16
  • 1911–15 Sunbeam 18/22, 25/30 and 30
  • 1912–15 Sunbeam 12/16 and 16
  • 1912–14 Sunbeam 16/20

Inter-war years

1932 Sunbeam saloon registered July 2194 cc

1932 Sunbeam 20

1935 Sunbeam Model 25 Saloon

1935 Sunbeam Model 25 Saloon

1950 Sunbeam-Talbot 90

1950 Sunbeam-Talbot 90

  • 1919–21 Sunbeam 16/40
  • 1919–24 Sunbeam 24, 24/60 and 24/70
  • 1922–23 Sunbeam 14 and 14/40
  • 1923–26 Sunbeam 20/60
  • 1924–33 Sunbeam 16 (16.9 and 18.2)
  • 1925–30 Sunbeam 3 litre Super Sports (Twin Cam)
  • 1926–32 Sunbeam Long 25
  • 1927–30 Sunbeam 20 (20.9)
  • 1930–33 Sunbeam 20 (23.8)
  • 1933–35 Sunbeam Speed Twenty
  • 1934–35 Sunbeam Twenty
  • 1934–35 Sunbeam Twenty-Five
  • 1934–35 Sunbeam Dawn

Rootes Group Cars

  • 1936–37 Sunbeam 30
  • 1938–48 Sunbeam-Talbot Ten
  • 1939–48 Sunbeam-Talbot Two Litre
  • 1938–40 Sunbeam-Talbot Three Litre
  • 1939–40 Sunbeam-Talbot Four Litre

Post WWII

1938-1948 Sunbeam-Talbot Ten

Sunbeam-Talbot Ten
1938-48 Sunbeam Talbot 10 Saloon
Overview
Manufacturer Rootes Group
Production 1938-1948
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon
drophead coupé
tourer
Related Sunbeam-Talbot 2 Litre
Powertrain
Engine 1185 cc Straight-4
Transmission 4-speed manual
Dimensions
Wheelbase 94 in (2,388 mm)
Length 156 in (3,962 mm)
Width 60 in (1,524 mm)
Chronology
Predecessor Hillman Minx
Successor Sunbeam Talbot 80

The Sunbeam-Talbot Ten is a four-door saloon manufactured by the Rootes Group between 1938 and 1939, and then reintroduced after the Second World War and sold between 1945 and 1948. A cabriolet version was also available.

The British piece of the Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq business fell into the hands of Rootes in 1935, and the new owner’s strategy was clearly to use the prestige of the Sunbeam-Talbot name for selling larger numbers of lower priced cars than hitherto. The Sunbeam-Talbot Ten was one of the first products of the Rootes strategy, being in effect a stylishly rebodied version of the company’s existing middle market saloon, the Hillman Minx.

The classic saloon featured the streamlining increasingly characteristic of mainstream British cars in the later 1930s, along with “stand-alone” headlights. Power came from a 1185 cc side-valve engine for which 41 bhp (30 kW) of power output was claimed. All four wheels were suspended using semi elliptical leaf springs. Top speed was quoted as 68 mph (109 km/h).

Visually the car was virtually indistinguishable from the faster Sunbeam-Talbot 2 Litre, although the faster car was actually about 3 inches (8 cm) longer in wheel-base and overall body length.

In 1948 the Sunbeam-Talbot Ten was replaced by the more modern Sunbeam-Talbot 80 which was essentially a restyled version of the same car.

Sunbeam-Talbot 90

Sunbeam-Talbot 90
1948 Sunbeam-Talbot 90 Sedan

Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkI
Overview
Manufacturer Rootes Group
Production 1948-1954
20,381 built
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon
2-door drophead coupé
Related Sunbeam-Talbot 80
Powertrain
Engine 1944 cc Straight-4
till 1952
2267 cc Straight-4
from 1952
Transmission 4-speed manual
Dimensions
Wheelbase 97.5 in (2,476 mm)
Length 167.5 in (4,254 mm)
Width 62.5 in (1,588 mm)
Height 59 in (1,499 mm)
Chronology
Predecessor Sunbeam-Talbot 2 Litre
Successor Sunbeam MkIII

The Sunbeam Talbot 90 was a sporting car built by the Rootes Group in Ryton Coventry under their Sunbeam-Talbot brand.

The car was launched in 1948 along with the smaller-engined Sunbeam-Talbot 80 but many features dated back to the pre war Sunbeam-Talbot 2 Litre. The body was completely new and available as a four-door saloon or two-door drophead coupé. The saloon featured a “pillarless” join between the glass on the rear door and the rear quarter window.

The car went through three versions before the name was changed to Sunbeam MkIII (without “Talbot”) in 1954. It was the last car to bear the Sunbeam-Talbot name.

Sunbeam Talbot 90 Pillarless Rear Window

Sunbeam Talbot 90 “Pillarless” Rear Window

Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkI 1948–1950

Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkI Saloon

Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkI Saloon

The original version had a 64 bhp (48 kW) 1,944 cc side-valve four-cylinder engine derived from a pre-war Humber unit carried over from the Sunbeam-Talbot 2-Litre. The chassis was derived from the Ten model but with wider track and had beam axles front and rear and leaf springs. The brakes were updated to have hydraulic operation. Saloon and Drophead coupé bodies were fitted to the chassis and the rear wheel openings were covered by metal “spats”.

4000 were made.

Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkII 1950–1952

Sunbeam-Talbot 90 Mk II cabriolet

Sunbeam-Talbot 90 Mk II cabriolet

The Mk II got a new chassis with independent front suspension using coil springs. The engine was enlarged to 2267 cc. The increased engine block capacity was shared with the company’s 1950 Humber Hawk, but in the cylinder head the Humber retained (until 1954) the old side-valve arrangement. The Sunbeam’s cylinder head was changed to incorporate overhead valves, giving rise to a claimed power output of 70 bhp (52 kW), compared with only 58 bhp (43 kW) for the Humber. The favourable power-to-weight ratio meant that the Talbot could be “geared quite high” and still provide impressive acceleration where needed for “quick overtaking”.

The front of the Talbot 90 body was modified; the headlights were higher and there were air inlet grilles on either side of the radiator

A Coupé version tested by The Motor magazine in 1952 had a top speed of 85.2 mph (137.1 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 20.2 seconds. A fuel consumption of 22.5 miles per imperial gallon (12.6 L/100 km; 18.7 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1393 including taxes.

5493 were made.

Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkIIA 1952–1954

The Mk IIA had a higher compression engine raising output to 77 bhp (57 kW). To cater for the higher speeds the car was now capable of, the brakes were enlarged and to improve brake cooling the wheels were pierced. The Talbot MkIIA coupe/convertible is regarded as the rarest of the Sunbeam Talbots.

The rear wheel spats were no longer fitted.

10,888 were made.

Sunbeam-Talbot 90 Mk IIA saloon
Sunbeam-Talbot 90 Mk IIA saloon
1953 Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkIIA Drophead Coupe
Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkIIA Drophead Coupe of 1953
Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkIIA Sedan
Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkIIA Sedan
Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkIIA Drophead Coupe
Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkIIA Drophead Coupe
Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkIIA Drophead Coupe a
Sunbeam-Talbot 90 MkIIA Drophead Coupe

Sunbeam Mk III

Sunbeam Mk III
1956 Sunbeam Mk III

1956 Sunbeam Mk III
Overview
Manufacturer Rootes Group
Production 1954-1957
2,250 built
Assembly United Kingdom
Australia
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon
2-door drophead coupé
Powertrain
Engine 2267 cc Straight-4
Chronology
Predecessor Sunbeam-Talbot 90

From 1954 to 1957 the car continued, but without the Talbot name and was marketed as the Sunbeam MkIII and badged on the radiator shell as Sunbeam Supreme. The drophead coupé was not made after 1955.

There were some minor styling changes to the front with enlarged air intakes on each side of the radiator shell and three small portholes just below each side of the bonnet near to the windscreen. Duo-tone paint schemes were also available. Engine power was increased to 80 bhp (60 kW) and overdrive became an option.

A Mk III tested by The Motor magazine in 1955 had a top speed of 93.6 mph (150.6 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 17.4 seconds. A fuel consumption of 22.1 miles per imperial gallon (12.8 L/100 km; 18.4 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1191 including taxes.

The main Rootes Group dealers in Leicester, Castles of Leicester, offered a conversion that moved the gearchange to the transmission tunnel, modified the cylinder head, fitted a bonnet air scoop and changed the way the boot lid opened. These models were not connected with the Sunbeam factory but are sometimes referred to as the Mk IIIS. Some 30-40 cars were modified. The revised gearchange was also offered as an after market accessory and was suitable for fitting to earlier models also.

Approximately 2250 were made.

