Last revised: 26-1-2009

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Sunbeam Tiger Mk II, 1967: grand finale

1967_Sunbeam_Tiger_Mk_IIEven though the Chrysler Corporation had become in charge of the Rootes Group, production and development of the Tiger wasn't immediately stopped. In fact, one last Tiger version was brought on the market in 1967 and it was the best one yet.
As the massive Cobra 428 had been introduced in 1965 and the similar engined Mustang GT-500 was introduced for the 1967 model year, Ford had no objections to supply Sunbeam with its famed 289 ci unit. Since it was an enlarged capacity version of the original 260 ci unit, it could be fitted in the Tiger without much modifications and so the Tiger Mk II appeared in 1967.
The 289 ci (4.7 litre) V8 produced 200 hp @ 4400 rpm in the Tiger Mk II. This was considerably less than the over 300 hp it presented in the street legal Cobra Mk II and Mustang GT-350 models, but still 22% more power than the 260 ci unit offered in the Tiger Mk I(A). The main problem was to get the power effectively on the road as the tires of the Tiger were relatively small compared to those on the Cobra and the Mustang. Performance therefore was not much better than before, at a top speed of 196 kph and a 0 to 96 kph (60 mph) acceleration in 7.5 seconds. But its bulky torque and low weight meant it could launch itself as a rocket from practically any speed in any gear and was great fun to drive.

1967_Sunbeam_Tiger_Mk_IIIn the mean time Chrysler had looked for an engine option from their own factories to fit the Tiger, but had not found a suitable alternative. As a conclusion Chrysler decided to eliminate the Tiger altogether, shortly after the introduction of the Tiger Mk II. The last Tiger remained a rare predator because of that.
Visible differences that distinguished the Mk II Tiger from its predecessors were limited. Most notable were the eggcrate grill instead of the one with the horizontal bar, the absence of chrome striping and the stainless steel fenderwell moldings (not seen on the car shown here). And it sported badges on the sides and the rear which read "289" instead of "260".
During its short life span the Tiger was quite successful for a specialty car. The Mk I sold 3,763 times, the Mk IA 2,706 times and the MK II only 536 times before it was abruptly cancelled. In total 7,085 Tigers were produced in about 3 years, that's a lot more than the odd thousand original Shelby Cobras that were made during their 5 year long production run. About 80% of the Tiger production was originally sold on the US West Coast and a considerable part of the remaining cars in the rest of the US. Very few Tigers were sold in Europe since they were priced about 50% above an Alpine Mk IV/MK V and were considered unpractical.

1967_Sunbeam_Tiger_Mk_IIAfter the Tigers were taken off the market they were relatively soon forgotten. The Alpine 2-seater series disappeared a year later to be replaced by a larger 4-seater coupe bearing the same name in 1969. For most the 2-seater Alpines and Tigers were alike and since the Alpines had been produced in tens of thousands and were around in abundance this had a restraining effect on both the value and the appreciation of the Tiger. Other aspects that dimmed the fortunes of the Tiger as a classic were that in the US it was considered a foreign import where in case of the Cobra the Shelby aspect was far more stressed and therefore it became part of his legendary racing heritage and America's car history; on the other side the Tiger was virtually unknown outside the US. Then there was the look of the car: the slab-sided, almost geometrically shaped Tiger was hip and modern in its time but dated terribly after that, while the more organic, rounded and voluptuous shape of the Cobra proved to be of timeless appeal. This all left the Tiger in the shade of the Cobra.

Recently, with the virtual explosion of the values of the original Shelby Cobras and Mustangs, the Tiger also returns slowly into the limelight of classic car appreciation, not only in the US but maybe even more so abroad. An increasing number of classic Tigers are exported from the US to quite a few countries around the world to be restored and sold to enthusiasts. In Europe the current value of Tigers is nowhere near that of the Shelby Cobras or even Mustangs, but still double that of the Alpine Mk IV or V and is on the rise.
Worldwide the Tiger is considered a "sleeper" by classic car traders and an increase in value is anticipated. I can't say if that's justified, since the Tiger isn't as exotic as the Shelby Cobra and doesn't have the impressive presence of the Shelby Mustangs. But it's certainly an interesting and fun car to have and it definitely belongs to Carroll Shelby's heritage.

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