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January 6, 2015

Die-cast: Automodello 1965 Sunbeam Tiger Mark I

by Mark Savage

tiger

Get Smart, you’ll like this Sunbeam Tiger in any color

Baby Boomers who still can’t get the “Get Smart” theme song out of their heads will recall Maxwell Smart racing to a stop in a red Sunbeam Tiger at the start of every show. The song ran on while Max walked down stairs and a long hall of opening and closing sliding doors.

That TV gig was the Tiger’s celebrity hook in 1965, but at its heart, what made this remake of Sunbeam’s Alpine roadster special, was a Ford V8 under its hood. But Tiger’s celebrity, its life, was short. The powerful sports car was made from 1964 to mid-1967 in West Bromwich, England.

While we all remember Max’s red Tiger, Automodello brings us an equally sporty Mediterranean Blue version in 1:43 scale resin. This limited Tribute Edition, celebrating 50 years of the Tiger, consists of just 165 models and lists at $165. Another British Racing Green version lists for $149.95.

tiger1However, a red Tiger with red roof will be available early in 2015 with a left-hand drive configuration. The red model is limited to 999 units while a white model with black top also will come out early in 2015. It’s more limited at 499 units, both the red and white cars list at $143.95. Another right-hand-drive white and blue version of Alan Fraser Racing’s 1965 Monster Tiger with a fixed hard-top arrives next year at $150.

The History

Rootes Group built tame Sunbeam Alpines in England beginning in 1953, but the snappy handling roadsters were underpowered. By the early 1960s Rootes acknowledged as much when it hired racer Carroll Shelby to drop a Ford V8 under the Alpine’s tiny hood and create a rocket posing as a diminutive sports car.

Shelby squeezed Ford’s 4.3-liter V8 in and Rootes hired the British Jensen firm to assemble the little beasts, mostly for the U.S. market. The new model was dubbed the Tiger just before production, using a name Sunbeam had made famous with speed record runs in the 1920s.

The Series 1, which Automodello recreates, boasted 164 horsepower and a 0-60 mph time of 8.6 seconds and top speed of 120 mph. It was quick, and handled great with nearly a 50-50 weight balance, despite the heavy V8 in its nose. Tiger listed at $3,499, weighed just 2,653 lbs., and only 6,450 were made.

The model comes with a black top too.

The model comes with a black top too.

Modified versions raced at the 1964 24 Hours of LeMans and in other European rallies. The car, almost entirely sold in the U.S. market, even held several quarter-mile drag racing records at the time.

A Series II, of which only 633 were made, debuted for 1967 and used a 4.7-liter 289 cu.in. Ford V8. The increased power cut its 0-60 mph time to 7.5 seconds with a top speed of 122, and it cost a tad more at $3,842.

But Chrysler bought Rootes in 1967 and ended production quickly. It wasn’t cool to have a Ford engine powering a Chrysler unit’s sports car!

The Model:

This limited edition light blue model is sharp and comes with a black removable top that includes a side window molded into the roof. Nice, but I’d prefer to show this one with the roof down.

First, it looks better that way, more sporty and fun.

Second, you can see the black interior with its well-shaped dual seats that include sculpted cushions and a black console between them with a short gearshift lever. The dash’s face is nicely detailed and bathed in a wood-look finish, as is the two-spoke steering wheel with its thin horn ring. Remember those? Tiger’s dash includes all the proper gauges and the car is right-hand drive, reflecting its British origins.

tiger3Yet what distinguishes really fine 1:43 models from lesser versions is detail like being able to read the small Sunbeam nameplate spelled out on the car’s nose and tail, plus a readable Tiger badge just in front of the doors. There are realistic headlights and turn signals too and a stylish thin chrome stripe down the car’s sides.

Door handles also are chrome as is the gas cap on the passenger’s side rear fender and both the front and rear bumpers, along with the windshield and vent window trim. There are some delicate looking metal wiper stalks here too.

I like the chrome sporty looking 8-spoke wheels and the tires are treaded, but include no branding logos. All seams are well executed as is the venting on the hood just in front of the windshield.

This is another high precision 1:43 scale rare bit of automobilia from Automodello.

FAST Stats: 1965 Sunbeam Tiger Mark I (Mediterranean blue)

Maker: Automodello

Scale: 1/43

Stock No.: AM-SUN-TIG-TE

MSRP: $165tiger2

 

 

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