1953-75 Sunbeam Alpine

Sunbeam Alpine
Overview
Manufacturer Rootes Group
Production 1953–75
Assembly Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire, England
Body and chassis
Body style Sports car
Layout FR layout

The Sunbeam Alpine is a sporty two-seat open car from Rootes Group‘s Sunbeam car marque. The original was launched in 1953 as the first vehicle from Sunbeam-Talbot to bear the Sunbeam name alone since the 1935 takeover of Sunbeam and Talbot by the Rootes Group.

Alpine Mark I and III

Sunbeam Alpine Mark I & III
TMP3 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I & III
Overview
Production 1953–55
1.582 made
Assembly United Kingdom
Australia
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door roadster
Related Sunbeam-Talbot 90
Powertrain
Engine 2267 cc (2.3L) I4
Dimensions
Wheelbase 97.5 in (2,476 mm)
Length 168.5 in (4,280 mm)
Width 62.5 in (1,588 mm)
Chronology
Successor Series Alpine

The Alpine was derived from the Sunbeam-Talbot 90 Saloon, and has become colloquially known as the “Talbot” Alpine. It was a two-seater sports roadster initially developed by Sunbeam-Talbot dealer George Hartwell in Bournemouth, as a one-off rally car. It had its beginnings as a 1952 Sunbeam-Talbot drophead coupé, and was supposedly named by Norman Garrad of the works Competition Department, who was heavily involved in Sunbeam-Talbot’s successes in the Alpine Rally during the early 1950s using the saloon models.

The car has a four-cylinder 2267 cc engine from the saloon, but with a raised compression ratio. However, since it was developed from the saloon platform, it suffered from rigidity compromises despite extra side members in the chassis. The gearbox ratios were changed, and from 1954 an overdrive unit became standard. The gearchange lever was column-mounted.

The Alpine Mark I and Mark III (no Mark II was made) were hand-built – as was the 90 drophead coupé – at Thrupp & Maberly coachbuilders from 1953 to 1955, and remained in production for only two years. Of the 1582 automobiles produced, 961 were exported to the USA and Canada, 445 stayed in the UK, and 175 went to other world markets. It has been estimated that perhaps as few as 200 have survived.

The Sunbeam Alpine Mk 1 Special: It was based on the 2267cc Mk 1 Sunbeam Talbot motor, with alloy rocker cover and Siamese exhaust ports [ cylinders 2 and 3 ]. These motors developed a reputed ,97.5 bhp at 4,500 rpm, mainly by raising the compression ratio to 8.0:1 and incorporating a special induction manifold with a twin choke solex 40 P.I.I carburettor .

Sunbeam Alpine Team Cars : MKV 21 – 26: The motors were configured the same as the Sunbeam Alpine Mk I Special, with further tuning by ERA to raise power to over 100 bhp.

Sunbeam Alpine Mk II

Alpine Mk III

In the 1953 Alpine Rally four Alpines won the Coupe des Alpes, one of which, finishing 6th, was driven by Stirling Moss; Sheila van Damm won the Coupe Des Dames in the same rally.

Very few of these cars are ever seen on the big screen. However, a sapphire blue Alpine featured prominently in the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock film To Catch a Thief starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. More recently, the American PBS show History Detectives tried to verify that an Alpine roadster owned by a private individual was the actual car used in that movie. Although the Technicolor process could “hide” the car’s true colour, and knowing that the car was shipped back from Monaco to the USA for use in front of a rear projection effect, the car shown on the programme was ultimately proven not to be the film car upon comparison of the vehicle identification numbers.

Alpine Series I to V

Sunbeam Alpine Series I to V
Sunbeam alpine IV arp
Overview
Production 1959–1968
69,251 made
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door roadster
Related Sunbeam Tiger
Powertrain
Engine Series I: 91.2 cu in (1.5 L) I4
Series II, III & IV—1592 cc (1.6L) I4
Series V—1725 cc (1.7L) I4
Dimensions
Wheelbase 86 in (2,184 mm)
Length 155 in (3,937 mm)
Width 61 in (1,549 mm)
Height 51 in (1,295 mm)
Chronology
Successor none

Kenneth Howes and Jeff Crompton were tasked with doing a complete redesign in 1956, with the goal of producing a dedicated sports car aimed principally at the US market. Ken Howes contributed some 80 per cent of the overall design work, which bears more than incidental resemblance to the early Ford Thunderbird; Howe had worked at Ford before joining Rootes.

The Alpine was produced in four subsequent revisions through to 1968. Total production numbered around 70,000. Production stopped shortly after the Chrysler takeover of the Rootes Group.

Series I 1959–1960

The “Series” Alpine started production in 1959. One of the original prototypes still survives and was raced by British Touring car champion Bernard Unett.

The car made extensive use of components from other Rootes Group vehicles and was built on a modified floorpan from the Hillman Husky estate car. The running gear came mainly from the Sunbeam Rapier, but with front disc brakes replacing the saloon car’s drums. An overdrive unit and wire wheels were optional. The suspension was independent at the front using coil springs and at the rear had a live axle and semi-elliptic springing. The Girling-manufactured brakes used 9.5 in (241 mm) disc at the front and 9 in (229 mm)drums at the rear.

Coupe versions of the post-1959 version were built by Thomas Harrington Ltd. Until 1962 the car was assembled for Rootes by Armstrong Siddeley.

An open car with overdrive was tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1959. It had a top speed of 99.5 mph (160.1 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 13.6 seconds. A fuel consumption of 31.4 miles per imperial gallon (9.0 L/100 km; 26.1 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1031 including taxes.

11,904 examples of the series I were produced.

In 1960 Sunbeam marketed a limited-production three-door variant of the Alpine, marketed as a shooting brake. With leather interior and walnut trim, its price was double that of its open counterpart.

The Series I featured a 1494 cc engine and was styled by the Loewy Studios for the Rootes Group. It had dual downdraft carburetors, a soft top that could be hidden by special integral covers and the first available roll up side windows offered in a British sports car of that time.

Series II 1962

The Series II of 1962 featured an enlarged 1592 cc engine producing 80 bhp and revised rear suspension, but there were few other changes. When it was replaced in 1963, 19,956 had been made.

A Series II with hardtop and overdrive was tested by The Motor magazine in 1960, which recorded a top speed of 98.6 mph (158.7 km/h), acceleration from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 13.6 seconds and a fuel consumption of 31.0 miles per imperial gallon (9.1 L/100 km; 25.8 mpg-US). The test car cost £1,110 including taxes.

Series III 1963–1964

The Series III was produced in open and removable hardtop versions. On the hardtop version the top could be removed but no soft-top was provided as the area it would have been folded into was occupied by a small rear seat. Also, the 1592 cc engine developed less power. To provide more room in the boot, twin fuel tanks in the rear wings were fitted. Quarter light were fitted to the windows. Between 1963 and 1964, 5863 were made. alpine

Series IV 1964–1965

The lower-output engine option was now dropped with convertible and hardtop versions sharing the 82 bhp engine with single Solex carburettor. A new rear styling was introduced with the fins largely removed. Automatic transmission with floor-mounted control became an option, but was unpopular. From autumn 1964 a new manual gearbox with synchromesh on first gear was adopted in line with its use in other Rootes cars. A total of 12,406 were made.

Series V 1965–1968

The final version had a new five-bearing 1725 cc engine with twin Zenith-Stromberg semi-downdraught carburettors producing 93 bhp. There was no longer an automatic transmission option. 19,122 were made. In some export markets, 100 PS (99 bhp) SAE were claimed.

1967 Sunbeam Alpine Series V
1967 Sunbeam Alpine Series V

1967 Sunbeam Alpine Series Va

1967 Sunbeam Alpine Series V

A muscle-car variant of the later versions was also built, the Sunbeam Tiger.

Competition

1961 Sunbeam Harrington Alpine Engine 1592cc S41961 Sunbeam Harrington Alpine

1961 Sunbeam Harrington Alpine

The Alpine enjoyed relative success in European and North American competition. Probably the most notable international success was at Le Mans, where a Sunbeam Harrington won the Thermal Index of Efficiency in 1961. In the United States the Alpine competed successfully in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events.

Vince Tamburo won the G-Production National Championship in 1960 using the 1494cc Series I Alpine. In 1961 Don Sesslar took 2nd in the F-Production National Championship followed by a 3rd in the Championship in 1962. For 1963 the Alpine was moved into E-Production facing stiff competition from a class dominated by the Porsche 356. Sesslar tied in points for the national championship while Norman Lamb won the Southwest Division Championship in his Alpine.

A championship for Don Sesslar finally was achieved in 1964 with 5 wins (the SCCA totaled the 5 top finishes for the year). Dan Carmichael won the Central Division Championship in 1964 and 65. Carmichael continued to race the Alpine until 1967, when he finished 2nd at the American Road Race of Champions.

