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the Tale of the Tiger

new tigerI first saw a Sunbeam Tiger at the London Auto Show in late fall of 1964. I was stationed at RAF Upper Heyford, in the U. S. Air Force at the time, and my wife and I were in London for some rest and relaxation.

I owned a 1959 Sunbeam Alpine at the time but it was stored at a friend's house in Connecticut, so I was familiar with the manufacturer. I thought that some day I will have a new Tiger. Unfortunately, with what the Air Force paid me I did not see it happening soon.

The U.S. Government, with all their wisdom, had already shut one base down in 1964 that I was assigned to (subsequently reopened), and decided in early 1965 to vacate Upper Heyford and turn it back over to the RAF. What was supposed to be a three year tour in England was cut to eighteen months. We returned to the U.S. in late spring of 1965, picked up the Alpine in Connecticut and headed for California, of course stopping in Kansas City for a couple of weeks to visit family and friends.

I knew the Alpine was losing transmission grease, but was not aware of how bad until the aluminum casing on the overdrive unit began to disintegrate near Flagstaff, AZ. We had to leave the car there, caught a train into Riverside, CA and reported for duty at March AFB. We rented a car and a couple of weeks later went back to Flagstaff to get the car and tow it to Riverside. Late in 1965 the new car bug bit, and we went to Perris, CA to look again at the Sunbeam Tiger. My wife had a decent job at a high school in Riverside, so, just before Christmas of 1965, we bought the Tiger that you see here.

A couple of months later the Air Force sent me to Biloxi, MS, for retraining. I took the Alpine and headed for Mississippi while my wife kept the Tiger as she was staying in California until I got my new assignment. In late May or early June the assignment came through for Itazuke AFB in Japan.

new tigerMy wife headed for Mississippi in the Tiger to join me for a few days, then, we hooked the Alpine to the back of the Tiger and headed for Kansas City again to visit family and friends before departing for the Far East. We left the Alpine in Kansas City for my brother to sell, and headed for San Francisco in the Tiger. The Air Force shipped it to Japan and we enjoyed it there for two years. The main problem there was the speed limit on the island was 35 kph (about 25 miles per hour) and the car was seldom out of second gear. It caused quite a stir among the mechanics at the local Chrysler dealer in Japan when I took it in for service. Chrysler bought out the manufacturer, Rootes Group, some time in late '66 or early '67 and was responsible for maintenance. It also caused a bit of a stir with the Japanese police one day when they clocked me a little over the speed limit. Actually it was about 100kph over the speed limit, but that was not too bad as the speedometer goes to up 225 kph. They were very nice to me, admired the car and told me in what little English they spoke that I slow down. No ticket. Back to California in June of 1968 and back to Kansas City upon my discharge from the military.

new tigerIn 1976 I decide the engine needed rebuilding so I pulled it and had it rebuilt. Things happened and it did not get put back in. In 1978 my wife and I divorced and I got the Tiger and an old Volkswagen that I had been driving to and from work. The Tiger with no teeth, (engine still out), was towed around to various locations in Johnson County, KS for the next three years. In early 1981, I and the Tiger moved to St. Louis, and it was stuck in a garage. It stayed in the garage until 1998 when I turned it over to a supposed restoration expert in Greenville, Missouri. All he managed to do in three years was dismantle the car further, lie to me a lot, drink up the $5000.00 I had advanced him and leave the car at a local body shop to rot.

In July of 2001, I retrieved the car and took it to Rob "Tiger Rob" Roy in Keller, Texas. He had it for a little over a year and completely restored it back to almost new condition. I am happy to say the car is now back, and I hope to enjoy it for many years to come. My part of The Tiger's Tale will end when I die, or I can't get my frail old body in and out to drive it any more. It will then be passed on to my daughter or grand daughter for their enjoyment or to sell if they wish.

Happy Motoring

P.S. — My Tiger is one of 7085 built and distributed worldwide by Rootes Group in England between 1964 and 1967. The car was built in 1964. I bought it new in 1965 but it was not titled until January 1966 so it has always been registered as a 1966 model on the titles.