The United Kingdom was no stranger to racing and sports car manufacturers in the 1960s. Among several different car makers came a variety of touring and sports cars.
A smaller company, Rootes Group, was founded in 1888 and originally produced bicycles. By the 1960s it produced several styles of automobiles under the name of Sunbeam, one of those being a two-seat convertible available in two different styles: the Sunbeam Alpine and its near identical racing counterpart, the Sunbeam Tiger. The biggest difference in the cars was that the Tiger boasted a 4.3-liter V-8 engine.
Our featured car is Carl Hancock III’s 1967 Sunbeam Alpine. The Series V was the second-to-last year the compact two-seat convertible was produced. This is the second Alpine that Carl and his father, Carl Sr., have owned. They bought and restored their first one in the early 1970s and sold it for a profit. The their hobby had died for the time being.
The roots of Carl’s current Alpine have been traced to the Southside, where he first saw it in 1976. He and Randy Walker were walking past former Southport High School science teacher Mr. Burch’s farm on Gray Road just south of Thompson Road, where an Alpine sat nearly hidden in weeds next to the garage.
Remembering the fun shared with his father in restoring the first Alpine, Carl III approached the owner and ask if he would sell it. Carl purchased the car for $550 a few days later, and the Hancocks were back in the restoration business, which spawned many wonderful memories.
It’s taken a number of years in a labor of love restoring the car to the near-factory condition. There were only 19,122 Alpines produced in 1967. The entire production run from 1959-68 totaled 69,221. The car made extensive use of components from other Rootes Group vehicles.
The Hancocks’ car isn’t totally stock as it has Sunbeam Tiger 13-inch aluminum sport wheels. The original Tiger rims were brushed aluminum. Carl III, at 13-years old, laboriously hand-painted the black between the spokes in each one of the rims to give their Alpine its unique appearance. The car’s body was prepped and then painted Oldsmobile Fire Mist Red at Matlock Ford in Franklin.
The five-bearing 1,725-cc four-cylinder engine has been rebuilt to stock condition, which includes the factory twin Zenith-Stromberg semi-down-draught carburetors producing 93 brake horsepower. The car was only available with a four-speed manual transmission.
Additionally, they’ve reupholstered the bucket seats, convertible top and covers to stock condition. Carl III also bought a Sunbeam Tiger steering wheel, which wasn’t an easy find (it was in the United Kingdom) or cheap, as he paid more than 325 British pounds, roughly $500 dollars.
I’ve been fortunate enough to drive this classic automobile. An interesting aspect of the car is that it has a 49-to-51 front-to-back weight bias, which gives it a tight and responsive feel. A better description would be it that has the feel of a go kart on steroids when driving. The car doesn’t throw you back in your seat or set any records for it’s 0-60 mph time (approximately 12-seconds), yet it still felt responsive and quick like a racy sports car.
The car has passed ownership from Carl Sr. to Carl III, yet it still is very much both of theirs. Carl said there is more than just the satisfaction of getting the car to where it’s at. It’s the memorable moments shared in the endeavor.