Bernard Unett raced factory prototype Alpine (registration number XRW 302) from 1962 to 1964 and in 1964 won the Fredy Dixon challenge trophy, which was considered to be biggest prize on the British club circuit at the time. Unett went on to become British Touring car champion three times during the 1970s.

A six-car works team was set up for the 1953 Alpine Rally. Although outwardly similar to their production-car counterparts they reputedly incorporated some 36 modifications, boosting the engine to an estimated 97.5 bhp.

Alpine “Fastback”

Sunbeam Alpine “Fastback”
1969 Sunbeam Alpine 'Fastback' Coupe
Overview
Production 1969–1975
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door fastback
Powertrain
Engine 1725 cc (1.7L) I4
Dimensions
Wheelbase 98.5 in (2,502 mm)
Length 174.5 in (4,432 mm)
Width 64.75 in (1,645 mm)
Chronology
Successor none
Main article: Rootes Arrow

Rootes introduced the “Arrow” range in 1967, and by 1968 the saloons and estates (such as the Hillman Hunter) had been joined by a Sunbeam Rapier Fastback coupé model. In 1969, a cheaper, slightly slower and more economical version of the Rapier (still sold as a sporty model) was badged as the new Sunbeam Alpine.

All models featured the group’s strong five-bearing 1725 cc engine, with the Alpine featuring a single Stromberg CD150 carburettor to the Rapier’s twins, and the Rapier H120’s twin 40DCOE Weber carburettors.

Although drawing many parts from the group’s “parts bin”, including the rear lights of the estate Arrow models, the fastbacks nevertheless offered a number of unique features, including their pillar-less doors and rear side windows which combined to open up the car much like a cabriolet with a hardtop fitted. Extensive wooden dashboards were fitted to some models, and sports seats were available for a time.

Post-Sunbeam Alpine

The Alpine name was resurrected in 1976 by Chrysler (by then the owner of Rootes), on a totally unrelated vehicle that could not have been more different: the UK-market version of the Simca 1307, a French-built family hatchback. The car was initially badged as the Chrysler Alpine, and then finally as the Talbot Alpine following Chrysler Europe’s takeover by Peugeot in 1978. The name survived until 1984, although the design survived (with different names) until 1986.

Sunbeam Rapier

Sunbeam Rapier
Sunbeam Rapier convertible at Battlesbridge Classic car Show

Sunbeam Rapier IIIA convertible
Overview
Manufacturer Rootes Group
Production 1955-1976
Body and chassis
Body style 2 door saloon
2 door convertible
2 door fastback coupe
Related Hillman Minx
Singer Gazelle
Sunbeam Alpine Fastback coupé
Chronology
Predecessor Sunbeam Mark III
Successor none

The Sunbeam Rapier is an automobile produced by the Rootes Group from 1955 to 1976, in two different body-styles, the “Series” cars (which underwent several revisions) and the later (1967–1976) fastback shape, part of the “Arrow” range.

The first generation Rapier was the first of the “Audax” range of light cars produced by the Rootes Group, in this instance as part of their Sunbeam marque. Announced at the London Motor Show in October 1955, it preceded its Hillman Minx and Singer Gazelle counterparts which were not introduced until 1956.

A four seat, two door hardtop coupé – designated Series I with the introduction of the Series II in 1958 – it was different from the Sunbeam Mark III, the car it would eventually replace. Although designed “in house” by the Rootes Group, it was inspired, via the Raymond Loewy design organisation, by the new-generation Studebaker coupés of 1953.

Series I

Sunbeam Rapier I
Sunbeam Rapier Series I. Picture by David Parrott.
Overview
Production 1955–1958
7477 produced.
Body and chassis
Body style 2 door saloon
Powertrain
Engine 1390 cc overhead valve Straight-4
Dimensions
Wheelbase 96 in (2,400 mm)
Length 160 in (4,100 mm)
Width 60 in (1,500 mm)
Height 57 in (1,400 mm)

The styling of the Series I Rapier was undertaken by the design firm of Raymond Loewy Associates and showed a great deal of influence of Raymond Loewy‘s 1953 Studebaker Hawk (itself an acclaimed design). Available in a range of two-tone colour schemes typical of the period, it had a steering column gear change, leather trim and an overdrive as standard fittings. Vinyl trim was an option in the UK and standard in certain export territories. Rapier bodies were built by Pressed Steel, shipped to Thrupp & Maberly in north London where they were painted and trimmed, then shipped again to the Rootes assembly plant at Ryton-on-Dunsmore near Coventry where the engines, transmission and running gear were fitted. This complex situation persisted until late 1963 when the Series IV was introduced.

The Rapier’s 1390 cc engine was essentially the same as that fitted to the Hillman Minx but with a raised compression ratio (8:1 instead of 7:1), a Zenith DIF 36 carburettor and revised inlet and exhaust manifolds. In this form it developed 62.5 bhp (47 kW; 63 PS) at 5000 rpm. A column change, four speed transmission with overdrive on third and top was included in the price as a standard feature.

From October 1956, directly as a result of experience gained in international rallying by Rootes’ competition department, the Rapier was fitted with the updated R67 engine on which the Stromberg carburettor was replaced by twin Zenith 36 WIP carburettors on a new inlet manifold. This engine produced 67.5 bhp (50 kW; 68 PS) at 5000 rpm, the effect of which was to reduce the Rapier’s 0-60 mph time by almost 1 second and increase its top speed by 3 mph (4.8 km/h).

British magazine The Motor tested a Series I twin carburettor saloon in 1957, recording a top speed of 85.7 mph (137.9 km/h) and acceleration from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 20.9 seconds and a fuel consumption of 30.5 miles per imperial gallon (9.3 L/100 km; 25.4 mpg-US). The test car cost £1043 including taxes of £348.

In competition, a Rapier driven by Peter Harper finished in fifth place in the 1958 Monte Carlo Rally.

In total, 7,477 units were produced of this initial version of the Sunbeam Rapier. It was discontinued in 1958 on the introduction of the Series II.

Series II

Sunbeam Rapier II
Sunbeam Rapier Series 2 Convertible. Picture by David Parrott
Overview
Production 1958–1959
15,151 produced.
Body and chassis
Body style 2 door saloon
2 door convertible
Powertrain
Engine 1494 cc overhead valve Straight-4

The Sunbeam Rapier Series II was announced on 6 February 1958, available in hardtop and convertible forms. Rootes arranged for nine of the new cars to be in Monte Carlo for the press to try at the end of the 1958 Monte Carlo Rally.

The traditional Sunbeam radiator grille was reintroduced, albeit shortened and widened and the spaces at its sides were filled with horizontal side grilles. The two-tone lower body colour scheme of the Series I was discontinued in favour of a broad full length flash in the same colour as the roof, but the most obvious change was the appearance on the rear wings of pronounced fins.

The interior of the Series II was little changed from that of the Series I, except that a floor gear change replaced the column change, a modification, developed on the works Series I rally cars. To keep costs down, the leather upholstery, standard on the Series I, was discontinued in favour of vinyl and overdrive became an extra cost option.

An improvement in the Series II though, was its more powerful engine. Referred to as the Rallymaster, it had an increased capacity of 1494 cc. The capacity increase combined with a higher compression ratio of 8.5:1 and larger inlet and exhaust valves to raise the power output to 73 bhp (54 kW; 74 PS) at 5,200 rpm. Autocar quoted the top speed as 91 mph (146 km/h) with a 0-60 mph time of 20.2 seconds. Also as a direct result of competition experience, the Series II was fitted with larger front brakes and a recirculating ball steering box instead of the worm and nut box of the Series I.

The Series II was discontinued in favour of the Series III in 1959 after 15,151 units (hardtop and convertible) had been built.

Series III

Sunbeam Rapier III
Sunbeam Rapier Series 3 Convertible. Picture by David Parrott.
Overview
Production 1959–1961
15,368 produced.
Body and chassis
Body style 2 door saloon
2 door convertible
Powertrain
Engine 1494 cc overhead valve Straight-4

The Series III was introduced in September 1959.

Rootes made subtle changes to the car’s body which individually were insignificant but when combined, considerably altered its appearance. For example, the number of horizontal bars in each of the side grilles was increased from three to four and the boot lid acquired an oblong number plate recess and surround in place of the square one of the earlier cars. The most striking change was the redesigned side flash, now narrower and lower down the side of the car with the Rapier script on its rear end. The most subtle change, however, was a reduction in thickness of the windscreen pillars and a lowering of the scuttle line to give a 20% increase in windscreen area.

Inside the Series III the changes were more evident. Rootes stylists completely redesigned the seats and interior panels and specified that they be trimmed in single colour vinyl with contrasting piping. For the first time, deep pile carpets were fitted as standard in the foot-wells (previous versions had rubber mats). The steering wheel, control knobs and switches were in black plastic instead of beige. The dashboard, instead of being as in the earlier cars padded metal and plastic, was covered in burr walnut veneer surmounted by a padded crash roll fitted with black-faced British Jaeger instruments.

