The total number of Tigers produced during its three-year run was 7,128 units and spanned three distinctively different vehicles. The series I has the 260, the series II the 289, and the series I had a major body upgrade for the Series III, during its production run. The series I-260 had only 56 units marketed in the UK with a few more going to South Africa, and although the Metropolitan Police managed to purchase six 289 right-hand drive units for highway work in the UK, the balance of the Sunbeam Tiger went to North America.
The Tiger series I got its power from a 260-cubic-inch (4.3L) and the series II from 289 cubic inches of power (4.7L). These are the two major versions with all units produced in the UK. Obvious but slight body differences mark the series II, which had painted racing stripes down each side rather than chrome strips and a larger radiator, and the headlights weren’t inside the cowling on the later version.
The car was entered in the 1964 “24 Hours of LeMans” race but did not complete the race although the car held the American Hot Rod Association quarter-mile record for two years. All the stock Tiger models have a Ford single-barrel carburetor with twin choke valves. The compression of ratio of 8.8:1 for the stock 260 had its redline at 5000 rpm, and the stock 289 version had a 9.3:1 compression ratio with upgraded valve springs and oil cooler for the engine components. Other mechanical upgrades for the 289 version included a bigger dry plate, a hydraulically operated clutch, and modified rear axles. The 289 version did 0-60 in 7.5 seconds and could achieve a top speed of 122 mph (196 km/h).
© Jhernan124 | Dreamstime.com Sunbeam Tiger, Hood Up
The Series I from the factory had a “mildly tuned” 260 and put out 164hp (122 kW) at 4400 rpm doing 0-60 in 8.6 seconds but could receive an upgrade as a dealer option pack on request. This more finely tuned 260 developed 245hp (183 kW), but this upgrade package created a problem for the basic suspension, and the power increase is not really apparent until after reaching 60 mph (97 km/h). Both the 260 and the 289 caused a bit of a problem doing even some minor maintenance chores inside the confining space of the engine compartment, such as having to remove one bank of spark plugs from the passenger compartment side of the firewall, and the oil filter is also difficult to remove since it mounted behind the generator.
Series I and II came equipped with 255 mm (9.85-inch) disc brakes in front with 229 (9-inch) drum brakes to the rear, which is the same as the small four-cylinder Alpine. The suspension on the Tiger does have stiffer front coil springs as well as the addition of a live axle, semi-elliptic springs, and a Panhard rod to better locate the live axle, supplementing the rear suspension. The Alpine version has the battery under the rear seat, and the spare tire is upright in the trunk (boot in the UK countries) but could not be mounted like that in the Tiger because the spare would leave no room to attach the Panhard, so the V8 version has the spare and battery under a false floor in the trunk.
Just as the series II cars went into production, the troubled Rootes Motors Inc. sold its interests in the company to Chrysler in June 1964 so any cars produced after that time have the “Powered by Ford” replaced with “Sunbeam V8” badging. Chrysler had no engines that could be adapted to the Sunbeam Tiger, so when the warehouse-stored Ford engines were all sold, the Tiger went out of production.