The 1960s was a great time to be a hot-rodder. Understood to be a time when even the OEMs got into the “little car, big engine” craze, the 60s brought us some of the best vintage body styles to build a car around. But, as you can imagine, we at LSxmag.com feel while the styling of this era may be iconic, today’s performance has a lot more to offer.
The Tale Of The Sunbeam Tiger
When you’re talking about a V-8 in a tiny car, space is always at a premium. This is nothing new, and enthusiasts such as Carroll Shelby launched a career by figuring out where to put all the necessary bits to make room for more powah! About the same time that Shelby was in cahoots with AC Cars in Britain, busily stuffing V-8s into slithery-styled British car bodies, he was also working with the British Rootes Group to implement the small, 260 cubic-inch V8 into the Sunbeam Alpine roadster. The performance of these cars was inspiring and for two years it was the American Hot Rod Association’s national record holder of the quarter-mile.
Production of the Sunbeam Tiger stayed in Britain, instead of bringing it to the States like the Cobra. The Rootes Group was eventually absorbed into Chrysler and the Ford V-8-powered car soon ceased to exist. Perhaps trying to access the rear-mounted distributor used on the small-block Mopars was considered unconscionable at the time.
A GM-Based Sunbeam Alpine?
As we all know, you’d have better chances locating a set of gold teeth on a chicken before finding a distributor on any LS- or LT-based GM engine. That makes swapping to one of these late-model powerhouses much easier for the guy doing the next tune-up, but plopping a V-8 into such a tiny car is still a task best left to those who can think on the fly.
A perfect example of this ability will roll itself across the auction block at Mecum’s Orlando event being held between July 6-9, 2022. This silver 1964 Sunbeam Alpine started life with a miserly four-cylinder engine, but thanks to a long list of aftermarket goodies and an LS-swap, it now rivals any of its V-8-powered, Tiger brethren.
More than just a “junkyard swap”, this Alpine has been treated with the necessary chassis-stiffening treatments to keep those clean lines from getting all wrinkled when the tall, skinny pedal gets mashed. The unibody construction now features a custom-built frame to tie the front and rear bits of the car together. The front suspension has been upgraded to a Heidt’s Super Ride Mustang II unit that was narrowed to fit between the fenders. Out back, an equally-narrowed 8.8 rear diff keeps those beefy-looking rear meats well within the wheel openings.
To help direct the car under spirited driving, a set of QA1 adjustable coil-over shocks hold the ride height up front while a pair of leaf springs and adjustable shocks keep the rear stable. Rack and pinion steering helps straighten the curves and a complete stainless exhaust dresses up the underside of the car nicely.
LS-Swapping A Sunbeam
The heart of this heart-racing ride is a 6.2L, LS3 crate engine. Even before the cam upgrade, thanks to Comp Cams, and the FiTech EFI intake and fuel system, the great crate engine made well over 400 horsepower. The aluminum-block’d LS3 engine weighs approximately 100-pounds less than the cast-iron 260 or 289 engines put in the Tiger. With the engine’s increased performance, drivability, fuel mileage, and resulting front-to-rear weight bias, the late-model swap goes on to make even more sense. Behind that sits a Tremec 6-speed transmission, allowing the car’s new owner to row their own gears at will.
Who that new owner is will be decided when wallets collide on the auction block next month. How much will the car fetch is anyone’s guess, since there hasn’t been a similar car up for sale that we know about? The car is offered as lot number F112, and as mentioned, will be offered during the Mecum auction in Orlando on Friday. Good luck to those bidding and whoever is found as the winner had better hold on!