Mechanically, the Series III benefited from the design of the Sunbeam Alpine sports car with which it shared its engine. Although the engine’s displacement was still 1494 cc, it was fitted with a new eight-port aluminium cylinder head with an increased compression ratio and redesigned valves, and used a new, sportier camshaft. The twin Zenith carburettors from the Series II remained but were mounted on a new water heated inlet manifold. The result of these changes was a power increase of 5 bhp (4 kW; 5 PS) to 78 bhp (58 kW; 79 PS) at 5400 rpm.

Gearbox changes included higher second, third and top gear ratios, and a reduced angle of gear lever movement to make for shorter lever travel and snappier changes. New front disc brakes significantly improved the Rapier’s braking capability and widened its front track to give greater stability and improved road-holding.

A saloon with overdrive was tested by British magazine The Motor in 1960 and had a top speed of 91.7 mph (147.6 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 16.6 seconds. A fuel consumption of 29.5 miles per imperial gallon (9.6 L/100 km; 24.6 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1045 including taxes.

The Series III, of which 15,368 units were built (hardtop and convertible) gave way to the Series IIIA in April 1961.

Series IIIA

Sunbeam Rapier IIIA
Sunbeam Rapier Series IIIA. Picture by David Parrott.
Overview
Production 1961–1963
17,354 produced.
Body and chassis
Body style 2 door saloon
2 door convertible
Powertrain
Engine 1592 cc overhead valve Straight-4

In 1961 the Series IIIA was announced with the Series II Sunbeam Alpine 1592 cc engine.[7]

Externally and internally the Series IIIA was identical to the Series III. The improvements were directed solely at improving the durability of the car. To this end, engine capacity was increased to 1592 cc and a stiffer crankshaft fitted. To increase reliability, the crankshaft incorporated larger diameter connecting rod bearings which called for modifications to the connecting rods and gudgeon pins. Modified oil and water pumps completed the engine changes. As a result, power output increased from 78 bhp (58 kW) to 80.25 bhp (60 kW; 81 PS) at 5,100 rpm and torque increased from 84 lb·ft (114 N·m) at 3500 rpm to 88.2 ft·lbf (119.6 N·m) at 3,900 rpm.

In addition, the Series IIIA included many detail changes such as an increased diameter front anti-roll bar which greatly improved roadholding, a redesigned clutch bell housing, a revised clutch assembly with nine pressure springs instead of six and a redesigned air cleaner assembly. Inside the car a fresh-air heater, hitherto available only at extra cost, became a standard fitting. All of these changes combined to make the Series IIIA subtly different from its predecessor and to give the Sunbeam Rapier a new lease of life in the showroom.

Maximum speed for the Series IIIA was lower than the Series III at 90 mph (140 km/h). It also took longer than the Series III to get to 60 mph (19.3 seconds) but its engine was far more durable.  in mid 1963, the Series IIIA convertible was discontinued but the hardtop soldiered on until October 1963 when it was replaced by the Series IV. When production of the Series IIIA ceased, 17,354 units had been built.

Series IV

Sunbeam Rapier IV
Sunbeam Rapier Series 4. Picture by David Parrott.
Overview
Production 1963–1965
9,700 produced.
Body and chassis
Body style 2 door saloon
Powertrain
Engine 1592 cc overhead valve Straight-4

Late in 1963, Rootes were set to drop the Rapier. It was no longer the mainstay of the competitions department because Rootes had directed its competitive effort towards the Hillman Imp and the Sunbeam Tiger. In fact a totally new Series IV Rapier had been designed, prototypes built and testing completed, and then the Rootes Group changed its mind! The new Series IV Rapier became the Mark I Humber Sceptre and the old Series IIIA Rapier was redesigned, hopefully to give it a new lease of life as a touring saloon rather than a sports coupé.

The most obvious difference was the change to 13-inch (330 mm) road wheels in common with the rest of Rootes’ Light Car range. This meant that the stainless steel wheel trims of earlier Rapiers were replaced by Rootes corporate hub caps and rim finishers. At the front, the car was redesigned to make it look more up-to-date. A new bonnet made the front look lower and flatter and the front wings were modified to accept extensions housing alloy side grilles and sidelights with amber turn indicators. The traditional Sunbeam grille, already stylised for the Series II, was further modified to give a lower, more square shape with a pronounced convex profile. New headlamp rims were fitted, in fact Sunbeam Alpine items but chromed for the Rapier, and a new front bumper using the same shape and profile as the rest of the Light Car range. At the back, a new full width number plate plinth appeared with a new Light Car range bumper. To give a more open look from the side, the frames were removed from the side windows. Finally, small badges fitted at the bottom of each front wing and on the boot lid proclaimed each car to be a “Series IV”.

Inside, a new dash, still in walnut veneer, but with the glove box raised into the dash itself allowed the inclusion of a proper storage shelf on each side of the car. Instrumentation and controls were much as before except that the heater switches and ashtray were now housed in a console in front of the gear lever. To aid driver comfort, an adjustable steering column was fitted along with new front seats which allowed more fore and aft adjustment and for the first time, included backrest adjustment.

In common with the rest of the Light Car range, the Rapier’s front suspension was re-engineered to replace the half king pin on each side of the car with a sealed for life ball joint. All other suspension joints became either sealed for life or were rubber bushed thereby eliminating every grease point on the car. Gearing was adjusted overall to compensate for the smaller wheels and the front brake discs were reduced in size so that they would fit inside the wheels. A brake servo became standard and the spring and damper settings were adjusted to give a softer ride. A new diaphragm clutch and new clutch master cylinder brought lighter and more progressive clutch operation.

The 1592 cc engine from the Series IIIA was unchanged but the twin Zenith carburettors finally gave way to a single twin-choke Solex 32PAIA in the interests of serviceability. The effect of the new carburettor was to increase power to 84 bhp (63 kW; 85 PS) and torque to 91 lb·ft (123 N·m) at 3,500 rpm.

In October 1964, along with the rest of the Light Car range, the Series IV received the new Rootes all synchromesh gearbox, a change which coincided with the introduction of a new computerised chassis numbering system.

The Motor road test of April 1964 gave the Series IV Rapier’s maximum speed as 91 mph (146 km/h) and its 0-60 mph time as 17 seconds.

When production of the Series IV ceased in 1965, 9700 units had been built.

Series V

Sunbeam Rapier V
1966 Sunbeam Rapier Series V Metallic Green

Rapier Series V 1966
Overview
Production 1965–1967
3,759 produced.
Body and chassis
Body style 2 door saloon
Powertrain
Engine 1724 cc overhead valve Straight-4

Pending completion of the new Fastback Rapier, Rootes decided to have one more go at updating the Sunbeam Rapier. In September 1965 they introduced the Series V version which looked exactly like the Series IV inside and out except for badges on wings and boot which now said “1725”, revealing a re-developed engine, although the actual capacity was 1724 cc.

Rootes redesigned the Rapier’s four cylinder engine to increase the capacity, with a new five main bearing crankshaft, making the unit stronger and smoother. This engine would be developed for many subsequent models. In the Series V Rapier the engine developed 91 hp (68 kW; 92 PS) at 5,500 rpm.

To further update the car, they changed its polarity from positive to negative earth and fitted an alternator in place of the dynamo. They also devised a new twin pipe exhaust system so that the new engine could breathe more easily.

The effect of these changes was to increase the Rapier’s maximum speed to 95 mph (153 km/h) and reduce its time from rest to 60 mph (97 km/h) to 14.1 seconds. However, for all its improvements, the Series V just did not sell. By the time it was discontinued in June 1967, only 3,759 units had been built, making it the rarest of all the “Series” Sunbeam Rapiers.

Sunbeam Rapier Fastback coupé

Sunbeam Rapier Fastback
Sunbeam Rapier 'Fastback' Coupe. Picture by David Parrott.
Overview
Production 1967–1976
46,204 produced including Alpine and H120.
Body and chassis
Body style 2 door fastback coupe
Related Rootes Arrow range
Powertrain
Engine 1725 cc overhead valve Straight-4

By 1967 Rootes’s “Arrow” range was ready. As well as the Hillman Hunter, the range also included a new generation of Sunbeam Rapiers, with fastback coupé bodies and a sporty image. Like the earlier Series 1–5 models, it was a two-door pillarless hardtop.

The Arrow Rapier – or Fastback, as it came to be known – launched in October 1967, was a four-seat coupé based on the chassis of the Hillman Hunter Estate. Although the Rapier used the tail lamps and rear valance from the Hunter Estate, the rest of its superstructure was unique.

The Rapier used the Rootes four-cylinder, five-bearing 1725 cc engine, which was tilted slightly to the right to enable a lower bonnet line, in common with the other Arrow models. With its twin Stromberg 150CD carburettors the engine produced 88 hp (66 kW; 89 PS)at 5200 rpm. Overdrive was standard with the manual gearbox, and Borg-Warner automatic transmission was an optional extra.

