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. A muscle-car variant of the later versions was also built, the Sunbeam Tiger.
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.
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 disc at the front and 9 in 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 and could accelerate from 0–60 mph in 13.6 seconds. A fuel consumption of 31.4 miles per imperial gallon ( 26.1 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1031 including taxes. 11,904 examples of the series I were produced. 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.
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.
I purchased this car quite by accident at the Worldwide Auburn sale, it was part of a large collection of funky little cars being offered there. It was a solid runner, but was pretty tatty all around. I decided to dive in and fix her up cosmetically-new paint-interior-headliner-rubber trim-grill-dash-and opted to go with a cream over red livery, which while not a catalogue color scheme, I thought would suit the car well. I'm am very pleased with how the car turned out. It does not have a soft top, strictly the removable hardtop and thats it.
Of course we've had to do some mechanical work as well, including an entire new brake system and I decided to add a perktronix ignition system for reliability. The car comes with lots of records from the previous owner and indicates a complete engine rebuild less than 2000 miles ago.
Its reallya fun car to drive with a raspy exhaust note, crisp gearbox, and nimble handling.
I have had it up to about 80 and thats all the farther I wanted to go on these stock wheels and narrow tires-with a nice set of minilights and wider rubber I think it would be quite comfortable at 90 or better.
Its a great example that could be taken to a pretty high level with minimal effort, but is ready as it sits to go on your next British car outing or car show.