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Ford Mustang V8, Sunbeam Alpine Tiger MK I A: The joy of quaking

Hans-Dieter Seufert
Ford Mustang V8 and Sunbeam Alpine Tiger MK IA
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D he is a Ford Mustang a star. No matter where he appears - he attracts everyone's attention and receives everyone's applause. That was already the case when it was presented 45 years ago and has not changed to this day. We're in the Bergisches Land and feel the unbroken attraction that this car exudes. It goes down like the Rolling Stones on their last tour. Aged, no question about it. But still able to fill the big stadiums. What else can you expect from someone who was born as a legend, because he apparently corresponded to the automotive dreams of an entire nation right down to the last screw tip?

The Ford Mustang got off to a brilliant start

On the first day of sales, April 17, 1964, the enthusiasts had it The 8,000 available copies were literally ripped out of the dealers' hands and around 22,000 further orders had been signed. No other car has had such a brilliant start to this day. Vehicle number two carries its fate with dignity: the Sunbeam Tiger falls on this exit the seemingly ungrateful role of an opening act, which is supposed to heat up the audience for the main act and whose real talent is only noticed by a few fans. Perhaps it is due to the comparatively good visual appearance of the blue Englishman, to its slightly feminine lines. It comes from the pen of Keneth Howes and is already known from the Sunbeam Alpine.

The Sunbeam Tiger masters the same V8 repertoire of a Mustang

On the other hand, it definitely couldn't have been due to the sound and the performance that the Sunbeam Tiger never made it onto the big stage Has. He masters the same V8 repertoire of a Ford Mustang, babbling to himself like his opponent, even when standing still. And once it gets going, the rumble from its twin-pipe exhaust system indicates an abundance of power and aggressiveness. The tiger of the initiative of one in Los Angeles has his robust temperamentliving representatives of the British Rootes group (to which Sunbeam belonged). Its attitude was clear: Without significantly more power, the Alpine, originally powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, would not be able to be sold on the US market for long.

The Sunbeam Tiger got a Windsor V8 engine from the Ford Fairlaine

One could, so the proposal from the New World to the Sunbeam boss Lord William Rootes, take over the recipe from Caroll Shelby. He had just created the power monster AC Cobra by installing an American eight-cylinder in a British roadster. The search for a suitable unit had already started in Los Angeles. It had to be small to fit under the flat sloping hood of the Sunbeam Alpine. Various car dealerships were secretly visited in order to measure the various eight-cylinder units with a ruler. The race was ultimately won by the compact and comparatively light Windsor V8 engine from the Ford Fairlaine, a 4.3-liter unit (260 cubic inches) that developed around 160 hp - and the 4.7-liter version ( 286 cubic inches) also served as the base engine for the Mustang presented in the same year.

Series production of the Sunbeam Tiger by the British company Jensen

Caroll Shelby himself finally assembled the first prototype for Sunbeam and used other Mustang components like that Four-speed gearbox and the drive train including the rear axle. The potent car, outwardly still an Alpine, was so well received by Sunbeam Colonel Lord Rootes that he spontaneously decided to officially launch it as a new model - the Sunbeam Tiger. The British company Jensen received the order for series production. In fact, only a few changes were necessary to accommodate the significantly larger engine between the side members. Only the bulkhead had to be relocated and the transmission tunnel revised.

In Germany, the Tiger was delivered as the Alpine 260

That it is very cramped under the bonnet is obvious. Nevertheless, all ancillary units are surprisingly accessible. The only exception concerns one of the rear spark plugs: it can only be reached from inside the car with the help of a special key through a flap in the bulkhead. The appearance of the car remained almost unchanged. Only chrome strips on the side and the Tiger lettering on the front fenders make it recognizable as a power roadster. Only in Germany was the car not allowed to be called Tiger because the name was already protected by another manufacturer. It was simply delivered in this country as the Alpine 260.