The Fastback Rapier continued almost unchanged until 1976, when it was discontinued without a replacement. During its lifetime it formed the basis for the more powerful Sunbeam Rapier H120, introduced in October 1968 and identifiable by its boot-lid spoiler and polished sill covers: it shared its Holbay Engineering-tuned 110 bhp engine (with twin Weber carburettors) with the Hillman Hunter GLS. The Rapier was also the basis for the slightly cheaper but similarly bodied, single-carburettor Sunbeam Alpine Fastback introduced in October 1969. Rapier running gear (though not the estate chassis) was also used in the Humber Sceptre MkIII, Hillman GT and Hillman Hunter GT models from the Arrow range.

Between 1967 and 1969, the Rapier was built at Ryton-on-Dunsmore, but from 1969 until its demise in 1976, it was built at Rootes’ Hillman Imp factory at Linwood in Scotland. In all, 46,204 units were built (including Rapier, H120 and Alpine versions).

Maximum speed of the Rapier was 103 mph (166 km/h) and it could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) from rest in 12.8 seconds. In the United States, it was marketed as the Sunbeam Alpine GT.

Sunbeam Alpine Fastback coupé

Sunbeam Alpine Fastback Coupé
1969 Sunbeam Alpine Fastback

Sunbeam Alpine Fastback coupé
Overview
Production 1970–1975
Body and chassis
Body style 2 door fastback coupe
Powertrain
Engine 1725 cc overhead valve Straight-4

The Sunbeam Alpine Fastback, introduced for 1970, was essentially a Rapier with a simplified specification, developed to plug a gap in the Arrow range above the Singer Vogue. It used the same 1725 cc engine as the Hillman Hunter which, fitted with a single Stromberg 150CD carburettor, developed 74 hp (55 kW; 75 PS) at 5500 rpm. Transmission options included overdrive on cars with a manual gearbox or a Borg-Warner automatic transmission.

The Alpine, though well equipped, was less sporty in style than the Rapier. It had a wooden dashboard with fewer instruments, instead of the Rapier’s cowled plastic one, and wood instead of metal on the transmission tunnel. There were also different wheel trims, no aluminium sill finishers (nor the polished ones of the H120) and no vinyl trim on its C pillars. Above all at GBP1086 in the UK it was significantly (for the time) cheaper than the GBP1200 Rapier.

Maximum speed of the Alpine was 91 mph (146 km/h) and it could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) from rest in 14.6 seconds.

The Fastback Alpine was discontinued in 1975, before the Rapier and H120.

Sunbeam Rapier H120

Sunbeam Rapier H120
Sunbeam Rapier H120 'Fastback' Coupe. Picture by David Parrott. Summary
Overview
Production 1970–1976
Body and chassis
Body style 2 door fastback coupe
Powertrain
Engine 1725 cc overhead valve Straight-4

To produce a faster version of the Fastback Rapier, Rootes developed the H120. Based on the Rapier, the H120 had a more powerful version of the 1725 cc engine specially developed by Holbay Engineering. It produced 108 bhp (gross) at 5,200 rpm and was fitted with a special cylinder head, high lift camshaft, tuned length four-branch exhaust manifold, special distributor and twin Weber 40DCOE carburetters. The H120 had a close ratio gearbox, a heavy duty overdrive and a high ratio rear axle.

To add to its sporty image, the H120 had wider Rostyle wheels, broad side flashes, polished sill covers, a matt black radiator grille and a new boot lid incorporating a faired-in spoiler. To further distinguish the model from others in the range, it had H120 badges on the front wings and in the centre of the grille.

Maximum speed of the H120 was 106 mph (171 km/h) and it could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) from standstill in 11.1 seconds.

The H120 was discontinued with the Fastback Rapier in 1976.

Sunbeam Tiger

Sunbeam Tiger
Sunbeam Tiger Red
Overview
Manufacturer Rootes Group
Production 1964–67
7083 built
Assembly West Bromwich, England
Body and chassis
Class Sports car
Body style 2-door roadster
Layout FR layout
Related Sunbeam Alpine
Powertrain
Engine Tiger I: 260 cu in (4.3 L) V8 (Ford)
Tiger II: 289 cu in (4.7 L) V8 (Ford)
Transmission Ford 4-speed manual
Dimensions
Wheelbase 86 in (2,184 mm)
Length 156 in (3,962 mm)
Width 60.5 in (1,537 mm)
Height 51.5 in (1,308 mm)
Kerb weight Tiger I: 2,565 lb (1,163 kg)
Tiger II: 2,574 lb (1,168 kg)

The Sunbeam Tiger is a high-performance V8 version of the British Rootes Group‘s Sunbeam Alpine roadster, designed in part by American car designer and racing driver Carroll Shelby and produced from 1964 until 1967. Shelby had carried out a similar V8 conversion on the AC Cobra, and hoped to be offered the contract to produce the Tiger at his facility in America. Rootes decided instead to contract the assembly work to Jensen at West Bromwich in England, and pay Shelby a royalty on every car produced.

Two major versions of the Tiger were built: the Series I (1964–67) was fitted with the 260 cu in (4.3 L) Ford V8; the Series II, of which only 633 were built in the final year of Tiger production, was fitted with the larger Ford 289 cu in (4.7 L) engine. Two prototype and extensively modified versions of the Series I competed in the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans, but neither completed the race. Rootes also entered the Tiger in European rallies with some success, and for two years it was the American Hot Rod Association‘s national record holder over a quarter-mile drag strip.

Production ended in 1967 soon after the Rootes Group was taken over by Chrysler, which did not have a suitable engine to replace the Ford V8. Owing to the ease and affordability of modifying the Tiger, there are few surviving cars in standard form.

Background

The Sunbeam Tiger was a development of the Sunbeam Alpine, introduced by the British manufacturer Rootes in 1953. Rootes realised that the Alpine needed more power if it was to compete successfully in world markets, but lacked a suitable engine and the resources to develop one. The company therefore approached Ferrari to redesign the standard inline-four cylinder engine, recognising the sales cachet that “powered by Ferrari” would be likely to bring. Negotiations initially seemed to go well, but ultimately broke down.

In 1962 racing driver and Formula 1 champion Jack Brabham proposed to Rootes competition manager Norman Garrad the idea of fitting the Alpine with a Ford V8 engine,[a] which Garrad relayed to his son Ian, then the West Coast Sales Manager of Rootes American Motors Inc. Ian Garrad lived close to where Carroll Shelby had his Shelby American operation, which had done a similar V8 conversion for the British AC Cobra.

Initial prototypes

According to journalist William Carroll, after measuring the Alpine’s engine bay with “a ‘precision’ instrument of questionable antecedents” – a wooden yardstick – Ian Garrad despatched his service manager Walter McKenzie to visit the local new car dealerships, looking for a V8 engine that might fit. McKenzie returned with the news that the Ford 260 V8 engine appeared to be suitable, which apart from its size advantage was relatively light at 440 lb (200 kg). Ian Garrad asked Shelby for an idea of the timescale and cost to build a prototype, which Shelby estimated to be eight weeks and $10,000. He then approached Brian Rootes, head of sales for the Rootes Group, for funding and authorisation to build a prototype, to which Brian Rootes agreed.

Well all right, at that price when can we start? But for God’s sake keep it quiet from Dad [Lord Rootes] until you hear from me. I’ll work the $10,000 (£3,571) out some way, possibly from the advertising account.

Brian Rootes

Ian Garrad, impatient to establish whether the conversion was feasible, commissioned racing driver and fabricator Ken Miles to build another prototype as quickly as he could. Miles was provided with a budget of $800, a Series II Alpine, a Ford V8 engine and a 2-speed automatic transmission, and in about a week he had a running V8 conversion, thus proving the concept.

Shelby began work on his prototype, the white car as it came to be known, in April 1963, and by the end of the month it was ready for trial runs around Los Angeles. Ian Garrad and John Panks, director of Rootes Motors Inc. of North America, tested an early version of the car and were so impressed that Panks wrote a glowing report to Brian Rootes: “we have a tremendously exciting sports car which handles extremely well and has a performance equivalent to an XX-K Jaguar … it is quite apparent that we have a most successful experiment that can now be developed into a production car.”

Provisionally known as the Thunderbolt, the Shelby prototype was more polished than the Miles version, and used a Ford 4-speed manual transmission. The Ford V8 was only 3.5 inches longer than the Alpine’s 4-cylinder engine it replaced, so the primary concern was the engine’s width. Like Miles, Shelby found that the Ford V8 would only just fit into the Alpine engine bay: “I think that if the figure of speech about the shoehorn ever applied to anything, it surely did to the tight squeak in getting that 260 Ford mill into the Sunbeam engine compartment. There was a place for everything and a space for everything, but positively not an inch to spare.”

Development

Sunbeam_Tiger_Ford_engine

Lack of space under the bonnet makes some maintenance tasks difficult.

All Rootes products had to be approved by Lord Rootes, who was reportedly “very grumpy” when he learned of the work that had gone into the Tiger project without his knowledge. But he agreed to have the Shelby prototype shipped over from America in July 1963 for him and his team to assess. He insisted on driving the car himself, and was so impressed that shortly after returning from his test drive he contacted Henry Ford II directly to negotiate a deal for the supply of Ford V8 engines. Rootes placed an initial order for 3000, the number of Tigers it expected to sell in the first year, the largest single order Ford had ever received for its engines from an automobile manufacturer. Not only did Lord Rootes agree that the car would go into production, but he decided that it should be launched at the 1964 New York Motor Show, only eight months away, despite the company’s normal development cycle from “good idea” to delivery of the final product being three to four years.

Installing such a large engine in a relatively small vehicle required some modifications, although the exterior sheet metal remained essentially the same as the Alpine’s. Necessary chassis modifications included moving from the Burman recirculating ball steering mechanism to a more modern rack and pinion system.

Although twice as powerful as the Alpine, the Tiger is only about twenty per cent heavier, but the extra weight of the larger engine required some minor suspension modifications. Nevertheless the Tiger’s front-to-back weight ratio is substantially similar to the Alpine’s, at 51.7/48.3 front/rear.

Shortly before its public unveiling at the New York Motor Show in April 1964 the car was renamed from Thunderbolt to Tiger, inspired by Sunbeam’s 1925 land-speed-record holder.

Production

Sunbeam_tiger_v8

The chrome strips either side of the Tiger logo show this to be a Series I car

Shelby had hoped to be given the contract to produce the Tiger in America, but Rootes was somewhat uneasy about the closeness of his relationship with Ford, so it was decided to build the car in England. The Rootes factory at Ryton did not have the capacity to build the Tiger, so the company contracted the job to Jensen in West Bromwich. Any disappointment Shelby may have felt was tempered by an offer from Rootes to pay him an undisclosed royalty on every Tiger built.

Jensen was able to take on production of the Tiger because its assembly contract for the Volvo P1800 had recently been cancelled. An additional factor in the decision was that Jensen’s chief engineer Kevin Beattie and his assistant Mike Jones had previously worked for Rootes, and understood how the company operated. The first of 14 Jensen-built prototypes were based on the Alpine III bodyshell, until the Series IV became available at the end of 1963.

1960s left_hand_drive_Sunbeam_Tiger_dash

The Tiger’s interior is almost identical to the Alpine on which it is based.

The Tiger went into production in June 1964, little more than a year after the completion of the Shelby prototype. Painted and trimmed bodies were supplied by Pressed Steel in Oxfordshire, and the engines and gearboxes directly from Ford in America. Installing the engine required some unusual manufacturing methods, including using a sledgehammer to bash in part of the already primed and painted bulkhead to allow the engine to be slid into place. Jensen was soon able to assemble up to 300 Tigers a month, which were initially offered for sale only in North America. The first few Tigers assembled had to be fitted with a Borg-Warner 4-speed all-synchromesh manual gearbox, until Ford resolved its supply problems and was able to provide an equivalent unit as used in the Ford Mustang.

Several performance modifications were available from dealers. The original 260 CID engine was considered only mildly tuned at 164 hp (122 kW), and some dealers offered modified versions with up to 245 hp (183 kW) for an additional $250. These modifications were particularly noticeable to the driver above 60 mph (97 km/h), although they proved problematic for the standard suspension and tyres, which were perfectly tuned for the stock engine. A 1965 report in the British magazine Motor Sport concluded that “No combination of an American V8 and a British chassis could be happier.”

Versions

Green_Sunbeam_Tiger_2

Apart from the bigger engine the changes to the Series II Tiger were largely cosmetic: the most obvious are the speed stripes and the “egg crate” radiator grille.

Production reached 7128 cars over three distinct series. The factory only ever designated two, the Series I and Series II, but as the official Series I production spanned the change in body style from the Series IV Alpine panels to the Series V panels, the later Series I cars are generally designated Series IA by Sunbeam Tiger enthusiasts. The Series II Tiger, fitted with the larger Ford 289 cu in (4.7 L), was intended exclusively for export to America and was never marketed in the UK, although six right-hand drive models were sold to the Metropolitan Police for use in traffic patrols and high-speed pursuits; four more went to the owners of important Rootes dealerships.

All Tigers were fitted with a single Ford twin-choke carburettor. The compression ratio of the larger Series II engine was increased from the 8.8:1 of the smaller block to 9.3:1. Other differences between the versions included upgraded valve springs (the 260 had developed a reputation for self-destructing if pushed beyond 5000 rpm), an engine-oil cooler, an alternator instead of a dynamo, a larger single dry plate hydraulically operated clutch, wider ratio transmission, and some rear-axle modifications. There were also cosmetic changes: speed stripes instead of chrome strips down the side of the car, a modified radiator grille, and removal of the headlamp cowls. All Tigers were fitted with the same 4.5 in (110 mm) wide steel disc bolt-on wheels as the Alpine IV, and Dunlop RS5 4.90 in × 13 in (124 mm × 330 mm) cross-ply tyres. The lack of space in the Tiger’s engine bay causes a few maintenance problems; the left bank of spark plugs is only accessible through a hole in the bulkhead for instance, normally sealed with a rubber bung, and the oil filter had to be relocated from the lower left on the block to a higher position on the right-hand side, behind the generator.

Series I

Sunbeam Tiger Series I
Overview
Production 1964–67
6450 made
Powertrain
Engine 260 cu in (4.3 L) Ford V8

The Ford V8 as fitted to the Tiger produced 164 bhp (122 kW) @ 4400 rpm, sufficient to give the car a 0–60 mph (97 km/h) time of 8.6 seconds and a top speed of 120 mph (190 km/h).

The Girling-manufactured brakes used 9.85 in (250 mm) discs at the front and 9 in (229 mm) drums at the rear. The suspension was independent at the front, using coil springs, and at the rear had a live axle and semi-elliptic springs. Apart from the addition of a Panhard rod to better locate the rear axle, and stiffer front springs to cope with the weight of the V8 engine, the Tiger’s suspension and braking systems are identical to that of the standard Alpine. The fitting points for the Panhard rod interfered with the upright spare wheel in the boot, which was repositioned to lie horizontally beneath a false floor; the battery was moved from beneath the rear seat to the boot at the same time. The kerb weight of the car increased from the 2,220 lb (1,010 kg) of the standard Alpine to 2,653 lb (1,203 kg).

In 1964, its first year of production, all but 56 of the 1649 Series I Tigers assembled were shipped to North America, where it was priced at $3499. In an effort to increase its marketability to American buyers the car was fitted with “Powered by Ford 260” badges on each front wing beneath the Tiger logo. The Series I was unavailable in the UK until March 1965, when it was priced at £1446. It was also sold in South Africa for R3350, badged as the Sunbeam Alpine 260.

Series II

Sunbeam Tiger Series II
Overview
Production 1967
633 made
Powertrain
Engine 289 cu in (4.7 L) Ford V8

Priced at $3842, the Series II Tiger was little more than a re-engined Mark IA; by comparison, a contemporary V8 Ford Mustang sold for $2898. The larger 289 cu in (4.7 L) Ford engine improved the Tiger’s 0–60 mph (97 km/h) time to 7.5 seconds, and increased the top speed to 122 mph (196 km/h). Officially the Series II Tiger was only available in the US, where it was called the Tiger II. By the time the Series II car went into production Chrysler was firmly in charge of Rootes, and the “Powered by Ford” shields were replaced by “Sunbeam V-8” badges.

Demise

Sunbeam Tiger_in_Yountville_2013

Series I Tiger fitted with after-market tyres and alloy wheels

Rootes had always been insufficiently capitalised, and losses resulting from a damaging thirteen-week strike at one of its subsidiaries, British & Light Steel Pressings, coupled with the expense of launching the Hillman Imp, meant that by 1964 the company was in serious financial difficulties. At the same time, Chrysler was looking to boost its presence in Europe, and so a deal was struck in June 1964 in which Chrysler paid £12.3 million ($34.44 million) for a large stake in Rootes, although not a controlling one. As part of the agreement Chrysler committed not to acquire a majority of Rootes voting shares without the approval of the UK government, which was keen not to see any further American ownership of the UK motor industry. In 1967 Minister of Technology Anthony Wedgewood Benn approached BMH and Leyland to see if they would buy out Chrysler and Rootes and keep the company British, but neither had the resources to do so. Later that year Chrysler was allowed to acquire a controlling interest in Rootes for a further investment of £20 million.