Original Sunbeam Tiger specimens are an absolute rarity

However, the car for today's trip comes from England and has just been madeextensively restored. 'Such specimens, which are close to the original condition, are absolutely rare,' explains classic car dealer Hartmut Stöppel from Bonn. Many tigers, according to the specialist, would be Alpine retrofitted. On top of that, hardly a tiger has remained intact in the United States.

The Sunbeam Tiger looks more like a cruiser than a sports car

But actually, at first glance, the tiger doesn't pretend to be a thoroughbred To be sports car. With its seven round instruments arranged in dark fine wood, it looks more like an elegant cruiser. The low-lying steering wheel stands almost vertically in front of lavishly upholstered bucket seats, between which there is a lockable storage box. The sitting position is upright and surprisingly high. With the power of almost 4.3 liters displacement, the car finally starts moving and leaves no doubt as to whether it might run out of power at some point.

The roar of the cast iron V-8 turns on, tempts to rev the engine higher than it is necessary. But you can also just glide calmly over the country road, shift into fourth gear at just over walking pace and enjoy the rest of the day that the maximum torque is already available at 2,200 rpm. 'After the bend you simply accelerate without worrying about shifting,' wrote Paul Frère after a test drive of over 9,000 (!) Kilometers in auto motor und sport (18/1965).

The greatest handicap of the Sunbeam Tiger is its moderate level of awareness

The 164 SAE-PS don't worry about the chassis taken over from the Alpine. The car follows the direction it has taken like a dog to its master, behaves neutrally for a long time in bends and has hardly any side lean. The weight of the engine is only noticeable through slight understeer in very tight bends. 'The greatest handicap of the Sunbeam Tiger,' concluded Frère, 'is definitely that it is too little known so far.' Ford boss and career king Lee Iacocca didn't want it to get that far with the Ford Mustang. He knew that he had a good horse in the stable - a car that was tailor-made for a young generation who attached great importance to an independent and enjoyable lifestyle.

His recipe: The new car could not cost more than $ 2,500, it should be powerful, sporty and small and still offer space for four people. In addition, he had asked his designers to create a car with a completely new, unmistakable look. The race was ultimately won by the model of a coupé with a long front section and a short rear. The name of the new project: Mustang. The American wild horse appeared as the perfect symbol of a freedom-loving generation with a boisterousForward thrust.

Ford Mustang: Never before has a vehicle achieved such a high level of awareness

Now only the nation had to find out about this new car. Iacocca played it safe and bought prime airtime from the three most important TV channels in order to broadcast its commercials to over 29 million households on the evening before the presentation. The magazines Newsweek and Times had published editorials about the new car beforehand, and advertisements were placed in more than 2,600 daily newspapers. Never before has a vehicle achieved such a high level of awareness on the day of its presentation. You could order the new Ford as a convertible, coupe and later as a fastback. Right from the start, customers were able to choose between four engine variants and put together their individual dream Mustang from an almost unmanageable list of accessories.

After just two years, the one millionth Mustang rolled off the assembly line

It seemed as if the country had been waiting for this modular car: Already after just under The one millionth Mustang rolled off the production line in two years - only 7,085 vehicles of the technically almost identical Sunbeam Tiger were produced during its entire production period from 1964 to 1966. But unlike the Sunbean, which the bends in the Bergisches Land hardly disturb, you can immediately feel that the Mustang is much more of a boulevard cruiser. Sporty driving in the European sense is clearly difficult for the convertible, which has been owned by Mustang specialist Adi Heinen from Solingen for 29 years.

Despite its 190 hp that the 4.7-liter unit equipped with a four-way carburetor produces. The powerful torque of the V8 inspires its driver beyond measure, but regularly overwhelms the quality of the chassis. The car swings through the curves rather than following them on the given course. The amazing thing about it - you don't blame the Mustang. For American drivers, test reports didn't count anyway. For them, however, what mattered was the shape and appearance of a car - obviously the Ford Mustang's showpiece discipline. He is the automotive show star par excellence. This can still be seen today on every corner.


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