Manufacturing a car powered by a competitor’s engine was unacceptable to the new owner, but Chrysler’s own 273 small-block V-8 was too large to fit under the Tiger’s bonnet without major modifications. Compounding the problem, the company’s small-block V8 engines had the distributor positioned at the rear, unlike the front-mounted distributor of the Ford V8. Chrysler’s big-block V8 had a front-mounted distributor but was significantly larger. Shortly after the takeover Chrysler ordered that production of the Tiger was to end when Rootes’ stock of Ford V8 engines was exhausted; Jensen assembled the last Tiger on 27 June 1967. Chrysler added its pentastar logo to the car’s badging, and in its marketing literature de-emphasised the Ford connection, simply describing the Tiger as having “an American V-8 power train”.

Rootes’ design director Roy Axe commented later that “The Alpine and Tiger were always oddballs in the [Rootes] range. I think they [Chrysler] didn’t understand it, or have the same interest in it as the family cars – I think it was as simple as that.”

The Tiger name was resurrected in 1972 when Chrysler introduced the Avenger Tiger, a limited-edition modified Hillman Avenger intended primarily for rallying.

Competition history

There is no doubt that the Tiger is somewhat misnamed, for it has nothing of the wild and dangerous man-eater about it and is really only as fierce as a pussy cat. A woman would find it easy to control.

Autocar roadtest, 1964

Three racing Tigers were constructed for the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans, a prototype and two that were entered in the race. Costing $45,000 each, they were highly modified versions of the production cars, fitted with fastback coupe bodies produced by Lister. But they were still steel monocoques, and made the Le Mans Tigers 66 lb (30 kg) heavier than a road-going Tiger at 2,615 lb (1,186 kg), almost 600 lb (270 kg) more than the winning Ferrari. The standard Ford four-speed manual transmission was replaced with a BorgWarner T10 close-ratio racing transmission, which allowed for a top speed of 140 miles per hour (230 km/h).

Both Tigers suffered early mechanical failures, and neither finished the race. The engines had been prepared by Shelby but had not been properly developed, and as a result overheated; Shelby eventually refunded the development cost to Rootes. All three of the Le Mans Tigers have survived.

Once Rootes had made the decision to put the Tiger into production an Alpine IV minus engine and transmission was shipped to Shelby, who was asked to transform the car into a racing Tiger. Shelby’s competition Tiger made an early appearance in the B Production Class of Pacific Coast Division SCCA races, which resulted in some “highly successful” publicity for the new car. But Shelby was becoming increasingly preoccupied with development work for Ford, and so the racing project was transferred to the Hollywood Sports Car dealership, whose driver Jim Adams achieved a third place finish in the Pacific Coast Division in 1965. A Tiger driven by Peter Boulton and Jim Latta finished twelfth overall and first in the small GT class at the 1965 Dayton Continental. The Tiger was also raced on quarter-mile drag strips, and for two years was the American Hot Rod Association‘s national record holder, reaching a speed of 108 mph (174 km/h) in 12.95 seconds.

Rootes entered the Tiger in European rallies, taking first, second and third places in the 1964 Geneva Rally. Two Tigers took part in the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally, one finishing fourth overall, the highest placing by a front-engined rear-wheel drive car, and the other eleventh. After finally having sorted out the engine overheating problem by fitting a forward-facing air scoop to the bonnet, Rootes entered three Tigers in the 1965 Alpine Rally, one of which crossed the finishing line as outright winner. Scrutineers later disqualified the car however, because it had been fitted with undersized cylinder head valves. By the end of the 1966 Acropolis Rally though, it had become clear that low-slung sports cars such as the Tiger were unsuited to the increasingly rough-terrain rally stages, and the car was withdrawn from competition soon after. In the words of Ian Hall, who drove the Tiger in the Acropolis Rally, “I felt that the Tiger had just had it – it was an out of date leviathan”.

In popular media

1966 Sunbeam_Tiger_1966_view_of_rear

Rear view of a 1966 Sunbeam Tiger showing the twin exhausts

The 1965 Tiger Series I gained some exposure on American television as the car of choice for Maxwell Smart in the spoof spy series Get Smart. The Tiger was used for the first two seasons in the opening credits, in which Smart screeched to a halt outside his headquarters, and was used through the remainder of the series in several episodes. Some of the scenes featured unusual modifications such as a retractable James Bond-style machine gun that could not have fitted under the Tiger’s bonnet, so rebadged Alpine models were used instead.

Don Adams, who played the protagonist Maxwell Smart, gained possession of the Tiger after the series ended and later gave it to his daughters; it is reportedly on display at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. During its early years Rootes advertised the car extensively in Playboy magazine and lent a pink Tiger with matching interior to 1965 Playmate of the Year Jo Collins for a year.

The Tiger also featured in the 2008 film adaptation of the Get Smart TV series. A replica Tiger had to be constructed using a stock Sunbeam Alpine and re-created Tiger badging as no available Tiger could be found in Canada, where the film was produced. The production team recorded the sound of an authentic Tiger owned by a collector in Los Angeles and edited it into the film.

1963-1976 Hillman Imp

Hillman Imp
MHV_Hillman_Imp_01
Overview
Manufacturer Rootes Group
Also called Hillman GT (Australia)
Hillman Husky
Commer Imp Van
Singer Chamois
Sunbeam Imp
Sunbeam Sport
Sunbeam Chamois
Sunbeam Stiletto
Sunbeam Californian
Production 1963–1976
440,032 made
Assembly Linwood, Scotland
Australia
Petone, New Zealand
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupe
2-door saloon
3-door estate (Husky)
3-door panel van
Layout RR layout
Powertrain
Engine 875 cc Straight-4 Overhead camshaft
Transmission 4-speed manual all-synchromesh.
Dimensions
Wheelbase 2,082 mm (82.0 in)
Length 3,581 mm (141.0 in)
Width 1,524 mm (60.0 in)
Height 1,385 mm (54.5 in)
Saloon
1,330 mm (52.4 in)
Coupe
1,475 mm (58.1 in)
Hillman Husky/Commer Imp
Kerb weight 725 kg (1,598 lb)
Chronology
Predecessor none
Successor Chrysler Sunbeam

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hillman Imp, with the engine cover and the rear window lifted

1969 Singer_Chamois

The Singer Chamois version sold at a premium: additional features included a distinctive false grill and, from October 1969, twin headlights.

1967 Singer_Chamois_Coupe_license_plate_1967

‘Coupe’ variants badged respectively as the Hillman Imp Californian, the Sunbeam Stiletto and (as here) the Singer Chamois coupe featured a more steeply raked rear window which could not be opened.

The Hillman Imp is a compact, rear-engined saloon car, manufactured under the Hillman marque by the Rootes Group (later Chrysler Europe) from 1963 to 1976. The Imp was assembled at a purpose-built plant atLinwood, near Paisley, in the West of Scotland conurbation.

A small van, the Commer Imp, was introduced in November 1965 and an estate version, using most of the same panels but with side windows behind the b-pillar, known as the Hillman Husky was produced from 1967.

History

Known internally at Rootes as the “Apex” project, the Imp was to be the group’s first post-Second World War small car. Its main rival on the home market was the BMC Mini, which preceded the Imp by almost four years.

Engine

The Imp used an 875 cc all-aluminium power unit, adapted by Rootes from a Coventry Climax FWMA fire pump engine which had enjoyed some racing success, but significantly different in areas such as cylinder head design. It was mounted behind the rear wheels and canted over at 45°, keeping the centre of gravity low to optimise road-holding.

Handling

As reported in tests such as the Practical Car and Driver, rear-engined cars generally suffer from oversteer handling characteristics to some extent, and to counteract this as much as possible, the Imp had a semi-trailing arm independent rear suspension system. This relatively costly and sophisticated solution, atypical for small car design at the time, was insisted upon by its designers after testing at length a Chevrolet Corvair with swing axles. To attain balanced handling, the Imp actually used swing axle geometry at the front, but this initially led to too much understeer and the camber was later reduced by lowering the pivot points. Rootes relied upon a team led by two young designers, Tim Fry and Mike Parkes who were given an almost free hand to come up with a small car that would fit well into the Rootes car programme. This at the time centered on derivatives of the Hillman Minx car.

Variants and “Badge Engineering”

Over the life of the car, Rootes (and later Chrysler UK) produced three basic body styles. The original Saloon was introduced in May 1963 and ran through to the end of production in 1976. It had an opening rear window, making it effectively a hatchback. The opening rear window was intended to make it easier to load the small luggage area behind the fold-down rear seat. The fold-down nature of the rear seat was itself unusual in small car design at the time, being more often associated with larger upmarket estate cars. In 1965 a van badged as the Commer Imp was introduced. A coupe, the Imp Californian, was introduced in 1967 at the same time as the van’s pressings were used to create an estate car, badged Hillman Husky. Several estate car prototypes using the saloon body with extended rooflines were tried, but never offered to the public. Instead, buyers choosing the estate had to settle on a van-derived car with somewhat uneasy styling. Both the van and estate ceased production in 1970.

In an attempt to interest a wider public when sales figures fell well short of the intended 100,000 or more cars per annum, several badge-engineered derivatives, such as the luxury Singer Chamois (launched October 1964), and the Sunbeam Sport (launched October 1966), with a more powerful twin-carburettor engine, were offered with varying degrees of success. For marketing reasons the Singer variants were sold as Sunbeams in many export markets, even before May 1970 when the Singer marque was discontinued altogether by Chrysler UK. In some markets, such as France, the “Sunbeam” name was used on all British Rootes products, including the Imp and the Husky.

The coupe bodyshell was similar to the standard body but featured a more shallow-raked windscreen and rear window which, unlike that on the standard bodied cars, could not be opened. The attempt at a more sporty design did not translate into better acceleration or top speed figures and the aerodynamics of the standard saloon were actually slightly better. The new body style made its first appearance at the Paris Motor Show in October 1967, with the introduction of the sporting Sunbeam Stiletto. The coupe body had also appeared, with less powerful engines, in the Hillman Imp Californian announced in January 1967 and the more luxurious Singer Chamois coupe.

Linwood plant

The Imp was a massive and expensive leap of faith for Rootes. The company did not have recent experience building small cars, even though it started off as a car builder by offering the then small Hillman Minx back in 1931. However, the Minx had since grown larger, and by the time the Imp was introduced it was well established as a medium-size family car. For the Imp, Rootes pioneered the use of an aluminium engine in a mass-production car. This process proved to be more complicated than simply substituting a familiar and well-understood cast iron design with a new aluminium one. Rootes had to build a new, computerised assembly plant on the outskirts of Glasgow, in the town of Linwood, in which to assemble the Imp, since planning regulations had prevented it from expanding its Ryton plant near Coventry. UK Government Regional Assistance policy provided financial grants to the Rootes Group to bring approximately 6,000 jobs to the area. Linwood had become an area of significant unemployment because of redundancies in the declining shipbuilding industry on the nearby river Clyde. The investment also included an advanced die-casting plant to manufacture the aluminium engine casings, and a stake in a brand new Pressed Steel Company motor pressings works, which manufactured all the new car’s body panels. The location of the plant led to significant logistical issues for the manufacturing process. Linwood was over 300 miles (480 km) away from Ryton, but the engine castings made in Linwood had to be sent to Ryton to be machined and assembled, then sent back up to be put on the cars – a 600-mile (970 km) round trip. This was addressed by a complex schedule of trains shifting completed cars and raw castings south, and trains loaded with engine – gearbox assemblies and many other Ryton sourced goods running north. This schedule remained in operation for the duration of Linwood Imp production.

The local West of Scotland workforce, mainly recruited from the shipbuilding industry, did not bring the distinct skills necessary for motor vehicle assembly, and Imp build quality and reliability suffered accordingly (many years later Alfa Romeo suffered similar problems when they established Alfasud in Naples as a production satellite of Alfa Nord in Milan). However industrial relations was also an issue in production. Industrial disputes and strike action became a regular occurrence, as was the case in many parts of British industry in the 1960s and ’70s. In 1964 there were 31 stoppages and only one-third of the plant’s capacity was realised – 50,000 rather than 150,000. The Imp was nonetheless regarded as a “Scottish car” and was more popular in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK.

Marketing

Initially, the Imp was seen by Rootes as a potential second car for families with the means to acquire one. In this incarnation, it was a somewhat revolutionary, high-quality small car, with some above average features. Later the concept evolved into a kind of ultra-economy car with some cheaply and poorly executed, design features as a utilitarian vehicle, like some of the Eastern European marques of the time like Škoda, and later Lada, which were relatively low-cost economy cars, popular with British consumers. At one point the basic Hillman Imp was the cheapest new car on the British market, which increased low sales figures for a time.

Revisions during model lifespan

At launch the innovative design of the Imp was underdeveloped, in part because of UK Government pressure to start production quickly in response to the job losses in shipbuilding. Mechanical and cooling system problems were commonplace in the early cars. At the end of 1965 a major revision to the Imp was introduced, effectively splitting the marque into Mk I and Mk II cars. The Mk I Imps had a pneumatic throttle linkage and an automatic choke, both of which were replaced by more conventional items on the Mk II. The Mk II also had improved front suspension geometry and several trim and detail changes. Although the car was constantly improved over its production life, there was no single change as significant as that in 1965.

A further upgrade took place in 1968. The instrument panel and steering wheel were redesigned. The large speedometer previously positioned behind the steering wheel was replaced by a horizontal row of four circular dials/displays of varying detail and complexity according to the model specified. The right-hand dial, the speedometer, was now to one side of the driver’s normal sightline, while one multi-functional stalk on the right side of the steering column replaced the two control stalks that had been directly behind the steering wheel, one on each side. The earlier Imp had been praised for the good ergonomic quality of its dash-board/fascia, and its replacement reflected similar trends in other new and modified UK vehicles at a time of “production rationalization”. On the Imp, the more modern arrangement was seen by some as a missed opportunity.

Popularity

The initial problems damaged the Imp’s reputation and popularity trailed off, with half of all production being from the first three years. It still sold thanks to its competitive price, distinctive styling, and cheap running costs, but sales never lived up to expectations for what had become a very competent small car. Another problem that contributed to the reputation of poor reliability, was the lack of understanding of the maintenance needs of alloy engines by owners and the motor trade in the 1960s. It was overshadowed in popularity by the Mini. Although the Mini initially sold poorly, by the mid ’60s it was the ‘in’ thing to have, whereas the Imp never enjoyed such status as a fashion statement.

Rootes, Chrysler and end of Imp production

The company’s huge investment in both the Imp and the Linwood production plant was to be a significant part of the demise of the Rootes Group. The Imp’s commercial failure added to the major losses suffered by Rootes, although the main reasons for these losses were unresolved industrial unrest and the effects of the link with the Chrysler Corporation of the USA. The link was initiated by Lord (William) Rootes in 1964 as a partnership, but he died in October of that year and by 1967 the company had been acquired by Chrysler, to become part of Chrysler Europe. A year later, ahead of the 1968 London Motor Show, the recommended retail prices of most Imp models were reduced for the domestic market by more than four per cent, despite the general price inflation affecting the UK. Chrysler stewardship was blamed by some for the demise of the Imp in March 1976, after fewer than 500,000 had been built, but the entire Chrysler Europe operation was not a success and two years later it became part of Peugeot. The Imp was one of Britain’s longest-running production cars with a 13-year run, despite lower sales in its later years. Its place in the Chrysler UK range was taken the following year by the Chrysler Sunbeam, a three-door hatchback based on the Avenger rear-wheel drive underpinnings. Both cars continued to be produced at the Linwood plant until it closed in 1981, after just 18 years in use.

The Ryton assembly plant continued in operation until December 2006, when production of the Peugeot 206 was switched to Slovakia.

Production

Approximately half a million, half of this number coming in the first three years of production. The Imp used a derivative of the Climax FWMA engine whereas the Lotus cars used an FWMC engine which had an entirely different cylinder head.

Export

Unassembled cars were exported for assembly in Ireland, France, New Zealand, Portugal, Venezuela, Uruguay, Costa Rica, South Africa and Australia. New Zealand cars were assembled as Hillmans by Chrysler/Hillman importer Todd Motors from about 1964 for several years. The model returned, this time as a four-headlamp Sunbeam with the newer dashboard, around 1970 but was only offered for about two more years.

Imp variants

1967 Hillman_Husky_front

The Hillman Husky name was resurrected in 1967 for an Imp-based estate car.

  • Hillman Imp Mark I (1963–65)
  • Hillman Imp de Luxe Mark I & Mark II (1963–68)
  • Hillman Super Imp (1965–74)
  • Hillman Imp (1968–76)
  • Hillman GT  (1967–?) Developed by Chrysler Australia from the Singer Chamois Sport, it was never badged nor officially referred to as the Hillman Imp GT
  • Hillman Imp Californian (19–1970) Coupé / fastback saloon version
  • Hillman Husky (1967–70) Estate version of the Imp
  • Commer Imp Van (1965–68)
  • Hillman Imp Van (1968–70)
  • Hillman Imp Caledonian (Limited Edition model with additional accessories and available in Super or De luxe models)
  • Singer Chamois Mark I, Mark II, (1964–70)
  • Singer Chamois Sport, & Coupé (1967–70)
  • Sunbeam Imp Sport (1966–70)
  • Sunbeam Sport (1970–76)
  • Sunbeam Chamois (Export markets outside of UK only)
  • Sunbeam Stiletto (1967–72)
  • Sunbe